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10 Health Benefits Of Kale That Prove It’s A Superfood

Close up of curly kale.

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, they’re 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. This 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. Not having to rely on meat as the only source of protein or iron (among other things) is highly satisfactory. Making this change can have a tremendous amount of benefits for your overall health and general well-being.

With regards to kale, I’ll be explaining the various health benefits of this amazing 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!

What Is Kale?

Kale in bowl with chickpeas.

Kale salad.

Kale (Brassica Oleracea) is essentially a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which means that it’s related to brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, and other leafy 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 in salads, smoothies, saute into kale chips, or simply eaten raw. It’s  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 this leafy green 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 many types of kale 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’ apparent 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.

10 Health Benefits Of Kale

1. Nutrient Dense

Kale leaves on table with olive oil.

Crispy kale.

As a start, kale is rich in vitamins A, K, and C, as well as vitamin B6, 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.

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.

2. Lower Cholesterol

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.

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 means that your blood vessels are able to supply the body healthy blood for optimal health.

3. Prevents 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.

That being said, kale contains a high level of cancer-preventative properties known as glucosinolate phytonutrients. One of the most effective of these is allyl isothiocyanate and studies show 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 and the presence of polyphenols also helps to prevent the occurrence of free-radicals in our system. Free radicals is 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 standard in the modern day and age.

4. Reduce Risk Of Heart Disease

Kale shaped into a heart

Heart-shaped kale.

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. This leads to better circulation and a healthier heart in general. One of the reasons for this is the fact that kale is rich in alpha-linoleic acid which is one of the omega-3 fatty acids that is essential for heart health. If you want to maximize the cardioprotective benefits of this food, roast some in the oven with olive oil. Pure olive oil is also known for its ability to protect the heart from disease. So, this tasty snack provides a powerhouse combo.

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 bile acids, it becomes easier for your body to excrete it which ultimately helps to reduce your overall cholesterol levels as well.

5. Aids Weight Loss

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. 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 and carbs) that your body needs to work off. At the same time you get plenty of the much-needed vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need in order to stay healthy. The low carb content of kale means that it’s also ideal for those on the keto diet.

6. Protect Eye Health

Side view close up of eyes.

Improve eye health.

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. They contain high levels of two nutrients that specifically attribute 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 Macular Degeneration. Mineral zinc, beta-carotene, and antioxidants in general, are linked with preventing AMD. It should work in conjunction with a steady helping of kale to ensure that your eyes function at their best for the longest period of time possible.

7. Rich In Vitamin C And K

With regards to these vitamins, kale provides 100% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin K, 98% of the recommended daily value 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.

8. Healthy Digestion

Kale leaves on tray.

Cooking kale for better digestion.

Kale is loaded with high amounts of much needed dietary fiber which can help you feel full. Just one cup of kale contains 2.5 grams fiber. Fiber helps to boost satiation, control blood sugar levels, and improve digestive health.  It’s also important for regulating healthy bowel functions. This 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!

The fact that kale can improve your digestive system gives it a significant ranking in my book. I’m always looking for foods that help my digestion and make sure that my body is living its best life. Curly kale’s digestive benefits are part of what it gives it its famous ‘detox’ vegetable status.

9. Rich In Iron

The truth is that most leafy greens are pretty high in iron. Kale doesn’t stand particularly apart from the rest in this respect, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Raw kale is a good source of iron. Now you might be thinking “well, that’s great, but why do I need iron?’. When you lack sufficient iron intake your body struggles to create enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This can have an adverse effect on your overall health, leading to issues such as anemia.

10. Reduces Inflammation

African American woman with clear skin.

Woman with clear skin.

The carotenoids found in spinach make this superfood a great anti-inflammatory agent. Reducing internal inflammation can help to optimize your overall bodily function including digestive health and cognitive abilities. Additionally, foods that contain anti-inflammatory properties can help to reduce inflammation of the skin. When your skin is inflamed it can lead to all sorts of skin issues.

The anti-inflammatory properties of kale is largely thanks to the high antioxidant content. As briefly mentioned, flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin help to reduce oxidative stress and improve your complexion. The powerhouse that is kale has the potential to reduce inflammation from the inside out.

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. They will simply refuse to eat certain types of food. In some cases, this may simply be a phase that they’re going through. 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 in a few of those veggies or fruits. This is a pretty easy recipe to follow and should take you just a few minutes.

  • 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. I prefer saving them for a topping. This is one of my favorite kale juice recipes. It basically tastes like a chocolate milkshake. So, if you can’t get that past your kids, you won’t be able to get anything past them! If you want to make this a savory smoothie just throw in some kale, spinach, and avocado into your blender with some water and you’re good to go!

Conclusion

Ultimately, kale is one of the best superfoods that you can include in your daily diet. Adding it to my own diet changed my life almost overnight. It’s easy to see why everyone is raving about this superfood. In general, leafy vegetables are beneficial for your health. This particular dark green vegetable is pretty up there on the list. If you’re not sure where to start with adding this superfood into your diet start with the smoothie recipe or speak to your dietitian for more advanced approaches.

It’s versatile, incredibly healthy, and very tasty – not to mention that it’s very affordable, too. You can find it in practically any grocery store. That being said, fresh and organic from the farmers market is my favorite kind. Many are calling kale ‘the new beef’ because it’s so rich in natural iron. 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 can practically guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

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