Did you know that kale is called the ‘queen of greens’? This versatile and nutritious green leafy vegetable belongs to the Brassica family. It has been popular since ancient times for its low fat and high antioxidant properties. Once called the “poor people’s food”, kale is now eaten by the most renowned celebrities to maintain their sleek physique.
Kale is widely cultivated across Japan, Europe and the United States. There are more than 50 varieties of this green leafy vegetable. The most commonly available ones are dinosaur, ornamental and curly kale. Dinosaur is the most popular variety of kale. It has a slightly sweet and delicate taste compared to other kales. Ornamental kale has smooth leaves while curly kale has crinkly leaves. These succulent and curly leaves are blue, white, purple or green in color, depending upon the cultivar.
Health Benefits of Kale:
The high nutrient value and intense flavor of kale makes it an important addition to the daily diet.
1. Nutritionally Rich:
Kale is a rich source of various health-promoting vitamins like Vitamin A, C, K and E. It contains minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, manganese and copper. A cup of kale provides 134% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C. It provides 133% of the daily Vitamin A requirement. It also provides antioxidant compounds like lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene.
2. Lowers Bad Cholesterol:
The fiber in kale binds the bile acids, lowering bad cholesterol in the body. Bile acids are specialized molecules that aid in the digestion of fat through emulsification. It also contains compounds that help to lower the risk of coronary artery diseases. Potassium in kale is an important component of the cells that helps regulate the heart rate and blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium. The cholesterol lowering ability of kale improves significantly when it is steamed.
3. Aids in Digestion:
The high levels of dietary fiber in kale help to promote digestion. A 100 grams serving provides 3.6 grams of fiber. Kale also helps to detoxify the body, keeping the liver healthy.
4. Weight Management:
Kale is an extremely low calorie vegetable and contains 80% water. A 100 grams serving provides 49 calories and no fat at all. Fiber in kale creates bulk in the stomach that keeps you full for a long time. Vitamin C in kale increases the metabolism, speeding up the fat burning process.
5. Prevents Cancer:
Kale is believed to reduce the possibility of five different types of cancer, which includes breast, colon, ovary and bladder cancer. The Isothiocyanates in kale play the most important role in lowering the possibility of cancer. Kale also contains organosulfur compounds, which break into Isothiocyanates in the body, inducing cancer-destroying enzymes. It is especially beneficial in inhibiting prostate cell growth. The carotenoids and flavonoids in kale also help to prevent the development of cancer.
6. Rich Source of Iron:
Kale is an excellent source of iron. Iron is required for the formation of hemoglobin, an enzyme that helps to transport oxygen to other parts of the body. This is an extremely vital function, as oxygen is required to perform the routine bodily functions. Iron also helps in the contraction of muscles. It helps in the synthesis of essential neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
7. Improves Bone Health:
Kale is an incredible source of calcium and Vitamin A that prevent osteoporosis and bone loss. The B complex nutrients in kale team up to keep the homocysteine levels in check, preventing bone fractures. The omega-3 fatty acids in kale lubricate the joints, preventing joint pain. Kale also helps to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility.
8. Improves Eye Health:
Kale contains abundant amounts of eye-friendly nutrients like Vitamin A, carotenoids, zeaxanthin and lutein. Zeaxanthin is a dietary carotenoid that gets absorbed into the retinal macula lutea, providing light filtering function. The Vitamin A content also prevents macular degeneration and cataract that come with age.
9. Strengthens the Immune System:
The impressive list of nutrients in kale strengthens the immune system by providing resistance against infectious agents. It contains high amounts of Sulforaphane and Vitamin C that guard the body from damaging free radicals. Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies, preventing the entry of viruses.
10. Improves Mental Health:
The high concentration of Vitamin K in kale limits neural damage of the brain, preventing Alzheimer’s disease. It supports the nervous system by synthesizing sphingolipids, the fats that help to form the myelin sheath around the nerves. Carotenoids in kale protect the brain from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.
Kale contains high amounts of Vitamin K, which can interfere with several medicines, especially blood thinning and anti-coagulant drugs. Consult your doctor before increasing its dietary levels.