Kale

Brassica oleracea var. sabellica

Kale is probably the most healthy vegetable existing on this planet! Some call kale a superfood. Others tell that it is just delicious. Is there a medicinal benefit hidden in this delicacy? It is a member of the brassica oleracea family.

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, and cauliflower are also members of the family. Cabbages in general, are very healthy and share some of their medicinal properties.

Nutrients

250 gram of this green-leafed vegetable delivers 2600% of the RDA for vitamin K. That is the highest amount of vitamin K from a food source. This fact turns kale into nutritional brain food. Vitamin K is especially healthy for the brain. According to scientists, vitamin K is able to slow down diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson. 250 gram of this vegetable contains 700% of the RDA of vitamin A and 180% for vitamin C. These high percentages of natural vitamin, accompanied by numerous healthy flavonoids that make the medicinal effect stronger, make synthetic supplements look pale. Scientists call this the synergetic effects of all the bio-active components in kale. This synergetic effect is being studied intensively. In 2016 a research team from Italy studied the influence of the components of whole kale and an extract of kale. Whole kale has better medicinal effects than single components from kale. The different components together join in a ´synergetic food matrix´ in which they strengthen each others effect.

250 gram of kale also contains 52% of the RDA of manganese, 20% for copper and 20% for calcium. The nutritional value is good, super good, so kale earns the label superfood. But, there is one thing. German researchers published a study in 2016 that 25 different varieties of kale show different nutritional value. The researchers conclude that is important for farmers to evaluate breeding techniques.

Why are there no nutritional standards?

In our world of today, there are many food standards regulated. But it is not regulated that farmers should use specific techniques to guarantee the standard nutritional value in vegetables. In fact, when vegetables are created without nutrients, is is perfectly legal. This lack of regulations weaken the RDA-recommendations because: when consumers cannot be certain of a standard amount of nutrients, how do they know if they are consuming healthy vegetables?

Other research shows that organically produced vegetables always show higher nutritional content. Buying or growing organic vegetables, is the safest way to guarantee the nutritional value in your vegetables. It is very well possible for governments to regulate this and tell farmers that crops may only be produced in the most effective way when it comes to nutritional value. When crops are produced commercially, you can be certain that nutritional value is not the number 1 priority of farmers, but it should be the concern of all people. This policy would be disease-preventing and therefore good for all people.

Anti-cancer vegetable

Scientists did many studies and it shows that kale lowers the risk of developing cancer. There are four reasons given for this fact:

  • It contains antioxidants.
  • It contains inflammation reducing components.
  • It contains glucosinolates
  • It contains omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

This last reason is probably the most important reason why kale combats cancerous tumors successfully. A German Nobel prize winner Otto Warburg from the twenties of the 20th century researched the background of the relation between omega 3 deficiency and cancer. From that time, people started to consume margarine and other trans fats. Meanwhile, cancer statistics were starting to show more deaths each year. Warburg proved that there was a clinical relation between margarine and sudden rise of cancer death.

Modern research confirms the views of Warburg. For example, all vegetables which scientifically show a risk-reducing effect for cancer, contain relatively high amounts of omega 3. Omega 3 is a base fatty acid. When margarine was introduced, people start to consume less real butter and therefore less omega 3 acids. Omega 3 proves to be the major substance that protects is from cancer. (Though, not the omega 3 from fish oil, that is a commercial derivative product with possible harmful effects. Fish oil omega 3 as a supplement is a completely different substance which unfortunately is allowed by law to carry the same name. It has no medicinal benefits.)

Reduces low-grade inflammation

The high nutritional values ensures a low grade inflammation reducing effect. Western food based diseases like obesity, diabetes type 2, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are prevented by foods with many antioxidants.

Raw or blanched kale

Research from 2012 says that to enjoy the nutritional value in the best way, this type of superfood should be eaten raw or blanched. You can put the leafs in a juicer or blender. Scientific research shows that when you drink pure kale juice, it helps to keep the arteries clean. This lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Scientists put it this way: kale improves coronary artery disease risk factors in men who suffer hypercholesterol. Israelian scientists say that kale lowers high homocystein levels. High levels of homocystein is an indicator for cardiovascular problems. Therefore, consuming foods such as kale may be recommended to prevent heart diseases.

Medicinal kitchen advice

There are so many recipes for raw kale salad. Always add a organic oil to a salad to accompany this vegetable with even more beneficial components like omega 3. Eating raw or blanched kale is a good way to benefit from this vegetable as a medicine. The best way to use this medicinal leafs though is to drink it as a juice or smoothie. Use some cucumber, mint and spinach to make your smoothie even more healthy. Zip your smoothie slowly and enjoy your medicine!

Health Benefits of Kale - supported by science

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.  

1. Kale Is Among The Most Nutrient Dense Foods on The Planet

Before we get to all the benefits, let me briefly explain what kale is.  Kale is a popular vegetable, a member of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea).  It is related to cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and brussels sprouts.  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:

  • Vitamin A: 206% of the RDA (from beta-carotene).
  • Vitamin K: 684% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 134% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 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 fibre) and 3 grams of protein.
  • Kale 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.
  • Bottom Line: Kale is very high in nutrients and very low in calories, making it one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.

2. Kale 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 (2).
  • 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 aging 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
  • Bottom Line: 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.
  • Kale 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
  • Bottom Line: Kale 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. Kale 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
  • Bottom Line: Kale contains substances that bind bile acids and lower cholesterol levels in the body. Steamed kale is particularly effective.

5. Kale 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
  • Bottom Line: Vitamin K is an important nutrient that is involved in blood clotting. A single cup of kale 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.
  • Bottom Line: Kale contains substances that have been shown to help fight cancer in test tubes and animal studies, but the human evidence is mixed.

7. Kale 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.
  • Bottom Line: Kale is very high in beta carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.

8. Kale Is a Good Source of Minerals That Most People Don't Get Enough of

  • Kale 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 in oxalate, a substance found in some plants that can prevent minerals from being absorbed
  • Bottom Line: Many important minerals are found in kale, some of which are generally lacking in the modern diet. This includes calcium, potassium and magnesium.

9. Kale 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
  • Bottom Line:Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that have been linked to a drastically reduced risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

10. Kale 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, kale 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.

Take Home Message

Fortunately, adding kale to your diet is relatively simple. You can simply add it to your salads or use it in recipes.  A popular snack is kale chips, where you drizzle some extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil on your kale, add some salt and then bake in an oven until dry.  This tastes absolutely delicious and is a great, crunchy and super healthy snack.

A lot of people also add kale to their smoothies in order to boost the nutritional value.  At the end of the day, kale is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet.  If you want to dramatically boost the amount of nutrients you take in, consider loading up on kale.

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