Kale, also known as the ‘queen of greens’ is one of the healthiest green leafy vegetables. It belongs to the same family of vegetables as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. There are several health benefits of Kale and is considered to be a superfood.
Though kale has been a part of our diets since the time of the Roman Empire, it has gained popularity as a health food recently. Not only is it packed with vitamins and minerals, but it also contains phytonutrients like glucosinolates and flavonoids.
Types of Kale
There are four different types of kale:
- The curly kale has a peppery flavor and is available at most supermarkets.
- Lacinto kale, also known as Tuscan cabbage, has narrow dark leaves that are attached to a hard stem.
- Redbor kale has red or purple colored ruffled leaves. You can use it as a garnish.
- Russian kale has flat fringed leaves that can be green, red or purple.
Kale Nutritional profile
Kale is a highly nutritious vegetable. One cup (67 grams) of kale (raw) contains just 33 calories(1):
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2.5 grams
- Vitamin A: 206% of RDA
- Vitamin K: 684% of RDA
- Vitamin C: 134% of RDA
- Vitamin B6: 9% of RDA
- Manganese: 26% of RDA
- Copper: 9% of RDA
- Calcium: 10% of RDA
- Potassium: 9% of RDA
- Magnesium: 6% of RDA
- Iron: 7% of RDA
Nutritional benefits of Kale
When it comes to health benefits, kale is one of the best vegetables we can add to our diets. Here are some of the health benefits associated with this superfood:
1. Protects from free radicals
Kale is loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene and other flavonoids and polyphenols like quercetin and kaempferol. Antioxidants help to counteract the oxidative damage caused by free radicals in our body (2).
Free radicals are responsible for many diseases in the body like cancer. Antioxidants also have other important function in the body like lowering blood pressure and improving heart health.
2. Fights cancer
Kale contains nutrients that help boost our immune system and help it to fight against the mutating cancerous cells. Kale also contains organosulfur compounds, which our body breaks down into isothiocyanates (3).
These compounds boost anti-cancer enzymes and neutralize any cancer-causing elements. Kale also has sulforaphane, a substance that helps in fighting cancer at molecular stage (4). Other nutrients of kale like vitamin K and beta-carotene also help to protect our body from cancer.
3. Protects the eyes
Kale contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid antioxidants that are needed by the eyes to block blue light of the electronics from reaching the underlying structures of the retina. Many studies have shown that consuming lutein and zeaxanthin lowers the risk of macular degeneration and cataract (5).
Kale is rich in Vitamin C, which is also helpful in preventing macular degeneration and reduces the chances of developing cataract (6).
Carotenoids like beta-carotene, which are also present in kale, are also helpful in keeping the eyes healthy.
4. Protects against diabetes
The antioxidants and fiber in kale can help protect you against diabetes. Studies have shown that the high fiber content in kale can defend you against type1 diabetes. Kale also contains a compound known as sulforaphane, which helps control blood sugar levels by reducing hepatic glucose production (7).
Kale is also rich in manganese which is needed for the production of enzymes that are required for gluconeogenesis. The process of converting amino acids into sugar is known as gluconeogenesis.
5. Reduces the risk of heart disease
Kale contains bile acid sequestrants (9), a substance that can bind bile acids in the digestive system and prevent them from being reabsorbed. This helps to lower the total amount of cholesterol in the body.
According to a 2008 study, consumption of kale juice for 12 weeks helped increase DHL cholesterol by 27 percent and lowered LDL cholesterol levels by 10 percent. The presence of vitamin C in kale also helps maintain the correct levels of good and bad cholesterol in the body.
The high levels of potassium in kale are helpful in preventing strokes (10). Lutein presence in kale contributes to lower cholesterol levels and makes artery walls thinner.
6. Keeps your brain healthy
Kale contains 45 different flavonoids that help prevent inflammation of the brain caused by free radicals. Kale is also rich in iron, with is essential for a healthy brain.
Our body needs iron for the formation of hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. Our brain also needs oxygen for proper functioning. So, a lack of iron in our diet can lead to lack of concentration and memory loss (11).
Kale is rich in vitamin K, which is needed for sphingolipid metabolism, which is needed for maintaining brain structure (12).
7. Kale helps in maintaining blood pressure
Hypertension can be very dangerous for health as it can damage your arteries, cause internal bleeding, leading to strokes and can even cause kidney damage. Kale is an excellent source of potassium, which is known to reduce blood pressure(13). Potassium regulates the levels of sodium in the body, and this is why it is helpful in lowering blood pressure.
8. Keeps the digestive system healthy
The good bacteria that reside in our digestive tract are important for removing toxins from the body, absorbing vitamins and minerals that we consume and hormone regulation. These bacteria thrive on fibre. Kale is an excellent source of fibre, so it acts as a prebiotic. These bacteria produce short-chained fatty acids which are essential for colonic health (14).
9. Kale can protect you against a common cold
We tend to catch a common cold easily when our immune system is not very strong. Vitamin C helps in bolstering our immune system to protect our body against the common cold virus (15). Since a cup of kale contains 134% of our daily requirement of vitamin C, it is very helpful in protecting us from the common cold.
10. Keeps bones strong
Kale contains calcium, which we all know is essential for strong bones. Kale is also rich in vitamin K, is another vital nutrient that helps in improving bone density and preventing osteoporosis (16). Potassium and copper content in kale is also helpful in preventing bone degeneration.
11. Kale helps in weight loss
Kale is low in calories but high in water content, which makes it a low energy density food. Low energy density food help in weight loss according to various studies (17).
- Suggested read: Low Carb Diet for Effective Weight Loss
Kale contains dietary fiber which helps you feel full and prevents you from indulging in unhealthy snacking.
12. Beneficial during pregnancy
Iron deficiency can lead to premature birth and even low birth weight. Kale contains iron which is essential for a healthy pregnancy. It is also high in vitamin C which helps absorb iron better. Beta-carotene present in kale gets converted to vitamin A, which is useful during pregnancy (18).
Kale has an impressive collection of nutrients which can help prevent many diseases. You can add it to your soup and smoothies or even have it raw in your salad. Make kale a part of your diet and enjoy the health benefits.