Known as the “Queen of Greens”, kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family along with bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, etc. It is known for its ability to thrive during the cooler seasons of the year. In fact, it is said that exposure to cooler temperatures enhances both its flavor and quality. There are three main types of kale. They include flat wide leaf kale, darker kale and tight curly leafed kale. These can be found in various shades of green and purple. Note that “ornamental kales" are also edible, but are used primarily for appearance, rather than taste or texture.
Kale is truly a superstar when it comes to nutrient-density, as it provides an abundance of nutrients for minimal calories. For example, according to “World’s Healthiest Foods”, in 1 cup of cooked kale, there are only 36 calories and 1180% DRI/DV Vitamin K, 98% DRI/DV Vitamin A, 71% DRI/DV Vitamin C, roughly 2.5g of both fiber and protein, along with B-vitamins, calcium, iron and magnesium!
*Note that this source uses the terms DRI & DV to evaluate ingredients. DRI or “Dietary Reference Intake” is set by The National Academy of Sciences and includes 22 distinct age and gender groups. DV or “Daily Value” is set by the FDA and is a “one size fits all” recommendation. Because both sets of standards are important when considering daily nutrient requirements, both were incorporated into the WHfoods rating system.
Kale offers tremendous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits due to its incredible phytonutrient content. Kale has an unusual concentration of two types of antioxidants in particular, carotenoids (such as lutein and beta-carotene) and flavonoids (such as quercetin and kaempferol). Among these, lutein is perhaps best known for its role in eye health and its ability to protect different parts of the eye from potential damage.
In addition to its phytonutrients, the omega-3 fatty acids found in kale also have anti-inflammatory benefits. It only takes 100 calories of kale to provide over 350 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)! The vitamin A in kale is useful in helping to prevent acne due to its anti-inflammatory effects in addition to its ability to reduce the overproduction of oil in the skin. Vitamin C plays an important role in protecting skin health from damage. Plus, kale is a spectacular source of vitamin K, which plays a role in helping regulate the body's inflammatory process while supporting blood clotting and healthy bone mineral density.
Due to the fact that kale is a concentrated source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, it helps protect arteries and lessen risk of heart disease. In addition, the fiber-related nutrients in kale can bind together with bile acids, helping to decrease blood cholesterol levels as the body breaks down cholesterol to replace them. Studies on kale intake show that total blood cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol drop while blood levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol increase with increasing amounts of kale in the diet.
In addition to containing detoxifying and blood cleansing chlorophyll, kale is also a top food source for beneficial glucosinolate phytonutrients. Once digested, these can be converted by the body into helpful compounds known as isothiocyanates (ITCs), which have been shown to help support healthy hormone balance in addition to regulating detoxification activities at a cellular level. In fact, they have been shown to play a favorable role in both phases of detoxification (Phase I and Phase II). In addition, the large amount of sulfur compounds in kale have also been shown to help support Phase II detoxification. The ITCs made from kale's glucosinolates should also help protect stomach lining from bacterial overgrowth of H. Pylori.
How to Enjoy
- Limit exposure to contaminants by purchasing organically-grown kale as conventional leafy greens are generally heavily sprayed.
- It has been suggested to massage kale leaves before consumption to break down the cell walls and make nutrients more bioavailable.
- Kale can be cooked or eaten raw. However, cooking will inactivate “goitrogens” which may be of concern for those with thyroid issues.
- Try kale in salads or smoothies, juiced, steamed or sautéed as a simple side dish or drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and baked into “kale chips”!
- Store kale in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, removing as much air as possible for up to 5 days. Do not wash kale before storing because exposure to water encourages spoilage.
At a minimum, “World’s Healthiest Foods” recommends 3/4 cup of cruciferous vegetables on a daily basis, equivalent to approximately 5 cups per week. A more optimal intake amount would be to double this recommendation. If meeting these serving sizes seems overwhelming, consider incorporating an easy-to-use organic fermented kale powder into your diet for the nutritional and health benefits of kale along with the digestive benefits of natural fermentation!
-This article is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach -