Kale is a leafy green and is part of the cruciferous vegetable family which includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, and Brussels sprouts. Kale is an outstanding source of many nutrients, most notably vitamins A, C, and K. Due to its supreme vitamin K content, kale has also shown great ability as a natural anti-inflammatory source. Along with these vitamins, kale is also an excellent source of calcium, iron, copper, tryptophan, and B vitamin complex amongst others. Being rich in these key nutrients, kale helps strengthen your bones while enhancing the overall health of your skin. One of the most impressive features of kale is its relatively high protein and fiber content despite containing only 36 calories in a one cup serving.
The protein and fiber in kale can prevent overeating, making you feel full sooner. It’s important to note that the protein found in kale is incomplete (meaning it does not contain all of the essential amino acids the body needs), so be sure to add other sources of protein to meals featuring kale. The fiber in kale aids in the digestion process, helping the body dispose of excess waste and other toxins more efficiently.
Antioxidants are naturally-occurring phytonutrients, or nutrients naturally derived from plants (phyto: Greek for plant) that are found in many fruits and vegetables. Kale is highly sought after and has been researched heavily in the area of disease prevention due to its high level of antioxidants. It has the unusual distinction of possessing two of the most powerful known antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids. It has been found to contain 45 different flavonoids which provide a plethora of antioxidant effects.
Kale also provides the antioxidants beta carotene (7 times as much as broccoli) and lutein (10 times as much as broccoli). Beta carotene is thought to decrease one’s sensitivity to sun while diminishing the effects of macular degeneration, slowing the advancement of osteoarthritis, and also possibly reducing the risk of breast cancer. Lutein is vital for optimum eye and skin health. While more research is necessary to establish these benefits as facts, the research that has already been done thus far is quite convincing. In short, antioxidants are compounds that can fight off inflammation and chronic disease, such as cancer.
Research findings indicate that kale can assist in stopping the growth and spread of cancer cells. Kale contains glucosinolates that make isothiocyanates (ITCs). ITCs are compounds containing enzymes that fight and eliminate cancer cells and prevent the growth of these cells. What does that have to do with kale? Kale (and other vegetables like it) contains sulfur which possesses these anticancer compounds. Not only has kale shown to support cancer prevention, it has also proven to help in the treatment of several types of cancer due to its ability to amplify the anticancer effects of some chemotherapy drugs (i.e. Taxol). While a majority of research regarding kale’s preventive and treatment benefits has been focused on breast and colon cancer, it has been expanded to protect bladder, ovary, and prostate.
It has long been a well-known fact within the scientific community that phytonutrients function as antioxidants to neutralize free radicals and eliminate the negative effect they have on cell membranes. More current studies have shown that the phytonutrients in vegetables perform even greater tasks for the body, assisting in cleansing the body by disposing of harmful compounds as well as signaling for our genes to improve their production of detoxification-specializing enzymes. Research has also suggested that kale is helpful in assisting in the production of estrogen in the female body. Even the prevention and treatment of acne are possible with kale due to its high level of antioxidants.
Always wash Kale thoroughly prior eating, whether it is organic or not. However, when using non-organic kale, wash more vigorously to ensure that residue from pesticides and other harmful substances are eliminated before consumption. Start by cutting the stems of the kale into ¼” lengths and the leaves into ½” slices. Next, let the kale sit for 5 minutes to further enhance its nutritional concentration (sprinkling with lemon even further enhances this effect). When it comes to cooking kale, steaming for 5 minutes (as opposed to stir-frying) is the healthiest method of preparation. Kale keeps for approximately 5 days in the refrigerator after being cooked. To maximize the benefits of kale, consume it with meals at least 2-3 times per week, or as much as 4-5 times per week.
Since research into kale’s benefits is still ongoing, integrating it into a generally healthy diet is probably more ideal than overloading your system on it. Intake should also be limited if taking blood thinners as kale works naturally to assist the body’s blood-clotting ability. Overall, though, kale has shown to be massively beneficial when it comes to fighting and preventing disease as well as overall health and wellness. Any food that is this packed with vital nutrients is well worth finding a place for in your everyday diet.