Kale (Brassica oleracea) is a green leafy plant similar to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage recently toted as a “superfood” for its health benefits. Super or not, kale provides essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K, along with potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and dietary fiber.
Despite the recent hype, kale has been around since the 40’s when is was promoted for the its hardy nature making it easy to grow and the nutrients it supplies making up for an otherwise stunted wartime diet. Once World War II ended and rationing was no longer an issue, many families strayed away from kale due to its taste, texture, and association with the war. In the decades since, kale varieties have changed to make it more taste bud friendly and many new recipes have been discovered making it possible to sneak kale into the diets of even the pickiest eaters. In the grocery store, look for kale that’s firm and has dark green or purple leaves for the best taste.
Benefits of Going Green
- Heart Health– decreases the risk of heart disease, good source of potassium with less calories than most potassium rich foods such as bananas, and vitamin K promotes blood clotting to decrease the risk of hemorrhaging.
- Diabetes– kale’s fiber content can help manage diabetes as healthy fiber levels have been connected to healthy blood glucose levels, it is also promotes the body’s production of the antioxidant glutathione.
- Weight and Digestion– the fiber in kale also supports weight management and digestion, helping you feel fuller longer with only 33 calories.
- Cancer– kale contains glucosinolate phytonutrients, cancer preventative nutrients that may block tumor growth and cancer related enzymes.
- Brain Health– may reduce the risk of stroke, iron content promotes the body’s circulation of oxygen to improve brain health, kale also promotes memory and aids in lowering brain inflammation following injuries.
- Cholesterol– fiber also removes excess cholesterol from the body as it cleans and detoxifies, lowering cholesterol levels over time.
- Bone Health– one cup of kale provides about the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk, with fewer calories and without irritating the stomachs of those who suffer from lactose intolerance.
- Skin and Hair Care– sulfer removes toxins from the skin while vitamins A and C promote collagen production to keep skin looking young and healthy.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Like many things, no matter how healthy and nutritious kale is there is a possibility of consuming too much of it and negatively affecting your body. Eating a lot of kale, like most leafy vegetables, is likely to cause bloating, gas, and constipation. Also like many vegetables, there is a risk of pesticide ingestion with kale, so look for organically grown varieties if possible and make sure to thoroughly wash whatever you buy. Vitamin K should be avoided by those who take blood thinners, because it promotes clotting and therefore makes these medicines less effective.
Recipes and More
The following is a couple recipes involving kale, feel free to be creative and add it to your usual recipes like you would other green vegetables.
Share your kale recipes and experiences below!
By Samantha Dillon, DR Vitamin Solutions