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 popular cruciferous vegetable has the potential to treat digestion and elimination issues and is believed to remedy 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 nutrition obsession right away!
Kale Nutrition Facts
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. You can even make kale noodles as a substitute for carb-heavy pastas. No matter how you slice, sip, or crunch it, kale’s nutritional value is intense even in cooked form.
One cup of kale delivers 2.2 grams of protein, which is 4% of the recommended daily value (DV), 6.7 grams of carbohydrates, which is 2% of the DV, and 1.3 grams of dietary fiber, or 5% of the DV. 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, and can help lower cholesterol.
The majority of kale’s fat content, which is just 1% of the DV, is the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic-acid (ALA). ALA helps to lower cholesterol. Essential fatty acid ALA also enhances brain health and helps reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Check out these other nutrients this leafy vegetable has to offer:
- Vitamin K is a common nutrient in most leafy-green vegetables, like kale, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce. Along with fortifying bone health, the vitamin assists proteins in un-clotting blood platelets, which is crucial for combating complications related to heart disease. Kale meets 684% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K in just 1 cup!
- 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. And you get 206% of your DV of vitamin A in a serving size of kale.
- 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. One cup of kale accounts for 134% of your C daily needs.
- Vitamin B6 helps metabolize carbs, fat, and protein, and plays a role in red blood cell and neurotransmitter generation. Optimal levels help ensure healthy brain and heart function. You can count on getting 9% of your B6 from 1 cup of kale.
- 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. You’re meeting 5% of your folate requirements with 1 cup of kale.
- Manganese may be a trace mineral, but your body still needs it to make sure your nervous, brain, and enzyme systems are functioning properly. Get 26% of your daily manganese from a cup of kale.
- Copper and iron team up to make red blood cells. And we depend on copper for bone, blood vessel, immune, and nerve health. One cup of kale offers up 10% copper and 6% iron for a dynamic health duo.
- 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, which delivers 9% of the DV of calcium in 1 cup, to increase their daily calcium intake. Because kale is lower in oxalates than spinach and other leafy greens, minerals such as calcium are more readily absorbed.
- 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 high blood pressure. Kale’s got 9% of the DV of potassium in a cup.
- 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.
In addition, there are more than 45 different flavonoids in kale, including free-radical fighting kaempferol, quercetin, and isorhamnetin that help to reduce oxidative stress.
The Health Benefits of Kale
Given kale’s impressive nutrient composition, it is not surprising that scientific data substantiate kale’s tremendous healing potential, from protecting eye health and promoting bone health, to lowering the risk of heart disease.
- Vision enhancement: Kale is a good source of the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which help protect ocular tissues from UV damage and may lower the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Evidence from a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology suggests that kale may help lower glaucoma risk.
- Heart health: The superfood also tested well in heart disease prevention research documented in the journal Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, while a 2015 study validates previously researched assertions regarding kale’s blood sugar-lowering abilities.
- Cancer protection: Kale’s cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory attributes have been spotlighted in numerous clinical investigations thanks to high levels of isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol. For example, when consumed at high levels, kale and other vegetables of the Brassica genus, including broccoli, cabbage, mustard and collard greens, and bok choy, were shown to decrease prostate cancer risk in a 2002 study due to their high levels of glucosinolates and sulforaphane, which can help defend against DNA damage.
- Weight-loss aid: Kale also comes equipped with every dieter’s favorite benefit: weight loss. It’s low in calories but, due to the fiber and protein content, helps you feel full. It’s also low in net carbs, making it a keto-friendly veggie.
Caring for Kale
At your local grocery store, you will notice that kale is sold bundled raw, canned, boxed, or in plastic packaging. In the produce sections, fresh raw kale may come bundled with green flat leaves on reddish stems or bright-green curly leaves on green stems. Whether you opt for dinosaur kale (Lacinato) or curly kale, remove the stems when preparing, 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 1 week to avoid wilting and discoloration.
Go Kale Crazy
There are many possibilities for enjoying your kale at all times of the day.
Sauté a chopped bundle of kale with a tablespoon of fat, like olive oil or butter, and garlic for added flavor. 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. You can also add more antioxidant power to kale juice by combining it with spirulina, green pepper, orange juice, and pineapple.
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.
Kale also goes well with other veggies, like roasted bell peppers and beets. Cook up a quick and easy vegetable sauté, and throw in some cherry tomatoes and avocado while you’re at it.
Move over cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Kale’s on the menu today!