Kale is one of the healthiest leafy vegetables. It is a variety of cabbage very popular and readily eaten in many countries, especially in Scandinavia. For some time, people used kale as an ornamental plant. Research now has proved that Kale health benefits are enormous as the vegetable is rich in essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
Kale Essential Nutrients
Kale has long, green, sometimes purple-green, wrinkled, and rather hard leaves. It is packed with some of the most important ingredients our bodies want the most.
- Rich in dietary fiber.
- Excellent source of Vitamin C_about 4.5 times more than that of spinach.
- A treasury of vitamins including A, B6, and K. Vitamin K is generally rare in vegetables.
- The vegetable is also rich in mineral salts like calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, and sulforaphane.
- Sulforaphane is especially prominent as it is one of the strongest antioxidants.
- In addition, kale also contains other powerful antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein, Quercetin, Kaempferol, and zeaxanthin.
- As a great health vegetable, kale has very few calories and low carbohydrates. A cup of raw kale contains just 33 calories and 7 grams of carbs.
Kale Health Benefits
1. Anti Cancer Properties: Sulforaphane present in kale is a strong antioxidant that has strong anti-cancer properties. A study conducted by the Department of Radiation Oncology, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China, shed detailed light on how sulforaphane can effectively counter the development of cancer.
2. Blood Calcium and Bone Metabolism: Vitamin K provides an excellent protective shield against the appearance of certain neoplastic changes, especially liver, gallbladder, breast, and ovarian cancer. It also reduces excessive bleeding during menstruation. The vitamin also helps with internal, external bleeding and faster healing of wounds. It also helps regulate blood calcium levels and bone metabolism.
Research conducted at Mid America Heart Institute at Saint Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri, showed how vitamin K is an anti calcification, anticancer, bone-forming, and insulin-sensitizing molecule.
3. Healthy Nervous System, Clogged Arteries, Alzheimer’s: Vitamin B6 is essential for a healthy nervous system. An adequate supply of vitamin B6 helps improves mood and relieves the symptoms of depression. It also helps relieve nausea during pregnancy, helps clear clogged arteries, and also reduces the risks of developing Alzheimer’s.
4. Cardiovascular Health, Proper Body Functioning: Valuable elements present in kale like magnesium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus are necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Eating kale improves the work of the cardiovascular system by reducing cholesterol levels. It also clears blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
5. Helps with Anemia: A portion of kale is over 8% iron. Iron helps produce a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential to carry oxygen to body tissues. A low concentration of the protein may devoid cells of oxygen and cause anemia.
6. Tissue Repair, Skin Health: Vitamin C is one of the most vital elements our bodies need. It is necessary for the growth, development, and repair of almost all kinds of body tissues. Besides that, Vitamin C is also important for the production of collagen.
Kale is almost a powerhouse of the essential vitamin. A cup of raw kale contains more Vitamin C than a whole orange does.
7. Strong Immune System, Night Blindness, and Bone Health: While Kale is not directly rich in vitamin A, it is high in beta-carotene. The body turns beta-carotene into Vitamin A. Vitamin A protects against night blindness, strengthens the immune system, fights various forms of cancer, and helps with bone health and acne development.
8. May help with Weight Loss: Kale is one of the least energy-dense vegetables. It has zero fat content, high in minerals, and vitamins. It also has high water content and small amounts of protein and fiber. Replacing high-energy food with adequate kale consumption may help with weight loss. But, there is no direct research that proves kale as a weight loss ingredient.
Additional Health Benefits
Kale is a great source of beta-carotene, from which our body can produce vitamin A, which in turn is of great importance in reducing the possibility of night blindness. Night blindness is manifested by the deterioration of our vision, especially during twilight. Vitamin A also works in the case of the so-called dry eye syndrome.
It is worth mentioning that kale is also a source of antioxidants such as zeaxanthin or lutein, which are components of the macular pigment, which protect the retina from various damage caused by radicals, as well as excessive sunlight.
The consumption of kale plays a role in the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. It is related to the presence of potassium and calcium in the plant. Potassium helps strengthen blood vessels streamlining the blood flow.
Calcium is responsible for the proper pumping of blood to the rest of the body’s tissues. Thanks to the combination of calcium and potassium, the duo help reduce blood pressure.
Vitamin C present in kale prevents atherosclerosis, reduces the oxidation of the so-called bad cholesterol ( LDL ), strengthens and seals vessels. Vitamin C, like iron, affects the formation of red blood cells, and thus reduces the risk of anemia.
Kale can also be useful for people struggling with gastric and duodenal ulcers thanks to the sulforaphane it contains. Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which often contribute to the development of ulcers or various disorders including gastritis, are neutralized by the chemical compound, sulforaphane.
When to Avoid Kale
Kale is one of the great healthy vegetables to add to your menu. Like with any other ingredient, people with certain health conditions are recommended to avoid kale.
Following are some of the cases when kale consumption may be problematic:
- Iodine deficiency: Kale belongs to cruciferous vegetables, which means that it is a great source of goitrogens, i.e. ingredients that can significantly affect the metabolism of iodine. This in turn may lead to a decrease in the concentration of iodine in our body.
- Thyroid Patients: Reduced iodine concentration may cause thyroid hormone disorders and Thyroid hyperplasia. Therefore kale and other cruciferous vegetables are not recommended for people suffering from thyroid diseases.
- Kidney stone: Kale, like vegetables such as spinach or beetroot, has large amounts of oxalates, i.e. hardly soluble salts in water, which are problematic for people with kidney stones.
How to Consume kale?
There a couple of ways you can consume kale. This includes both cooking and eating raw. One thing to keep in mind during cooking is not to boil the vegetable for more than 3-4 minutes. Any longer thermal processing may devoid the leaves of health-promoting properties, especially anti-cancerous ones.
- Eat it Raw: To scavenge the maximum of the health benefits, it is generally recommended to eat it raw. But, of course, not everyone likes it, and the leaves are quite hard as well.
- Drink as a smoothie: If you want to eat kale raw, it’s a good idea to blend it and serve it as a smoothie. You can add your favorite fruit to the drink to smoothen the sharp flavor.
- Fry, Boil, Bake: You can also fry or blanch kale. It is also a great idea to add it to salads and pasta. Yet another tasty way to consume kale is to bake it in the oven and serve as a healthy snack in the form of chips. The vegetable also goes well with potatoes and meat.
Some Great Kale Recipes
Below are 3 quick recipes you can make using kale as the main ingredient:
1. Kale and Chinese Cabbage Salad
One great kale kitchen recipe is to use it as a salad. With the addition of a few simple kitchen ingredients, you can prepare the health-boosting, tasty kale salad.
- 5 fresh kale leaves.
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 1 fresh tomato.
- One medium-sized Cucumber
- 1 teaspoon Vinaigrette sauce.
- 5 fresh Chinese cabbage leaves.
How to prepare?
Separate the thick tails from the kale leaves, and slice the rest. Chop the onion, Chinese cabbage, and dice the cucumber and tomato. Mix everything together and add the vinaigrette sauce. Your salad is ready!
2. Kale + Banana Smoothie
Kale smoothie is quite popular among health enthusiasts. It is also quick to make, and, of course, healthy.
- 3 kale leaves.
- A glass of milk.
- 1 banana.
- 1 apple.
How to prepare?
As in the above recipe, remove the thick leave bases. Chop the leaves and add to the blender. Then, add the sliced apple and banana, the glass of milk, and blend well. You are welcome to modify the recipe as per your liking.
3. Kale Chips With Olive Oil
Another great kale recipe is to use fresh kale leaves to make a much healthier version of kale chips.
- Fresh kale leaves (as many as you want)
- Olive oil
How to prepare?
Separate the stems from the leaves. Place the leaves in a bowl (pan) and add salt to taste. Then add the olive oil for uniform consistency (1 tsp of oil/10-15 kale leaves).
Now, place the leaves loosely on a baking sheet, previously lined with baking paper. Preheated the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and bake for 10 minutes.
The finished chips should be crispy and slightly brown at the edges. You can also modify the recipe as per your liking like adding spices such as curry, sweet pepper or pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
How to Store Kale?
Kale is a leafy vegetable, but it lasts much longer than, for example, lettuce or regular cabbage. It is harvested in the fall and throughout the winter. Young kale shoots are the tastiest after a frost. That’s because when slightly frozen, they lose their characteristic cabbage flavor, which does not suit everyone.
Kale can withstand temperatures down to -15 degrees Celsius and can be successfully harvested in winter. In stores, you can get kale packed in plastic bags. It is best to keep it in the refrigerator. You can also put it in the freezer – it will not lose any of its valuable properties and will stay fresh longer.