6 Healthy Reasons to Eat Kale

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

These days, it’s tough to find full agreement about what’s healthy and what’s not.

Fortunately, most of us can agree on at least one thing - kale is good for you.

More than just a health fad, kale has earned its healthy reputation for several reasons.

In this post, we’ll dig into some of the most compelling health benefits that kale has to offer.

Our goal? To inspire you to start including it in your diet regularly.

1. Kale Has Cancer Fighting Properties

Don’t let the appearance of kale fool you. It looks a heck of a lot like lettuce, but it’s actually a cruciferous vegetable.

Cruciferous vegetables have been studied extensively for their anti-cancer properties. In fact, a high intake has been associated with a lower risk of breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancer.1

In part, the cancer fighting properties they offer come from their glucosinolates,2 which are compounds that give them their bitter taste and pungent smell.

2. Kale is One of the Most Nutrient-Dense Foods

Kale is considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, due to its rich concentration of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

It competes very well when compared to other vegetables. In fact, it actually contains more polyphenols than cauliflower and broccoli.3

According to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index Scale — which measures foods based on their nutrient content — kale has a score of 1000, which is the highest score a food can get.4

Some of the notable antioxidants found in kale include:

  • chlorogenic acid5
  • anthocyanins6 (purple variety)
  • quercetin7
  • kaempferol8
Kale is also a particularly rich source of:9

  • vitamin C
  • magnesium
  • beta carotene
  • manganese
  • folate
  • potassium
  • vitamin K
Not bad, right?

3. Kale Enhances your Body’s Detoxification Process

Kale is often hailed as a detoxifying food, and it’s for good reason. When it’s chewed or mechanically processed, a chemical reaction occurs that turns certain glucosinolates into sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane enhances the production of your liver’s detoxifying enzymes, helping to remove dangerous chemicals and carcinogenic toxins from your body.10-12

In addition, kale also boosts glutathione, one of the body’s main detoxifying antioxidantsl.13

4. Kale Helps Lower Cholesterol

A three month clinical trial showed that kale juice helped improve cholesterol levels.13 This effect is due to kale’s ability to bind to bile, a compound which removes cholesterol from your body.14

If you don’t like the idea of kale juice, just eat it steamed instead. Either way, its cholesterol managing properties14 will stay intact.

5. Kale is Good for Your Eyes

Kale is also a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin.9 These antioxidants are naturally found in the eye where they protect against harmful UV rays.

Research shows that diets rich in these compounds can protect against macular degeneration15 and cataracts.16

6. Kale is a Great Source of Calcium

A single serving of kale provides about 91 mg of calcium,9 which is about 10% of your daily needs. This is good news for vegans and anyone who purposely avoids milk.

There is a common misconception that calcium in green vegetables is poorly absorbed. This may be true in some cases, but not for kale.

In fact, according to a clinical study, kale contains a highly absorbable form of calcium, even more so than milk.17

Recipe: Kale Chips

Once in a while, it’s fun to experiment a little with healthy foods. Here’s an excellent kale chips recipe, courtesy of OregonLive. It makes for a great potato chip substitute – give it a try!

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches kale (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Instructions:

  • Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Wash the kale and dry it in a salad spinner. Lay out a few clean tea towels and thoroughly pat the leaves dry.
  • Put the kale in a large bowl and then drizzle the pile with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Lay the slicked-up leaves one by one on the empty baking sheet so that they don't overlap.
  • Bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and bake another 30 minutes. For good measure, turn off the oven and leave the pans in for another hour. If they are still soft after all this, just turn the oven back to 200 degrees and dry them out for another 15 minutes or so.
  • Store the cooled kale chips in an airtight container for up to a month.
Enjoy!

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/diet/cruciferous-vegetables. Accessed October 20,2012.
  2. Trends Mol Med. 2012 Jun;18(6):337-47.
  3. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2011;75(1):40-6.
  4. Available at: http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/andi-food-scores.aspx. Accessed October 20, 2012.
  5. Acta Sci Pol Technol Aliment. 2012 Jul-Sep;11(3):239-48.
  6. Plant Cell Rep. 2012 Feb;31(2):281-9.
  7. J Food Sci. 2011 Mar;76(2):H31-7.
  8. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2011 Apr;11(4):298-344.
  9. Available at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2461/2 Accessed October 20, 2012.
  10. J Med Food. 2005;8(2):198-203.
  11. Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jul;28(7):1485-90.
  12. Biomed Environ Sci. 2008 Apr;21(2):91-7.
  13. Nutr Res. 2008 Jun;28(6):351-7.
  14. Acta Ophthalmol. 2012 Jan 23. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-3768.2011.02357.
  15. Ophthalmic Res. 2010;44(3):166-72. Epub 2010 Sep 9.
  16. Am J Clin Nutr. 1990 Apr;51(4):656-7.

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