Last Updated on December 3, 2020
What Is Kale?
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable which belongs in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and collard greens.
Like most members of its family, kale is considered a superfood, primarily because of its incredibly low calorie content and high concentration of antioxidants. The leafy vegetable is relatively more popular in winter when many other cruciferous vegetables are less abundant.
Kale enjoys a considerably long history of human use. The vegetable has been a common staple in Europe from time immemorial, before it was introduced to the Americas in the 16th century.
In terms of physical appearance, kale is distinguishable from other cruciferous vegetables with its green and purple leaves. Its leaves can either be smooth or curly.
Now that you’re well-acquainted with kale, you could be wondering what health benefits you stand to gain out of eating this vegetable. Read on for more insights on that.
Kale’s Nutritional Profile
One cup of raw kale (approximately 2.4 ounces or 67 grams) contains the following vitamins and mineral salts:
• Vitamin A: 206% of the recommended Daily Value (DV), most of which come from beta-carotene
• Vitamin B1/Thiamin: 3% of the recommended DV
• Vitamin B2/Riboflavin: 3% of the recommended DV
• Vitamin B3/Niacin: 3% of the recommended DV
• Vitamin B6: 9% of the recommended DV
• Vitamin C: 134% of the recommended DV
• Vitamin K: 685% of the recommended DV
• Calcium: 9% of the recommended DV
• Copper: 10% of the recommended DV
• Magnesium: 6% of the recommended DV
• Manganese: 26% of the recommended DV
• Potassium: 9% of the recommended DV
• Iron and phosphorus: 3% of the recommended DV for each mineral
In addition to the above nutrients, the same quantity of kale also comes with 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are dietary fiber), 3 grams of proteins, and a total of 33 calories.
Health Benefits of Kale
1. Promotes Vision and Skin Health
Kales are high in vitamin A, with one cup of raw kale boasting as much as 206% of the recommended daily value of the vitamin.
Vitamin A promotes vision and enhances the radiance of your skin. It also reduces the risks of eye- and skin-related conditions like glaucoma and melanoma, respectively.
In addition to vitamin A, kales also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which boost eye health by lowering the risks of cataracts and macular degeneration.
2. Promotes Hemoglobin Formation
Kales are also high in iron. Iron promotes the formation of hemoglobin, which helps with the transportation of oxygen and mineral salts to various organs and tissues within the body.
Iron also promotes cell growth, aid liver functions, and plays a role in the formation of enzymes. To benefit from the iron content in kales, you should consider cooking your vegetables on a cast-iron pan.
3. Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease
Potassium is another mineral that’ relatively abundant in kales, and the same which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Various studies have proven that upping your intake of potassium-rich foods can significantly lower the common triggers of heart disease, such as high blood pressure and stroke.
In addition to potassium, kale also contains bile acid sequestrants. These substances reduce cholesterol levels in the body, thereby promoting a healthy heart.
4. Aids Digestion
One cup of raw kale is loaded with 6 grams of carbs, 2 of which is comprised of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber plays various crucial roles in aiding digestion.
First, the fiber acts as prebiotics that nourishes our gut-friendly bacteria, also known as microbiome. These bacteria exist throughout our digestive tract and help to facilitate food digestion while protecting us from digestive diseases.
Another way dietary fiber aids digestion is by adding bulk to stool, especially in the case of insoluble fiber. By adding bulk to stool, the insoluble fiber helps to facilitate bowel movement, reducing the risks of constipation and diarrhea.
5. Supports Weight Loss
We’ve already examined the significant roles that dietary fiber plays in aiding digestion. But that’s not the only way you’ll benefit from eating fiber-rich foods like kale.
Dietary fiber can also support weight loss, thanks to its ability to create a sense of fullness for longer. You may have noticed that your food portions reduce considerably whenever you consume kale as opposed to low-fiber foods like beef or eggs.
Also, kales are high in water and low in calories, a combination that helps with weight loss. What’s more – the high water content in kale may promote urination and boost your body’s ability to flush out excess water weight.
6. Escalates Wound Healing
Kales are incredibly high in Vitamin K1, which is responsible for coagulation. The vitamin keeps the body’s blood-clotting mechanisms in check, ensuring that wounds take the least possible time to heal.
Kales are also high in Vitamin K2, which has been cited for its ability to activate certain proteins within the body. For instance, Vitamin K2 activates a protein known as osteocalcin, which enhances bone regeneration. That way, it can help to protect against physical injury to the bone, as well as bone-related conditions like osteoporosis.
Some studies have also established that Vitamin K2 might activate the protein Matrix GLA protein (MGP). As such, it discourages the formation of calcium on arterial walls, thereby promoting blood circulation.
7. Promotes Strong Bones
Milk has always been touted as one of the most calcium-rich foods. But did you know that kale contains more calcium than milk?
Calcium helps in maintaining stronger bones and teeth. It’s also involved in a wide range of other physiological processes, including cell signaling that takes place in muscles and nerves, as well as boosting the functions of blood vessels.
8. Loaded with Antioxidants
All cruciferous vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. But kale is the undisputed champion. The vegetable packs powerful antioxidants, including vitamin C, flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin, as well as polyphenols.
These antioxidants work synergistically to counteract oxidative damage to body cells caused by free radicals. By fighting the adverse effects of free radicals, the antioxidants help to prevent premature aging while also keeping certain chronic diseases at bay.
To enjoy the antioxidant properties of kale, avoid overcooking your kales, as most antioxidant compounds are heat-sensitive. Your best bet would be to steam the vegetable or consume it in a salad.
9. High in Vitamin C
We’ve already highlighted that vitamin C is one of the antioxidants in kale, which means that it plays a role in decelerating premature aging and preventing chronic diseases.
Vitamin C also helps with the synthesis of collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the body.
10. Fights Inflammatory Diseases
Consuming kale might help to guard against inflammatory diseases, including inflammatory bowel syndrome and the much-dreaded cancer.
The vegetable contains powerful compounds that work by inhibiting the body’s inflammatory messenger activity.
Some of these compounds, such as sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, have been shown to fight cancerous cells at their molecular stage.
Evidently, there are numerous benefits to enjoy by incorporating kale into your diet. Just remember to prepare the vegetable using methods that do not destroy much of its nutrients.