Health Benefits of Kale: Kale is a dark green super veggie that has never been as popular as other green leafy vegetables. But in the last three years, this has started to change. Nutritionists have been studying the nutritional value of kale and declared it the 'number one superfood' and the Queen of the Greens. This positive publicity has boosted kale's appeal, and it has risen steadily in the popularity stakes pushing avocados, garlic, and tomatoes further down the ladder of nutritional hierarchy.
A Vegetable with a Long History
Kale originates from the Mediterranean where it was eaten by the Ancient Greeks and has been widely grown ever since and today is grown in the Mediterranean, Europe, and North America. Until the Middle Ages, kale was the most commonly grown vegetable in Europe and was used as a treatment for drunkenness.
During the Second World War, British housewives were urged to 'dig for victory' with kale high on the list of vegetables as it was easy to grow. Although it is popular in Scotland, Denmark, Italy, and Portugal it has not proved as popular as its cousins, pak choy, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts which are other vegetables in the cruciferous family. Times are changing now, and kale can be found in more shopping trolleys than ever.
This crinkly green cabbage-like vegetable is available in a lots of varieties; curly kale, Tuscan kale and blue kale and in a rainbow of colors – green, purple, lavender and white. Just choose which one appeals as they are all jam-packed with goodness and can boost your diet by being included in meals a few times each week. Cheap to buy and quick to cook, one health expert recently declared that kale is 'one of the healthiest foods on the planet'.
In a nutshell, kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It is low in calories (just 30 calories for a teacup full of chopped kale), high in iron and fiber, full of vitamins A, C, and K and has many other beneficial properties. Kale contains important minerals, anti-oxidants anti-inflammatories and more. This superfood is something that everyone should be adding regularly to their shopping list.
Health Benefits of Kale
1. Kale has more Iron than beef
Studies have revealed that per calorie, kale contains more iron than beef. Iron is essential to good health as it helps the body form hemoglobin which is the carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron is important too for cell growth, good liver function and general well – being – a lack of iron can affect your hair and nails.
Kale's high iron content is great news for vegetarians and vegans as increasing kale in the diet is an easy way to increase iron intake.
2. Kale has more Calcium than Milk
Whilst milk and dairy products are known to be full of calcium, would you believe that kale has more calcium per calorie than milk? If you compare a teacup of chopped kale with a teacup of milk, the kale contains slightly more calcium. Calcium is important for all ages to keep bones and teeth strong and healthy especially as they account for 90% of the body's calcium.
A regular intake of calcium is essential to help prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones in older people. Calcium also helps the body maintain a healthy metabolism. A teacup of kale provides 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and this is good news for
vegans who can find it tricky getting an adequate daily intake of calcium.
3. A Great Supply of Vitamin K
Not as well-known as calcium, but equally important for keeping bones healthy is vitamin K which is also found abundantly in kale. In fact, that teacup of kale contains six times the recommended daily amount of vitamin K. This vitamin helps keep bones strong and also helps guard against osteoporosis.
Studies have found that vitamin K can help prevent heart disease and is an essential factor in blood clotting – a lack of this lesser known vitamin can cause hemorrhages. Recent studies have discovered that an increased intake of vitamin K can also help guard against the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.
4. Good for healthy eyes on two counts
Kale is high in Vitamin A which is the vitamin that is always linked with healthy eyes, but more importantly, kale is the highest natural source of lutein which is known to preserve eyesight. Lutein is a carotenoid antioxidant nutrient and is a very valuable one as it helps protect different parts of the eye from damage from light and oxygen. The protection given by lutein is invaluable as it helps protect eyes against premature macular degeneration, the development of cataracts and general onset of sight problems.
An added bonus – especially for diabetics – is that lutein also helps protect the eyes from the development of glaucoma, which is a common eye problem for people with diabetes. A teacup of kale will provide you with 65% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A and an ample amount of valuable lutein too.
5. Helps keep skin supple
Vitamin C is good for skin because it increases the amount of collagen in the skin this keeps the skin supple and firm and provides the skin's elasticity and prevents sagging skin and wrinkles. The great news is that one teacup of kale contains more vitamin C than a large orange.
Kale is also king among other vegetables for its high vitamin C content- for example, compared to spinach kale has four times as much vitamin C for the same portion. Vitamin C helps maintain the flexibility in joints and cartilage and gives the body's immune system a healthy boost.
Vitamin C also helps to prevent anemia as it aids the body in its absorption of the iron it needs and also encourages the body to produce more blood cells. If you are anemic, increasing your intake of kale will put you in a win-win situation, as this leafy vegetable is high both in iron and vitamin C.
6. Beneficial for Diabetics
Life can be tricky for diabetics as they have to ensure that they do not have a 'sugar spike' after a meal. This is usually caused by eating carbohydrates, which, unfortunately, help give that nice 'tummy full' feeling. Doctors recommend that diabetics increase their intake of fiber so that the body system is kept moving and the absorption of glucose in the body can be stemmed because the fiber ensures that food is being moved along the digestive tract at a good rate.
Kale is very high in fiber so is good to eat as it will help keep foods moving through the digestive system, but it has a second really important benefit. The fiber in kale is particularly efficient as it binds to the bile acids in the digestive system and removes it. Bile acids contain fats which they release into the digestive system where the fat is absorbed by the body and the bile acids start the process again gathering more fats.
By binding with the bile acids so that they pass through the body, the kale causes a lowering of cholesterol levels in the body which is ideal for diabetics. A second benefit for diabetics is that increasing the amount of fiber in the diet helps quell hunger pangs.
Kale is a particularly good choice for diabetics because – unlike other vegetables – it contains a really low amount of sugar and has zero fat content. One teacup of kale provides about 5% of the body's daily fiber requirement. Nutritionists specializing in diabetes have suggested that green smoothie for breakfast (made with a mixture of kale and other green vegetables) is a great start to the day for diabetics as the kale will help lower cholesterol levels and its fiber content will help prevent hunger pangs before lunchtime.
7. Good news for pregnant moms
Folic acid (folate) is known to be extremely important to an unborn baby as it helps the neural development of the fetus especially the creation and development of the neural tube which becomes the brain and spinal cord. It is known that folic acid also helps guard against neurological problems in the unborn baby and deformities such as spina bifida.
Women need to have 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for several months before they conceive and also every day of their pregnancy. Kale only contains a modest amount of folic acid but this is nevertheless important as it can be added to the daily quota and it’s useful for moms who are not taking folic acid supplements.
8. Packed with Antioxidants
Recent research studies have shown that antioxidants are known to protect the body against certain cancers by removing free radicals from the body. The benefits of increasing the intake of vegetables in the nutritionally-rich cruciferous family (kale is in this family) to help prevent a variety of cancers The great news is that kale contains many powerful antioxidants including carotenoid and flavonoids (45 different flavonoids) and these work with anti-inflammatories and anti-cancer nutrients (congratulates are also found in kale) to help prevent a number of different cancers.
Antioxidants keep the body's oxygen metabolism in good shape and prevent oxidative stress, whilst anti-inflammatories prevent chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are known to be risk factors for cancer. Research has shown that the regular consumption of kale can help prevent cancer in the bladder, colon, prostate, ovaries, and breast. In the next phase of research, studies will be made of the health benefits of kale and other cruciferous vegetables in the diet of patients during treatment for cancer.
As well as help to prevent cancers, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories work together to prevent cardiovascular problems – especially clogging of the arteries (arteriosclerosis).
This condition is caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries, and this process is usually preceded by oxidative stress and inflammation which can be avoided with a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. As mentioned earlier, Kale also helps lower cholesterol levels which are also beneficial for people with cardiovascular problems.
Regularly eating kale which contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds including omega 3 and 6 can help ease arthritis and asthma. They are also really beneficial to the brain as they help keep it healthy and can even improve and protect memory. Studies are currently being made to discover ways they omega 3 and 6 can be used to boost cognitive function following brain injury.
9. Kale helps ease Depression.
A newly found benefit from adding kale to the diet is that it can also help combat depression. Kale contains carotenoids which have recently been linked with having a positive impact on moods swings, and the bonus is that the leafy vegetable also contains omega three acids which are known to fight depression – and win.
10. Great for Detoxing the Body
There are plenty of thoughts and ideas about giving the body a regular detox and a variety of suggestions on how this can be achieved. Regularly eating kale can be very beneficial as it has a high fiber content that encourages the body with the detoxification of waste by 'moving things along' in the digestive tract and binding with bile acids so that they are excreted.
Kale is also a prebiotic and encourages the growth of the good and necessary bacteria in the digestive tract. Eating kale regularly will have the bonus of ensuring that all the toxins in the body are being dealt with promptly. Some nutritionists have suggested that the perfect food combination to encourage this process this is a combination of kale and lentils as they balance each other perfectly as they are both prebiotic but contain different minerals. They say beauty blossoms from within, so getting kale to help in the detoxification process will definitely enhance your looks with a healthy glow and you will feel much better too.
11. Myriad of Other Health Benefits of Kale.
It is difficult to believe that a bunch of kale could provide just so many nutrients, but believe it or not, the list continues with a variety of minerals that often get forgotten. Magnesium is such a mineral, it is found in kale and is important as it can help protect the body against type 2 diabetes and can also help guard against heart disease.
Potassium is another essential mineral that is needed by the blood cells and a healthy supply in the body can help reduce high blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease.
12. Easy to Buy and Store
A variety of different kales are available in the local shops. Take the time to make sure that you are buying fresh kale. Its leaves should look firm and bright, and there should be no sign of wilting in the stems or yellowing of the leaves. Look for kale with smaller leaves as this will be more tender to eat and likely to have a milder flavor too.
Once you get you kale home, do not wash it but simply pop it into a food bag and store it in the fridge where it will keep for up to four days.
A fun alternative is to try growing your own as kale is a very easy vegetable to grow and will thrive in your garden or window box. In the stores, kale is available all year round but its natural growing season is autumn- spring.
How much Kale will make a difference?
Nutritionists recommend that everyone should aim to eat ¾ of a teacup of green leafy vegetables every day and certainly half a teacup of kale several times a week is going to boost your nutrition in so many ways.
What are some speedy ways to prepare it?
Having heard about the numerous health benefits of kale, it is a simple step to start adding kale into your diet. Try out the numerous different varieties to see which one tastes best to you. The ornamental varieties have a subtler flavor whilst the Tuscan variety definitely tastes slightly sweeter. Kale can be chopped and mixed with a little olive oil and sea salt and tossed into salads, chopped kale leaves can be whizzed into a nutritional smoothie, popped into vegetable soups or added to a stir-fry.
Kale is quick and easy to serve as a side vegetable to meat or fish. The speediest and most nutritional way to make a goodness-packed side dish for dinner is to cut both the leaves and stems of the kale really finely and to steam them for about five minutes. Another tasty and quick dish is to cut washed kale into pieces about 2.5 cm/1 inch in length. Heat some olive oil in a pan, cook a couple of garlic cloves gently in the oil for about a minute. Add the chopped kale, cover the pan and cook on a moderate heat for about five minutes – stirring occasionally.
Can it be a healthy snack?
Kale chips and crisps are now starting to appear in shops, but if you want to try making your own crisps for your family to enjoy or for you to take to the office, they are remarkably easy to make. Cut the kale leaves into crisp size pieces and brush with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the crisps generously with sea salt and pop into a moderate oven until the kale has completely dried out and is crisp. True, these crisps do taste different but you will find that they soon become popular so it will be necessary to make double the amount or hide your portion.
Where can I get further inspiration?
Make kale as a side a few times to get used to the taste – and let's be honest, it has a distinctive, earthy taste which is why it is not as popular as other green vegetables – but nutritionally it is well worth finding a way to include it regularly in your diet.
Once you are feeling adventurous, there are many different dishes to make using kale and these recipes are available online. The great bonus is that kale is readily available and very reasonably priced in markets and supermarkets. Two new cookbooks on the market that make the most of this 'powerhouse of nutrition' include Fifty Shades of Kale by Drew Ramsey M.D and Jennifer Iserloh and Julia Mueller's 'Let Them Eat Kale' and with the first kale crisp and chips now available on the market. Why not start experimenting with kale recipes and promise yourself and your family good health?
Welcome to Health Intent, I’m a working mom of 3 beautiful kids and love spending time with my kids and my husband. I am truly passionate about staying healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. “My time” includes Zumba which is an addition which combines with my love for dancing. Family time is indulging in healthy competition with my kids at Just Dance, trips to the park and library which my kids absolutely love.