The Health Benefits of Kale: Does Kale Live Up To The Hype?
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I for one love finding out about new ingredients, vegetables, spices or herbs to add to my diet and I didn’t actually know very much about kale for sometime before a friend suggested that I try some when I decided to go vegetarian. While I love living a vegetarian lifestyle, and am highly grateful for making the change (as is my body and mind), there are a few things that I miss about being able to eat meat.
One of the main issues that a lot of vegetarians struggle with is finding a good, natural source of iron. Supplements and iron-enhanced proteins can cost a lot of money and aren’t necessarily as effective as natural sources of iron. When my friend told me that I should start consuming kale and spinach as often as possible to help counter the lack of iron that came as a result of my dietary choices, I was overexcited! Not only is kale cheap, it’s an incredibly versatile food source which means I don’t only have to eat it in cooked form – I can use it in smoothies, shakes, baking – you name it!
There’s something incredibly rewarding about finding green substitutes without having to rely on meat as the only source of protein or iron (among other things). Making this change can have a tremendous amount of benefits for your overall health and general well-being.
Okay, I’ve got to take a step back here and tell you that I’m not trying to convince you to switch to a vegetarian diet simply because that’s my preferred means of eating. The truth is that there are a lot of healthy people out there who do eat meat. However, recent studies have shown that eating large amounts of red meat can affect inflammation of the joints as well as increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer among others. So if you plan on eating meat, I would highly recommend sticking to poultry. But I digress.
With regards to kale, I’ll be explaining the various health benefits of this amazing vegetable and superfood as well covering the specific ailments or issues that it can help to treat or prevent. Hopefully, by the end of the article, you’ll agree with me that kale could be one of the most important foods of the century and will hopefully become more of an everyday food item for you – if you aren’t already hooked on the stuff!
So, What Is Kale?
Kale is essentially a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which means that it’s related to brussel sprouts, broccoli and collard greens. As a crop, it’s a favorite among farmers as it’s an incredibly tough and hardy plant, able to withstand freezing temperatures, water shortages and can thrive in a small amount of space unlike crops such as corn or potatoes etc.
As a vegetable, it resembles cabbage when growing in the ground and is also referred to as ‘black cabbage’ in Italy, where it has formed a crucial part of the diet for many years. The leaves of the kale plant are a dark blue-green color and have ‘bumpy,’ embossed leaves which resemble what many imagine dinosaur skin would have looked like and is sometimes also called ‘dinosaur kale.’
It has a slight bitter and earthy taste which makes it ideal for soups and pastas, but is also often used in salads, smoothies or simply eaten raw. It’s widely regarded as the ‘darling of the culinary world’ because of it’s rich nutrient, mineral and vitamin content as well as it’s unique taste and texture.
Why Has Kale Become More Popular?
There are a lot of reasons for why kale has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. A lot of people may be surprised to find out that it’s been around for a longer than they would even know.
One of the main proponents or catalysts for this plants increasing success in recent times has to do with the fact that more and more people are switching to whole food or plant-based diets and the demand for healthy, organic vegetables has grown immensely because of it. Another reason for its increased popularity could be linked to it being made more readily available to consumers all year round.
This is due to the fact that farmers in colder areas are more likely to invest their money in a sturdy and strong crop such as kale of which there is a demand for rather than risk crops which may suffer in the cooler temperatures. I believe that it is a combination of ‘hype’ caused by healthy eaters as well as an increase in availability. Either way, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are very grateful for such a readily available, healthy food source.
Nutrients Found In Kale Explained
As I mentioned in the previous section, kale has grown in popularity over recent times largely because of its tremendous nutrient, mineral and vitamin content – not to mention it’s versatility and affordability making it a favorite among the health-conscious out there.
As a start, kale is rich in vitamins K, A and C which many will know as being crucial elements for living a healthy life. Gone are the days of costly supplements and booster shots, as eating kale on a regular basis (or rather, including it in a healthy, balanced diet) can greatly improve the quality of your health. Kale can provide you with more than enough of the daily recommended vitamin, nutrient and mineral intake.
Vitamin K is incredibly important for heart health, blood clotting, bone health as well as cancer and diabetes prevention. It has even been linked to the prevention of brain diseases like dementia as well as preventing tooth decay, pneumonia and osteoporosis. Vitamin A helps to support skin and eye health and vitamin C is important for strengthening general immune health. It also helps to keep your body hydrated whilst actively increasing your metabolism, allowing your body to burn up fat more effectively.
With regards to these vitamins, kale provides 100% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin K, 98% of the recommended intake for vitamin A and 71% of the vitamin C intake. This is more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots and way more vitamin K than almost any other foodstuff as well as some supplements – and at a fraction of the cost for that matter.
Kale is also a rich source of magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and various antioxidants that help to rid our body of toxins and prevents the buildup of infectious bacteria that could lead to serious diseases if left untreated. Kale also has high amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are essential for maintaining and regulating good heart health and play a huge role in ensuring that you have healthy skin. It’s easy to see why so many hail kale as one of the most crucial additions to their diet and why it’s deemed a superfood.
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Kale For Cholesterol & Heart Disease
The key to keeping your heart healthy and those cholesterol levels down is a combination of healthy diet and getting exercise on a regular basis. When it comes to diet, it’s important to include foods that have a high amount of natural antioxidants in them, as these help to flush out toxins and bacteria and ultimately allow your body to regulate itself more efficiently.
Kale is a wonderful source of natural antioxidants, as well as being rich in potassium which is highly effective in helping to lower blood pressure – crucial for those suffering from high cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease. The high amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in kale also help to regulate blood clotting and can even thin the blood, whilst actively preventing calcification of the veins (the result of a build-up of low-density lipoprotein in the veins). This leads to better circulation and a healthier heart in general.
The high fiber content of kale also helps to bind with the acidic bile that occurs in your digestive tract (once the kale has been steamed). When it binds with the acidic bile, it becomes easier for your body to excrete it which ultimately helps to reduce your overall cholesterol levels as well.
Can Kale Help You Fight Cancer?
It’s important to note that no single natural product or treatment can cure or reverse the effects of cancer once you’ve got it. Rather, it’s best to see natural treatment as an ongoing process which can help slow cancer and, if caught early enough, in some cases even lead to a cure. Please ever disregard traditional medicine in favor of alternative methods of treatment!
That being said, kale contains a high level of cancer-preventative properties known as glucosinolate phytonutrients. One of the most effective of these is called allyl isothiocyanate and studies have shown that it helps to prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells in the bladder as well in the ovaries for women.
The rich antioxidant content of kale also helps to prevent the occurrence of free-radicals in our system – which are one of the leading causes of cancer. While there is no magic bullet treatment for cancer yet, using natural products to slow, prevent and eventually treat the disease is becoming a more acceptable form of treatment to the harsh chemical treatments that have become stock and standard in the modern day and age.
Kale For Weight Loss Explained
As with anything in life, losing weight is a continual process that takes time and effort. No product, natural or pharmaceutical, will help you lose weight if you don’t get enough exercise and eat a balanced diet. However, knowing what to eat is crucial to the weight loss process and can make all the difference between one jean size or another.
It’s important to make sure that you stick to eating foods with low-calorie counts and thankfully kale contains barely any calories – 33 calories per cup of raw kale to be precise. This means that you can effectively limit the number of calories (and excess fat) that your body needs to work off whilst still getting plenty of the much-needed vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need in order to stay healthy.
Kale is also loaded with high amounts of much needed dietary fiber which can help you feel full, whilst limiting the amount fat that your body has to deal with. It’s also important for regulating healthy bowel functions which is crucial for maintaining balanced energy levels and suppressing those hunger pangs over the course of the day. Kale is an invaluable asset for anyone trying to lose weight and should be included in every fat-fighters diet. Try it with other super foods like mulberries for even better results!
Kale For Eye Health Explained
The common thought regarding vegetables that are effective for protecting and regulating eye health is that carrots are the way to go – but this isn’t necessarily true. Recently, studies have shown that green and yellow fruits and vegetables are more effective at preventing oxidative damage on the retina. This is one of the most common ailments that can affect our eyesight as they contain high levels of two nutrients that are specifically attributed to eye health.
These nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin which ultimately help with preventing the oxidative damage that occurs on the retina as well as decreasing the risk for AMD or Age-related Macula Degeneration – the leading cause of poor eyesight and even blindness in the US today. Mineral zinc, beta-carotene, and antioxidants, in general, have all been linked to preventing AMD and should be used in conjunction with a steady helping of kale to ensure that your eyes function at their best for the longest period of time possible.
How To Get Your Kids To Eat Kale: Kale Smoothie Recipe
While most of us as adults have managed to broaden our palettes and can eat a variety of different foods without any trouble, children (and even some adults) are incredibly picky eaters and will simply refuse to eat certain types of food. In some cases, this may simply be a phase that they’re going through and in other cases, it may last straight through into their adult years.
If you have a child who doesn’t want to eat their veggies, and you can’t stand the arguing and tantrums anymore, or if you personally cannot stand to eat them yourself – it’s time to get creative with regards to how you present the food to them. Smoothies are definitely the best way of slipping a few of those veggies or fruits that they can’t stand to eat into their diet. This is a pretty easy recipe to follow and should take you more than a few minutes to do. The ingredients I’ve selected may be a bit costly, but they have tremendous health benefits and really add to the overall flavor and texture of the smoothie. What you need:
- 1 Blender.
- 2 Cups vanilla almond milk (unsweetened).
- 6 Large kale leaves.
- 2 Bananas (chopped, frozen).
- 2 Tbsp chocolate protein powder.
- 1 Tbsp almond butter.
- Several cubes of ice.
- Chia seeds and/or blackberries (optional, for topping).
Simply add all the ingredients to the blender except for the ice and chia seeds/blackberries and blend until smooth. Then add the ice and blend again. If you want to add a few chia seeds or blackberries to the mixture, feel free to – but I prefer saving them for a topping. This is one of my favorite recipes and it basically tastes like a chocolate milkshake – so if you can get that past your kids, you won’t be able to get anything past them!
Ultimately, kale is one of the best super foods that you can include in your daily diet and adding it to my own diet changed my life almost overnight. It’s easy to see why everyone is raving about this super food and neglecting to include it in your diet is basically like neglecting your health.
It’s versatile, incredibly healthy and very tasty – not to mention that it’s very affordable, too. Many are calling kale ‘the new beef’ because it’s so rich in natural iron and if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then this should be music to your ears. So give kale a try and see how your health starts to improve in a relatively short space of time – I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.