10 Proven Benefits Of Kale
- by Kris Gunnars
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.
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:
This is coming with a total of 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber) 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.
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.
Bottom Line: Many powerful antioxidants are found in kale, including quercetin and kaempferol, which have numerous beneficial effects on health.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 oxalates, substances 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.
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.
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.
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.