Benefits of kale
What would you prefer! Sweet or green? To be honest, I would pick sweet over anything green, anybody would, except those looking to promote their health, shed a few pounds, maintain a healthy weight, and improve their diet.
Kale is a healthy green vegetable that deserves to be added to your diet. Vegetable juices, green smoothies. Salads trending nowadays have kale, spinach, basic lettuce, and broccoli as major ingredients.
People are becoming more informed on the benefits of incorporating these healthy greens and more into their diet.
Kale is undoubtedly among the most common vegetables used to prepare superfood recipes. This veggie is featured in different types of diet, from the Mediterranean diet, to ketogenic to paleo and many more.
Kales are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals such as magnesium and folate as well as antioxidants, more reason they have earned the well-deserved title of “superfood”.
While most people confuse kale and spinach, both of them are highly nutritious and delivers series of benefits.
They belong to different plant families and are used interchangeably in recipes in regards to various dishes. Kale and spinach are both low in calories and offer similar amounts of several nutrients.
For instance, 1 cup of kale and spinach contains 7 grams of calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates.
What is kale and its origin?
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable. This veggie is a leafy green cultivar of the Brassica olaracea species and includes cauliflower, savoy, Brussels, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, collard greens, bok choy, and kohlrabi.
Kale is unique from its siblings because of its purple and green leaves. The leaves are curly or wrinkled, dense, and stiff which is quite different from other cultivars such as headed cabbage.
Kale is a winter vegetable and when other cruciferous vegetables are scarce during the cold months, kale is a great choice and should be your go-to. Kales are sweeter in taste after a heavy frost.
The health benefits of kale have been in existence long before now. It can be traced back to ancient Rome.
A short origin of kale?
Kale was the most common green leafy vegetable in Europe until the end of the middle ages. In the 16th century, kale found its way to North America, thanks to the colonists. After a while, Russian kale was introduced to Canada and United States.
During the 20th century, kale was used as a decorative plant in the United States but became popular as an edible vegetable in the 1990s due to its nutritional profile
There are several types of kale, each of them have unique characteristics based on appearance, taste, leaf type, and color.
- Curly kale:
This is the most common type of kale and can be identified by its curly or ruffled edges. You can find this variety in different colors- purple, bright green, and dark green.
- Red kale:
The leaves of red kale are deep red or sometimes, grayish-green.
- Dinosaur kale:
Also called Lacinato kale, Tuscan cabbage, or Tuscan kale. This kale variety has a deeper color with dark bluish-green leaves that are narrow and has a tender feel than curly or red kale. And its tenderness makes it suitable to be consumed raw.
- Purple flowering kale:
This kale has a bitter taste and has similarities with the leaves of cabbage.
- White flowering kale:
Its peppery taste makes it suitable in soups and other dishes.
- Russian kale:
Also called Siberian kale is the hardest kale variety to find. It has flat and fringed leaves.
So, what is in this superfood that makes it quite unique from other vegetables? Let’s find out.
Nutritional facts of kale
This leafy vegetable is composed of 84% of water which makes it hydration and weight loss friendly . Kale is also a rich source of powerful phytochemicals such as carotenoids, zeaxanthin, and lutein- responsible for most of the benefits it offers.
Adding kale to your diet lets you load up on large amounts of vitamins including vitamin K, Vitamin A, vitamin C, and copper, manganese, potassium, folate, dietary fiber, magnesium, thiamin, phosphorous, and niacin.
There are also potent antioxidants found in abundance in kale such as kaempferol and quercetin.
To promote health and look healthy, kale is a great choice. With all its whopping content, there is no doubt that regular consumption of this cruciferous vegetable will deliver amazing benefits to you.
According to the USDA, one cup of raw kale contains:
- 34 calories
- 106 grams of water
- 7 grams of carbohydrates
- 2 grams of protein
- 5 gram of fat
- 3 grams of dietary fiber
- 547 micrograms(mcg) vitamin K: 684% of the DV
- 10300 international units(IU) vitamin A: 206% of the DV
- 4 milligrams (mg) vitamin C: 134% of the DV
- 5 milligrams (mg) of manganese: 26% of the DV
- 2 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B6: 9% of the DV
- 91 milligrams (mg) of calcium: 9% of the DV
- 299 milligrams (mg) of potassium: 9% of the DV
- 2 milligrams (mg) of copper: 10% of the DV
- 1 milligrams (mg) of iron: 6% of the DV
- 8 milligrams (mg) of magnesium: 6% of the DV
- 5 milligrams (mg) of phosphorous: 4% of the DV
A cup of raw kale also contains small amounts of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, selenium, and zinc.
Kale is relatively low in fiber, calories, and fat making it a super nutrient-dense food. Eating kale regularly is a great way to boost your nutrient intake.
Benefits of kale
Asides from having a massive nutritional profile, kale also delivers impressive health benefits.
This vegetable is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that boost health, prevents and reduce the risks of diseases such as heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, cancer, etc.
Kale improves your skin, hair, benefits even pregnant women, and promotes mental health. Read on to know more about the benefits of this king’s vegetable.
- Reduced Risk of Cancer
Kale and other cruciferous vegetables have been studied and proven to inhibit the growth and development of cancerous cells in vitro. Kale is rich in compounds that have protective effects against cancer.
One of this substance is glucosinolates which contains sulfur chemicals. During the process of cooking, chewing, and digesting kale, glucosinolates are broken down to form bioactive compounds such as nitriles, thiocyanates, indoles, and sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane and indole have been found to inhibit the growth and development of cancer in both animal and vitro studies (breast, colon, lung, liver, bladder, and stomach cancer).
Also, some studies have found that the bioactive compounds present in kale have beneficial effects on biomarkers of cancer-related processes in humans.
In addition, kale is a green vegetable and therefore contains chlorophyll. Chlorophyll helps to prevent the body from absorbing compounds associated with cancer.
These compounds called heterocyclic amines are carcinogens that cause cancer. They are formed when kale and other foods are exposed to high-temperature cooking.
- Promotes Cardiovascular Health:
Kale has anti-inflammatory properties that promote heart health and reduces the risk of heart-related diseases. They are loaded with heart promoting nutrients such as vitamin K, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
One study involving 12,000 adults found that those who consumed 4,069mg of potassium every day had a 37% lower risk of death from heart disease than those who consumed less.
In another study, it was found that drinking 5 ounces of kale juice daily for 12 weeks increased levels of HDL(good) cholesterol by 27% and decreased levels of LDL(bad) cholesterol by 10%.
Several studies have also found that kale could reduce other major factors related to heart disease such as lowering blood pressure and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
- Aids in Detoxification
Another amazing health benefit of kale is its ability to naturally detoxify the body. By not just removing some toxins, it also eliminates every trace of toxins. Kale contains 1.3grams of dietary fiber that helps to promote bowel regularity and aid detoxification.
Also, kale contains bioactive compounds like isothiocyanates that helps detox your body at the cellular level. This compound fights against toxins and free radicals.
During this process, stimulation of phase II enzymes responsible for detoxifying the body by promoting the removal of harmful substances occurs.
If you want to naturally detox, kale is a go-to. By simply blending it into a smoothie, or using it as part of salads and gulping it down, you naturally detox your body.
- Promotes Vision Health
Kale is great for protecting eyesight and reducing the risk of vision-related disease.
Kale also contains two super antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin which protects the retina against damage, maintains healthy eye cells, and also reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Promotes Weight Loss
Kale is low in calories, making it an excellent food for weight loss. Kale is also a great source of fiber that promotes feelings of fullness, reduces cravings, hunger pangs and thereby, promotes weight loss.
If you are on a weight loss goal, you don’t have to worry about your calorie intake. As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t be consuming excessive calories by eating kale.
Its high water content also promotes feelings of fullness and can also increase urination, making it easier for your body to flush out excess water weight.
Also, kale is a low energy density food that is very important for losing weight, can boost metabolism, and accelerate fat-burning processes.
- Improves Digestion
This leafy green vegetable can go beyond just aiding weight loss. They tremendously aid digestion due to their fiber and water content.
Kales contain both soluble and insoluble fiber that is great for bulking stool, promoting a healthy gut, and thereby reducing digestion issues.
Digestive issues include indigestion, constipation, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and more.
Plus, B vitamins and vitamin C promotes iron absorption. It is best to consult your doctor first before using kale as a treatment for digestive issues.
- Improves Bone Health
Kale is rich in bone supporting potassium. Potassium preserves bone mineral density.
Also, vitamin K and vitamin C also promotes bone health. A deficiency in vitamin K could increase the risk of fractures. And kale contains 684% of the daily value for vitamin K and 134% of the daily value for vitamin C.
Research shows that a deficiency in vitamin K is linked to increased risk for osteoporosis and bone breakage.
By consuming the daily recommended amount of vitamin K from kale and other vegetables, you improve bone health.
- Manage Diabetes
Kale contains a special antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid. This antioxidant is majorly related to a lowered level of blood sugar and improved insulin sensitivity.
Eating kale can help prevent and reduce spikes and dips in glucose and insulin levels. This can make it easier for diabetics to better manage this condition.
According to a Japanese study, consuming kale can suppress an increase in postprandial blood glucose levels.
- Supports Healthy Fetal Development
Another impressive benefit of kale is its ability to promote fetal development. For a healthy baby and safe delivery, adding kale to your diet is an excellent choice.
Kale is a rich source of nutrients such as folate which is critical and essential for preventing neural tube formation and birth defects. Also, adequate folate can help reduce the risk of other pregnancy complications like anemia and premature birth.
Vitamin C which is present in kale aids the absorption of iron. And high levels of iron support the baby’s neurological function and also prevent anemia during and after pregnancy. Vitamin C also boosts immunity, nourishes both the baby and mother.
Plus, the dietary fiber in kale is enough to reduce bowel problems due to pregnancy and help you maintain smooth bowel movements.
In addition, the vitamin K, calcium, and copper content of kale is essential for strong teeth, bone and heart development, and also skeletal formation, during pregnancy.
The benefits of kale in pregnancy are really incredible and as an expecting mother, you need adequate intake of these nutrients.
- Improves Skin and Hair Health
Yes, it may surprise you to know that this green vegetable can boost skin and hair growth, naturally.
Kale contains a whopping amount of vitamin C which is ideal for the collagen fibers in your skin. if this nutrient is low, it can weaken collagen fibers and damage your skin.
The antioxidant property of kale can also protect your skin against UV radiation.
Carotenoids present in kale can neutralize free radicals and reduce the levels of oxidative stress on the skin thereby reducing wrinkles, age spots, scars, and blemishes.
Vitamin A is not left out. And a deficiency in this nutrient can affect your sweat and oil glands negatively.
Whether consumed as a juice or topical treatment, kale works well for promoting skin and hair health. The juice of kale is a good skin cleanser that can detoxify your skin from the inside to the outside.
Using a kale face mask or washing your face with its juice at least thrice a week can ensure your skin is nourished and smooth.
Kale can also improve the quality and elasticity of your hair. Kale contains enough iron that strengthens the hair and other nutrients and antioxidants that get rid of dry scalp, dandruff, and other hair conditions.
Plus, iron is also essential for reducing unwanted hair loss.
To apply on your hair, use the kale juice to wash your hair, rinse it off, and then use shampoo.
Other benefits of kale include:
- Enhancing urinary health
- Boosts immunity
- Promotes brain health
Potential risks of kale
Although kale delivers amazing benefits, it also has side effects. Many people are allergic to this vegetable therefore it is best to consult your doctor if after eating the vegetable you notice any adverse effect.
Kale contains thallium, a toxic metal absorbed from the soil. Consuming too much kale can lead to excessive intake of this metal which can further lead to complications such as skin problems, gluten sensitivity, chronic fatigue, and irregular heartbeat.
So, you might want to consume this vegetable in moderation.
Also, taking in too much kale can result in too much potassium content in your body known as hyperkalemia.
An excessive amount of potassium is associated with chest pain, muscle cramps, and diarrhea.
Most people experience gastrointestinal problems after taking in excessive amounts of this vegetable.
If you are at high risk of atherosclerosis, stroke, or any heart-related disease, taking kale is a really bad choice.
Also, people taking blood thinners should always remember that maintaining steady vitamin k levels is crucial to avoid bleeding.
Green vegetables can be enjoyed in moderation to avoid this side effect but it is best to talk to your doctor first.
How to select and store kale
To reap the benefits of this green vegetable you have to pick them fresh. The best kales have dark bunches and small to medium-sized leaves. They are moist, crisp, un-wilted, and unblemished.
When selecting kales, avoid the ones with yellow or brown leaves.
Kale can be stored in a plastic bag or inside a freezer.
Kale is a healthy green vegetable rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that deliver impressive benefits such as reducing the risk of some diseases, aiding weight loss, improving overall health, and supporting healthy fetal development.
It is best to eat kale in moderation and to also talk to your doctor before making changes in your diet to avoid the risks associated with excessive intake of kale.
You can purchase kale at a grocery shop or a local supermarket. Ensure it is a fresh and quality variety. Eating fresh kale will help you activate its benefits.