Health Benefits of Kale: The king of all Leafy Green Superfoods [4 Recipes Included]

You can’t go wrong with green. Green is nature and nature provides. Since time immemorial, mankind has relied on nature for sustenance. That’s before factories and manufacturing plants started to mass-produce almost everything people need. So, if you want to take charge of your life again and start living the way you should, incorporate more greens into your diet. They are not only good for you but nutrient-dense too.

Among the popular greens of today is kale. What is kale and why is it good for you?

Kale is a popular green vegetable that is found on most supermarket shelves today. It’s also a favorite of health enthusiasts for various reasons. You can make lots of stuff with it, from salads to smoothies, kale is the perfect green ingredient to supplement your diet. Experts claim it’s even more nutritious than spinach or broccoli. So, give it a try and find out for yourself.

What is Kale?

kale-plant

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Brassica oleracea

Kale is a leafy green vegetable also known as leaf cabbage. It’s closely related to wild cabbage where all crucifers from the Brassica variety come from. What does kale look like? It has purple or green leaves that fail to form a head at the center, unlike most headed cabbage.

There is a variety known as the “hungry gap” because it’s the only one that grows and survives during a period in winter when nothing ever grows on the land and the only thing that can grow in the frost is kale. Kale also packs more flavor and becomes even sweeter after being exposed to frost.

Up until the Middle Ages, kale is the favorite leafy greens of the Europeans. It reached the U.S. shores in the 17th century. This popular green veggie has an earthy flavor and contains fewer calories. Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and cabbage belong to the same family. The Brassica family is gaining widespread attention nowadays because of the sulfur-containing phytonutrients.

Types of Kale

varieties-of-kale

There are different varieties of kale. The most popular of all are the curly and flat-leaf ones. Some varieties of kale are edible while there are others are not safe for human consumption because they’re not only coarse but indigestible too. Kale is classified according to its leaves:

  • Curly leaved (Scots kale)
  • Plain-leaved
  • Bumpy-leaved (aka black cabbage, Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, dinosaur kale or lacianto)
  • Leaf and spear (a hybrid of the plain and curly kale)
  • Rape kale (hungry gap)

There are other kale variants like the jersey kale or cow cabbage, which are extra tall and aren’t that popular with the public.

What does kale taste like?

Its taste depends on the type of kale you consume but it’s mostly bitter because of its high iron content. Curly kale tastes somewhat bitter and peppery. Ornamental kale has a milder flavor ideal for kale salads while dinosaur kale tastes sweeter. Kale’s flavor is also determined by the size of its leaves. Kale with smaller leaves has a milder taste than those with bigger leaves.

 Traditional Medicinal Use of Kale

  • Strengthens the stomach
  • Stops pain
  • Promotes tissue re-growth
  • Treats stomach ulcers
  • Dietary supplement

Kale Nutrition Facts

  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins (especially B6)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linoleic acid)
  • Flavonoids (quercetin and kaempferol) and polyphenols

Kale Health Benefits

kale health benefits

What is kale for? Some health experts dub kale as the king of all healthy greens because of its high nutrient content and long list of kale health benefits:

Anti-cancer, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory properties – Kale has been found to be helpful against five different types of cancer: breast, bladder, colon, prostate (1), and ovarian. A study on organically-cultivated kale suggests it has anticancer effects against human adenocarcinoma cells. (2) The carotenoids (lutein and beta-carotene) and the flavonoids in kale protect the body from oxidative stress that often leads to chronic inflammation. It’s especially helpful for preventing atherosclerosis, cataracts, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer.
Also, the flavonoids, kaempferol and quercetin, are the most notable out of the 45 known antioxidants found in kale.
Many studies have been conducted on cruciferous vegetables like kale on their anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. It is rich in glucosinolates that are powerful cancer-fighting agents, specifically metabolites, isothiocyanates, which are powerful cancer killers by inducing phase 2 detoxification enzymes. (3) Indole-3-carbinol found in kale has also been found to have anti-cancer properties according to several studies. (4) Experiments and clinical studies on animals suggest that glucosinolates fight cancer by: (5)

  • Protecting the cells from DNA damage
  • Inactivating carcinogens
  • Antibacterial and antiviral properties
  • Inducing apoptosis (cell death)
  • Preventing angiogenesis or the formation of tumors in the blood vessels and the migration of tumor cells to prevent metastasis.

Cardiovascular support – A nutritional update from physicians regarding plant-based diets suggests that consuming leafy greens like kale not only helps with lowering blood pressure and preventing heart diseases, but obesity and diabetes, also. (6) It is further supported by an article published by the American Heart Association suggesting that high intake of fruits and veggies in your youth lowers your risk of suffering from heart conditions later in life. (7)

Kale also helps lower cholesterol levels by assisting with the elimination of bile from the body and preventing it from emulsifying. Thereby, it prompts the liver to tap into the existing cholesterol supply by replacing the lost bile resulting in a reduction in cholesterol levels. Bile is necessary for digesting fats.
Moreover, kale is rich in potassium (8) known to support heart health and reduces the risk of stroke and forming kidney stones.

Promotes good eye health – Kale contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that reduce your risk of suffering from macular degeneration or cataracts later in life. (9) (10)

Prevents diabetes – A cup of freshly chopped kale contains 130 grams of fiber that helps to improve blood sugar levels, insulin, and lipid levels. It also contains antioxidants and alpha-lipoic acid known to reduce blood sugar levels, boost insulin sensitivity, and prevent exacerbation of diabetes due to oxidative stress damage. Another study proved that high intake of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of acquiring type-2 diabetes. (11)

Kale Benefits for Skin

Eating kale and drinking kale juice is very beneficial to your skin

  • Prevents wrinkles
  • Protects against various skin diseases (Vitamin A)
  • Detoxifies the body from within for healthy and glowing skin
  • Boosts hair elasticity and prevents hair breakage
  • Boosts hair growth
  • Moisturizes the scalp and prevents dandruff

Kale Benefits for Weight Loss

kale-with-fruits-and-vegetables

Kale, like any green leafy veggie, is rich in fiber. It adds bulk to your diet to keep you satiated for a longer amount of time. Moreover, a cup of raw kale contains only 33 calories. A great way to benefit from the weight loss potential of kale is to drink a kale smoothie. Process your kale in a blender along with other fruits and veggies of your choice for a healthy smoothie that is not only good for you but helps you lose weight too.

Other Kale Benefits

Other notable kale benefits include:

  • Promotes weight loss
  • Provides minerals often lacking in one’s diet (e.g. magnesium and potassium)
  • Brain food (manganese boosts brain function)
  • Rich source of beta-carotene (that turns into Vitamin A)
  • Rich source of Vitamin C and K
  • Prevents bone fractures and promotes bone health
  • Helps prevent constipation
  • Prevents hair loss
  • Promotes healthy hair and skin

Kale Diet

Eating a well-balanced diet is crucial to stay healthy, and it won’t hurt if you eat more kale than usual. The kale diet is a trend that was made even more popular today by well-known celebrities swearing by it. Undoubtedly rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, kale can do wonders for your body.

It may be challenging for many considering that you’ll be exclusively munching on kale throughout the day. It can be done, though not for long since there are various ways to eat kale. Also, your body needs a variety in nutrition you can only get by eating a wide array of fruits and vegetables. It won’t hurt to try the kale diet, though. After all, kale chips, kale smoothies, kale salads, kale soups, and more aren’t as bad as you might think.

Kale Juice

ORGANIC GREEN JUICE : Cucumber / Spinach / Kale / Grapefruit / Ginger

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Another way to eat your kale is to drink it. Drinking kale juice will ensure you don’t miss all the nutrients provided by kale. By juicing kale, it also means you will get more nutrients even when you drink just a small serving. Unlike smoothies, juicing kale can give you a smoother consistency drink.

What does kale juice taste like? Kale is mostly bitter, but different varieties can have a milder or more powerful taste. Adding other fruits and veggies can enhance the taste of kale juice. It’s also low in calories but loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that promote good health.

Now, the question remains, what is the best way to juice kale? Make kale juice by first rolling up the leaves to easily fit in the juicer. Next, juice kale alternately with the other fruits or veggies you have. It can be a carrot, an apple or whatever you want it to be. Adding them not only enhances the taste of kale juice but also helps push the greens into the juicer. Also, don’t force it in. Take your time and juice it slowly.

Kale Juice Benefits

Kale juice provides more nutrients minus the extra calories. Thus, it offers more health benefits:

  • Low in calories
  • Rich in iron content
  • High doses of Vitamin K
  • Packed with antioxidants
  • Fights inflammation
  • Detoxifies the body
  • Boosts heart health
  • Boosts immunity
  • Improves eye health
  • Help prevent cancer

Where can you Buy Kale?

Kale can be bought in most supermarkets or at farmer’s market. Available throughout the year but it is in peak by the middle of winter until the start of spring. I prefer to buy organic kale in season.

Kale Recipes

If you like snacking, kale chips can be a perfect choice. Baking or dehydrating kale leaves can leave you with kale chips. Steaming kale also boosts its cholesterol-lowering properties.

You won’t run out of recipe ideas. You can try it on salads, soups, side dishes, or even make kale smoothies.
The paler green kale leaves are perfect for salads. The bigger ones can be stir-fried, added to soups, or used as pizza topping.

Kale-Apple Smoothie

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Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup kale (chopped and ribs and stems removed)
  • ½ banana
  • 1 small celery stalk (chopped)
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup ice

Preparation:

  • Place all ingredients in the blender.
  • Blend until it appears smooth and frothy.

 

Kale Side Dishe: Potato, Kale and Fennel Hash

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium bunch kale (remove stems and tear leaves into bite size pieces)
  • ¾ pound potatoes (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 large bulb fennel (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • hot sauce (for serving, optional)

Preparation:

  • Turn on the stove, and put it on medium heat.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet.
  • Add the fennel and potatoes.
  • Season with ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¾ teaspoon salt.
  • Cook and toss occasionally until tender and golden for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the kale.
  • Toss occasionally and cook for 8 to 10 minutes more or until the kale looks wilted.
  • Serve with hot sauce.

Kale Ceasar Salad with Cucumbers and Leeks

kale-caesar-salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches kale (remove ribs and tear leaves into pieces)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • lemon juice
  • 14 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons garlic (minced)
  • 1 cucumber (sliced)
  • ¼ cup leeks (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • black pepper (freshly cracked)

Preparation:

  • Turn on the stove, and put it on medium heat.
  • Heat a skillet and toss the kale in it.
  • Stir for two minutes until it reduces in size by a quarter.
  • Remove kale and put it in the fridge for an hour.
  • Beat the olive oil, mustard, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovy paste together in a bowl until it achieves a smooth consistency.
  • Put it in the fridge for an hour.
  • Toss the kale, leeks, and cucumber in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with dressing.
  • Toss.
  • Season with freshly cracked black pepper.

Kale and White Bean Soup

White Bean and Kale Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale (remove stems and tear into 2-inch pieces)
  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (sliced)
  • 2 15.5 oz. cans cannellini beans (rinsed)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 cup or 4 oz. small soup pasta (e.g. ditalini, orzo, or tubettini)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese (2 oz.) + 1 rind (optional)
  • 1 loaf country bread, warmed

Preparation:

  • Turn on the stove to medium heat.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot.
  • Add garlic, onion, celery, ½ teaspoon pepper, 1 ½ teaspoon salt and cook.
  • Stir occasionally for 4 to 6 minutes or until tender.
  • Add kale, pasta, beans, rosemary, 8 cups water and Parmesan rind.
  • Cover and then bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or until the kale and the pasta are tender.
  • Remove the Parmesan rind.
  • Add the lemon juice and stir.
  • Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and serve.
  • Serve with bread.

Precautions

Who should not eat kale?

  • People with a weak digestive tract
  • Those diagnosed with IBS
  • Kale can cause kidney stone formation because of its high oxalic acid content.

Possible Drug Interactions

  • Aspirin
  • Anticoagulants or blood thinning drugs

Kale Possible Side Effects

girl with bloating problems

Regardless of its superfood status, there are still some side effects you need to be aware of especially when on a kale diet or from eating too much kale.

  • GI upset e.g. bloating, gas, and stomach cramps (Kale is a rich source of fiber, perhaps too much for some people, especially for those diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It can also be caused by the oligosaccharide, Raffinose, which can cause flatulence and bloating because our body lacks the enzyme needed to digest it.)
  • Thyroid gland problems (Kale produces a “goitrogenic effect.” Cook it to make the substance inactive.)
  • Detox dangers (Kale is very low in calories and can lead to stomach upset, vitamin deficiencies, muscle breakdown, and blood sugar problems)
  • Hyperkalemia (too much potassium in the blood characterized by fatigue, muscle weakness, chest pain, and diarrhea)
  • Too much iron (characterized by headache, stomach upset, fatigue, weight loss, and skin color changes)
  • Blood clotting problems (naturally high in Vitamin K, kale should be avoided or taken in moderation when you have blood clotting issues)

Final Words

As always, everything our body needs is provided by nature. At times, they may not be that appealing to the taste, maybe because we are used to the fatty and sugar coated junk foods our modern lifestyle thrives upon. Eating fruits and veggies is the only way to go if you want to be healthy and live a long life.

Kale is dubbed as a “nutrient powerhouse” and it surely delivers. It may not be as appetizing as other veggies you love, but it’s enough to supplement your body with the important nutrients it needs. So, move on spinach and broccoli because nothing’s going to stop kale from conquering the world.

Other Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/
http://www.whfoods.com/
http://foodfacts.mercola.com/
https://authoritynutrition.com/
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/
http://www.webmd.com/
https://www.reference.com/
http://www.livestrong.com/
http://www.all-about-juicing.com/
https://www.healthambition.com/
http://www.high50.com/
http://www.askdrmao.com/
http://bembu.com/
http://www.stylecraze.com/
http://health.howstuffworks.com/
http://lindawagner.net/
http://www.thehealthsite.com/
http://www.realsimple.com/
http://allrecipes.com/

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