Vegetables hold a special place in our hearts here at MHLC. Full of essential nutrients and radical flavor, we believe that eating plenty of whole vegetables forms the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. And while nearly all vegetables are pretty wonderful, there are a few that stand out as real nutritional powerhouses, offering a lot of goodness in perfectly compact natural packages. One of our all-time favorites is kale. Curly or straight, green or purple, kale is standout winner in many nutritional categories. Here are a few reasons this ancient brassica is a staple in our homes and worth checking out:
Kale is considered one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. It has high amounts of several vitamins and phyto-nutrients, including 45 known flavonoids. It has a decent amount of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Kale is high in fiber, and even contains some ALA omega-3 essential fatty acids and a small amount of protein. And it offers some very important nutrients, such as beta carotene and vitamin C, without the high levels of oxalates common in some other dark greens. And when compared calorie to calorie, kale contains more iron than beef.
Kale is low in calories but very bulky, helping fill you up. It can be supportive for people seeking to find and maintain a healthy weight. And for a superfood kale is remarkably easy to grow and highly adaptable and hardy. It can grow in several climate zones, can resist both drought and cold, and provides an abundance of food for several weeks from a single plant. Growing kale in your garden is fairly easy and gives a remarkably large return of investment.
Vitamin K Superstar
One of the most concentrated nutrients in kale is vitamin K. Vitamin K is responsible for blood clotting and other essential cardiovascular functions. It is also essential for calcium absorption, and therefore a key factor in bone health. A one cup serving of kale provides about six times the daily recommended amount of vitamin K for adults.
As mentioned, kale is very high in flavonoids, micro-nutrients that are very important for protecting the body from oxidative stress. The two most prominent flavonoids in kale are quercetin and kaempferol. Theses two anti-oxidants offer a wealth of health benefits, including protecting the heart, lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and balancing brain chemicals.
Brassicas, the family that includes kale, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussel’s sprouts, are all high in anti-oxidants. But kale has the broadest range of anti-oxidants of them all. It also has the highest levels of some anti-oxidants, including vitamins K and E. Including both raw and cooked kale into your diet is a great way to protect your cells from the free radical damage that can lead to cancer and other diseases.
Kale really stands out as an anti-inflammatory food. 100 calories worth of kale provides 350 milligrams of ALA, the most basic omega-3 essential fatty acid. The high vitamin K content also helps balance the inflammatory response. It is highly alkaline, helping to reduce acidity in the body, another factor in inflammation. And eating such a bulky vegetable with its insoluble fiber content can help balance blood sugar levels and maintain insulin stability, helping to keep inflammation in check.
In addition to the fiber and overall anti-oxidant properties that make kale a potent diabetes fighter, it also contains the anti-oxidant alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to lower blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce oxidative stress. Alpha-Alpha-lipoic acid has also been shown to decrease neuropathy in diabetics.
Kale is a staple in every detox regimen, especially in the spring, for very good reason. The high fiber content in kale makes it naturally great for supporting digestion, elimination, and detoxification. Kale is high in glucosinolates, a type of anti-oxidant that helps regulate the body’s natural detoxification efforts. Kale is also high in sulfur compounds, which are an essential component of detoxification.
Eye Can See Clearly Now
Eating kale is great for eye health. In addition to the eye-loving beta-carotene, an essential precursor to vitamin A, kale contains a lot of lutein and zeaxanthin. Those are other types of carotenoid antioxidants, that are especially protective of the eyes. In multiple studies it has been shown that getting plenty of those carotenoid antioxidants lowers the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Protects From At Least Five Types of Cancer
Those glucosinolates in kale have many helpful properties, including the ability to be converted by the body into cancer preventive compounds. Kale has been proven most beneficial for preventing colon cancer and breast cancer, in some cases even contributing to remission. Kale is high in indole-3- carbinol, a nutrient that influences estrogen metabolism. The abundance of estrogen-forming compounds in our food, environmental toxins, beauty products, and birth control are all contributing to the rise of breast cancer instances. Indole-3- carbinol can help the body properly metabolize and either utilize or eliminate estrogen so that it does not contribute to cancer formation.
Kale protects the heart in a variety of ways. It contains a kind of bile acid sequestrant, and when consumed forces the liver to process cholesterol into more bile acid. This lowers cholesterol levels, especially the particularly harmful LDL cholesterol. And the fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium content of kale all make hearts happier.
Fiber for Days
A one cup serving of kale contains about 10 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake. The fiber in kale is mostly insoluble fiber, which is essential for sweeping the intestines clean, preventing constipation, and moving food waste out of the body.
Enjoying Your Kale
Kale is a very versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It can be added raw to smoothies or salads. It can be quite tough and bitter, so it is best to massage it with fresh lemon juice before blending or adding to your salad to improve favor and texture, and make it more digestible. Some people with compromised thyroids are sensitive to high amounts of raw brassicas, and so no more than one serving of raw brassicas per day are recommended in such cases.
Another way to enjoy kale is to lightly steam it. This tends to make it more palatable, especially for children. Do not boil or fry the kale, as that destroys the beneficial anti-oxidants. But a few minutes of steaming with minimal water (drink the steam water after!) can make the kale more digestible for some people, and give it a nice texture and flavor. Steaming also reduces the goitrogenic effects for people with compromised thyroids.
Kale is more than a vegetable, it’s a friend. A member of our personal health care team. With a vast array of macro and micronutrients, cardioprotective properties, digestion and detoxification support, and the ability to protect the body from multiple forms of cancer, kale is staple super-food that can boost your health and quality of life in a variety of ways.