Of all the super healthy greens, kale is the king.
It is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious plant foods in existence.
Kale is loaded with all sorts of beneficial compounds… some of which have powerful medicinal properties.
Here are 10 health benefits of kale, that are supported by science.
1. It is Among The Most Nutrient Dense Foods on The Planet
Before we get to all the benefits, let me briefly explain what kale is…
There are many different types of kale.
The leaves can be green or purple in color. And have either a smooth or curly shape. The most common type of kale is called curly kale or Scots kale, which has green and curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem.
A single cup of raw kale (about 67 grams or 2.4 ounces) contains:
- A Vitamin: 206% of the RDA (from beta-carotene).
- K Vitamin: 684% of the RDA.
- C Vitamin: 134% of the RDA.
- B6 Vitamin: 9% of the RDA.
- Manganese: 26% of the RDA.
- Calcium: 9% of the RDA.
- Copper: 10% of the RDA.
- Potassium: 9% of the RDA.
- Magnesium: 6% of the RDA.
- Then it contains 3% or more of the RDA for Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Iron and Phosphorus.
This is coming with a total of 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber) and 3 grams of protein. This contains very little fat, but a large portion of the fat in it is the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid.
Given the incredibly low calorie content, kale is among the most nutrient dense foods in existence. Eating more kale is a great way to dramatically increase the total nutrient content of your diet.
Kale is very high in nutrients and very low in calories, making it one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
2. It is Loaded With Powerful Antioxidants Like Quercetin and Kaempferol
Kale, like other leafy greens, is very high in antioxidants.
This includes beta-carotene, vitamin C, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols. Antioxidants are substances that help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body. Oxidative damage is believed to be among the leading drivers of ageing and many diseases, including cancer.
But many substances that happen to be antioxidants also have other important functions. This includes the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which are found in relatively large amounts in kale.
These substances have been studied intensely in test tubes and animal studies. They have powerful cardioprotective, blood pressure lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects… to name a few.
Many powerful antioxidants are found in kale, including quercetin and kaempferol, which have numerous beneficial effects on health.
3. It is an Excellent Source of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an important nutrient.
It is a water-soluble antioxidant that serves many vital functions in the body’s cells. For example, it is necessary to synthesize collagen, the most abundant structural protein in the body.
It is much higher in vitamin C than most other vegetables, containing about 4.5 times much as spinach. The truth is… kale is actually among the world’s best sources of Vitamin C.
A cup of raw kale even contains more vitamin C than a whole orange.
It is extremely high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that has many important roles in the body. A single cup of raw kale actually contains more vitamin C than an orange.
4. This Can Help Lower Cholesterol, Which May Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease
Cholesterol has many important functions in the body.
One of them, is being used to make bile acids, which are substances that help us digest fats. The liver turns cholesterol into bile acids, which are then released into the digestive system whenever we eat a fatty meal.
When all the fat has been absorbed and the bile acids have served their purpose, they are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used again.
Substances called bile acid sequestrants can bind bile acids in the digestive system and prevent them from being reabsorbed. This reduces the total amount of cholesterol in the body.
Guess what… kale actually contains bile acid sequestrants, which can lower cholesterol levels. This should lead to a reduced risk of heart disease over time.
One study found that daily consumption of kale juice for 12 weeks increased HDL (the “good”) cholesterol by 27% and lowered LDL levels by 10%, while also improving antioxidant status.
According to one study, steaming kale dramatically increases the bile acid binding effect. Steamed kale is actually 43% as potent as cholestyramine, a cholesterol lowering drug that functions in this way.
Kale contains substances that bind bile acids and lower cholesterol levels in the body. Steamed kale is particularly effective.
5. This is One of The World’s Best Sources of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is an important nutrient.
It is absolutely critical for blood clotting, and does this by “activating” certain proteins and giving them the ability to bind calcium. The well known anticoagulant drug Warfarin actually works by blocking the function of this vitamin.
Kale is one of the world’s best sources of vitamin K, with a single raw cup containing almost 7 times the recommended daily amount.
The form of vitamin K in kale is K1, which is different than vitamin K2. K2 is found in fermented soy foods and certain animal products. It helps prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.
Vitamin K is an important nutrient that is involved in blood clotting. A single cup of this contains 7 times the RDA for vitamin K.
6. There Are Numerous Cancer-Fighting Substances in Kale
Cancer is a terrible disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells.
Kale is actually loaded with compounds that are believed to have protective effects against cancer. This includes sulforaphane, a substance that has been shown to help fight the formation of cancer at the molecular level.
It also contains a indole-3-carbinol, another substance that is believed to help prevent cancer.
Studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables (including kale) may significantly lower the risk of several cancers, although the evidence in humans is mixed.
Kale contains substances that have been shown to help fight cancer in test tubes and animal studies, but the human evidence is mixed.
7. It is Very High in Beta-Carotene
Kale is often claimed to be high in vitamin A, but this is false.
It is actually high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A. For this reason, kale can be an effective way to increase your body’s levels of this very important vitamin.
This is very high in beta carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.
8. It is a Good Source of Minerals That Most People Don’t Get Enough of
It is high in minerals, some of which many people are deficient in.
It is a good, plant-based source of calcium. A nutrient that is very important for bone health and plays a role in all sorts of cellular functions.
It is also a decent source of magnesium, an incredibly important mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Eating plenty of magnesium may be protective against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Kale also contains quite a bit of potassium, a mineral that helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells.
Adequate potassium intake has been linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease. One advantage that kale has over leafy greens like spinach.
Is that it is low inoxalates, substances found in some plants that can prevent minerals from being absorbed.
Many important minerals are found in kale, some of which are generally lacking in the modern diet. This includes calcium, potassium and magnesium.
9. This is High in Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Powerful Nutrients That Protect the Eyes
One of the most common consequences of ageing is that eyesight gets worse.
Fortunately, there are several nutrients in the diet that can help prevent this from happening. Two of the main ones are lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid antioxidants that are found in large amounts in kale and some other foods.
Many studies have shown that people who eat enough lutein and zeaxanthin have a much lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Two very common eye disorders. It is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that have been linked to a drastically reduced risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
10. It Should be Able to Help You Lose Weight
Kale has several properties that should make it a weight loss friendly food.
It is very low in calories… but still provides significant bulk that should help you feel full. Because of the low calorie and high water content, this has a low energy density.
Eating plenty of foods with a low energy density has been shown to aid weight loss in numerous studies.
Despite the low amount of calories, it does contain small amounts of protein and fiber.
These are two of the most important nutrients when it comes to losing weight.
Although there is no study directly testing the effects of kale on weight loss. It makes sense that it could be a useful addition to a weight loss diet.
How to prepare kale
To prepare kale, wash it thoroughly in cold water to remove any dirt that’s hidden in the curly leaves.
Although the thick stem is edible, it takes longer to cook than the leaves so it’s best remove this.
Use a knife to carefully cut the stem from each leaf.
You can then shred the leaves, and finely chop the stems if using, or cook the leaves whole depending on your recipe.
How to cook kale
Place the kale in a steamer basket over a saucepan with a little boiling water, cover and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
Add the kale, making sure it’s fully submerged.
Turn the heat down to medium, cover the saucepan and let it cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until wilted. Drain the kale.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large frying pan, and then add the kale. Stir the kale in the oil for a minute, then add a tablespoon or two of water. Stir-fry the kale for 5 to 7 minutes.
The kale should be tender but still a vivid green. Add a splash of soy sauce or toasted sesame oil and season with salt and pepper before serving.
It is a member of the mustard, or Brassicaceae, family, as are cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
It is also hearty and crisp, with a hint of earthiness. Different types of kale have slightly different flavor and nutrient profiles. Younger leaves and summer leaves tend to be less bitter and fibrous.
Curly kale is the most commonly available type. It is usually bright green, dark green, or purple in color. It has tight, ruffled leaves that are easy to tear.
To remove the leaves from the fibrous stalk, run your hand down the stalk in the direction of growth.
Lacinato or dinosaur kale is a dark blue-green variety that is firmer and more robust than curly kale. It is known as dinosaur kale because of its scaly texture.
These leaves are generally longer and flat and maintain their texture after cooking. Less bitter than curly kale, dinosaur kale is ideal for making kale chips.
Red Russian kale is a flat-leaf variety that looks a little like oak leaves. The stalks are slightly purple stalks and the leaves have a reddish tinge. The stalks are very fibrous and are not usually eaten as they can be rather difficult to chew and swallow.
The leaves of red Russian kale are sweeter and more delicate than other types, with a hint of pepper and lemon, almost like sorrel. They are ideal for salads, sandwiches, juices, and as a garnish.
It grows well in the colder winter months, making a good addition when other fruits and vegetables are less readily available.
Winter kale is usually better cooked, as colder weather can turn the sugars in kale into starch, increasing the bitterness and fiber content.