Kale “fever” is as momentous as ever, and for many good reasons. Otherwise known by its botanical classification Brassica oleracea, kale is a leafy-green superfood packed with exceptional nutritional power. This stunning vegetable has the potential to treat digestion and elimination issues and is believed to be ideal for remedying mineral deficiencies. Kale health benefits include staving off serious illnesses—like cancer, diabetes, and high cholesterol—when consumed regularly and in conjunction with a smoke-free, active lifestyle. Seize major wellness rewards by developing a healthy kale obsession right away!
There are many ways to prepare kale: blend it in shakes, bake it in cakes, or season and crisp its leaves for chips. This versatile superfood is such a culinary wonder that it has replaced hearty meat proteins as the centerpiece on many plates in certain esteemed modern cuisine locales. But no matter how you slice, sip, or crunch it, kale’s nutritional value is intense even in cooked form.
Kale offers a nutritional profile that’s on par with high-protein foods, like meat. However, kale’s proteins are not as complex, so your body absorbs and processes these proteins more efficiently. Check out these other nutrients that kale has to offer:
- Vitamin K is a common nutrient in most leafy-green vegetables, like kale, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce. The vitamin assists proteins in un-clotting blood platelets, which is crucial for combatting complications related to heart disease.
- Vitamin A is considered a principle antioxidant, as many bodily processes require this essential nutrient. The provitamin A carotenoid beta carotene is a prominent form. Vitamin A repairs cell damage, boosts the immune system, and supports eye health—among other attributes.
- Vitamin C is, perhaps, the most popular of the antioxidants. It bolsters a wide array of bodily functions, including tissue repair, immune system strength, and brain function.
- Dietary fiber affords kale the ability to satisfy hunger and control the appetite. It is indigestible and aids the body in moving other contents along the gastrointestinal tract.
- Folate is a B vitamin that helps bolster red blood cells and hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is necessary for transporting essential oxygen throughout the body—which nurtures cell function.
- Calcium builds strong teeth and bones. Lactose-intolerant individuals who may not be able to process the sugars in milk often substitute milk products with kale to increase their daily calcium intake.
- Potassium is essential to metabolic function at the cellular level. It maintains crucial electrolyte balance and cell fluid levels. Potassium deficiencies increase the risk for developing heart-related maladies, such as stroke and hypertension.
- Omega-3 fatty acid in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) helps to lower high cholesterol levels. Essential fatty acid ALA also enhances brain health and helps lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
- Amino acids, such as proline, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, lysine, and leucine, are abundant in kale. A 2008 study proved that amino acids were present at varying levels in both raw and processed forms. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins, which are essential nutrients responsible for proper cell function, growth, and repair.
Kale Health Benefits
Given kale’s impressive nutrient composition, it is not surprising that scientific data substantiate kale’s tremendous healing potential. Evidence from a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology suggests that kale may help lower glaucoma risk.
The superfood also tested well in heart disease prevention research documented in the journal Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, while a 2015 study sustains previously researched assertions regarding kale’s blood sugar-lowering abilities. Kale’s cancer-fighting attributes have been spotlighted in numerous clinical investigations as well. For example, when consumed at high levels, kale and other vegetables of the Brassica genus were shown to decrease prostate cancer risk in a 2002 study.
Caring for Kale
At your local market, you will notice that kale is sold bundled raw, canned, boxed, or in plastic packaging. In your produce sections, fresh raw kale may come bundled with green flat leaves on reddish stems or bright-green curly leaves on green stems. Remove the stems when preparing your kale, as the stems may be harder to digest. Try to cook your kale as soon as possible to harness the fullest nutrient potential. Thoroughly wash the leaves and pat dry before placing in airtight plastic bags and storing in your refrigerator’s crisper drawers. If necessary, store for no more than one week to avoid wilting and discoloration.
Go Kale Crazy
There are many possibilities for enjoying your kale at all times of the day. Cook a chopped bundle of kale with a tablespoon of fat, like olive oil or butter. You will soon notice how fast your bundle shrinks when cooked, so be mindful when selecting your kale portions at the market.
Kale makes for a tasty and hearty breakfast omelette ingredient. Add kale to your favorite protein powder smoothie for a healthy morning meal when on the go or as an afternoon snack. Low-sodium kale chips are easy to bake in your oven and a healthier option than starchy potato chips. Enjoy a raw kale salad loaded with other superfoods, such as apple slices, a salmon filet, or almond slivers, as a small side salad or as a satisfying dinner portion.