Among the most nutrient dense of all the green, leafy vegetables is kale—a virtual powerhouse of medicinal vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. At only 36 calories per serving, adding kale to your diet will not only help you meet your health goals, but your weight loss goals as well. This low-fat food is a good source of both protein and fiber, which will not only help regulate your blood sugar level, but it will curb your appetite also.
It’s time to turn over a new leaf, and that leaf is called kale.
Quickly gaining in popularity due to its potent antioxidant and anticancer properties, find out just how kale can improve your health.
Help Lower Your Cholesterol Level
In a society that prides itself on overindulgence, and one that continues to encourage us to “super-size” our value meals, many of us are now paying the ultimate cost. These unhealthy eating habits have not only wreaked havoc on our waste lines, but on our overall health as well. According to the CDC, 73.5 million adults in the United States suffer from high cholesterol levels , placing them at twice the risk for future heart disease.
If you are a part of this one-third of the population, you may want to consider adding kale to your diet. A 2007 clinical trial concluded that a diet rich in this leafy green vegetable can drastically reduce your risk of coronary artery disease. Thirty-two men with cholesterol levels measuring greater than 200mg/dL consumed 150ml of kale juice daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, their cholesterol levels were markedly decreased.
While most vegetables retain more of their nutritional value when consumed raw, according to current research performed by the Western Regional Research Center, kale can more effectively reduce cholesterol levels when it is eaten after being steamed.
Improve Your Heart Health
Along with lowering your cholesterol, kale, which is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, can also improve your overall heart health.
Studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Reduce blood pressure levels
- Decrease the risk of an abnormal heartbeat
- Decrease triglyceride levels
- Minimize the amount of plaque buildup on coronary arterial walls
Kale is an excellent alternative source of Omega-3 fatty acids for those who do not like seafood.
Lower Your Risk for Certain Types of Cancer
40% of the population will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their life, making it one of the leading causes of death throughout the world. There is not one person out there that doesn’t personally know at least one individual who has been brought down by this devastating disease.
Each year, millions take part in 5K walks and donate their valuable money in hopes for some kind of a cure, but one has yet to be found. So I ask you, if there was one thing that you could do to lower your risk, why wouldn’t you?
It comes as no surprise that kale is packed with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals throughout your body before they are able to damage otherwise healthy cells. However, researchers are now starting to see that kale’s cancer-fighting benefits go way beyond this. Not only is kale useful in the prevention of cancer, it may also help slow tumor growth in existing cancer cells.
Research has found that the compound sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous vegetable such as kale, may help slow the growth of certain cancer cells.
A clinical study conducted by Oregon State University found a decrease in markers for cell growth in 54 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer after they were treated not with chemotherapy or radiation, but with one cup of cruciferous vegetables a day.
This is promising news for women everywhere. Breast cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in women, with 1 in 36 women dying from this deadly disease.
The benefits of kale reach way beyond the treatment of breast cancer. Research has found similar results for the prevention and treatment of prostate, bladder, colon, and ovarian cancers.
Improve Your Immune System with High Levels of Vitamin C
When you think about getting your daily dose of Vitamin C, you probably picture a large glass of orange juice, not a helping of kale. Surprisingly, one cup of kale provides 134% of your daily value of Vitamin C. So the next time you feel a cold coming on, cut out all of the extra sugar, and go for the green instead of the orange.
Reduce the Effects of Aging on Your Vision
As you age, your vision begins to deteriorate over time. Vitamin A plays a huge part in slowing down the effects of aging. A recent clinical study found that high doses of Vitamin C and E, along with beta-carotene (Vitamin A) and zinc can help reduce the rate of age-related vision loss and minimize the risk of advanced macular degeneration.
We have already seen that Kale is high in Vitamin C, but it also contains 206% of your daily value of Vitamin A.
Reduce Your Risk of Osteoporosis with Increased Calcium
Your body does not produce calcium, so in order to maintain strong, healthy bones, it is essential for you to eat foods rich in calcium. As you age, your bones become more fragile, and calcium intake becomes even more important. Before the age of 50, your body needs 1,000mg of calcium a day; after the age of 50, that number increases to 1,200mg.
We all know that milk is an excellent source of calcium, but did you know that your body can more readily absorb the calcium found in kale than in milk?
A study conducted by Creighton University compared the absorption rate of calcium from kale to that of milk in 11 different women. What the study found was that our bodies actually absorb the calcium found in kale better than that found in milk. The absorption score for kale was .409, while the absorption score for milk was only .321.
This is great news for you if you are lactose intolerant and in need of other sources of calcium.
Reap the Hidden Benefits of Vitamin K
We all know that Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting, but most of us would be hard pressed to give another one of its benefits. However, studies show that this fat-soluble vitamin is loaded with medicinal properties.
- It helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
- It works with calcium to increase bone strength and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- It has proven to be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of some cancers, including prostate, colon, and lung cancer, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
- It may reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- It lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Kale contains 680% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin K, and when you cook it, that amount jumps to 1300%.
If you are taking a blood thinner, your doctor may recommend that you avoid kale and other leafy green vegetables which promote blood clotting.
Increase your Iron Intake
According to the CDC, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, and the leading cause of anemia.
Symptoms of anemia may include:
- Extreme weakness and fatigue
- Shortness of breath with normal activities of daily living
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Restless Leg Syndrome
An adequate amount of iron consumption is essential for your body to produce enough hemoglobin for proper red blood cell production. Red blood cells are a vital component of the body’s circulatory system; they carry the oxygen from your lungs to all of the organs throughout your body.
One cup of kale provides 6% (1.1mg) of your daily recommended amount of iron. It is a great source of iron for vegetarians.
In order to receive the full benefits of kale, do not drink tea with your meal. Tea contains tannins, which bind to the same receptor as iron, reducing the amount of iron that your body can absorb.
It is especially important if you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding to receive at least 20-30mg of iron daily. An iron supplement should be taken if this value cannot be met by diet alone.
Low amounts of iron may lead to:
- Premature birth
- Infants with low birthweight or developmental delays
- Decreased cognitive skills, including poor memory
Kale contains countless health benefits that cannot be met by any other lone vegetable. It is a versatile addition to your diet that can be eaten either raw by adding it to your favorite salad or smoothie or steamed to make the perfect side item.
Kale provides more nutrients when it is steamed, but research suggests eating it raw allows you to receive its full antioxidant and anticancer properties. I would suggest a diet that includes a mixture of both raw and cooked kale to receive its maximum benefits.
Are you already enjoying the many health benefits of this superfood? Share with us some of your favorite kale recipes.