Doctors and health experts throughout the world advice to have green leafy vegetables regularly in our meals. They are packed with health benefits and nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and essentials fibers. If that is not all, the green leafy vegetables improve immunity, digestive health and speed up the weight loss process in people as they are low in calories too. Additionally, green leafy vegetables help in lowering down the risk of obesity, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and mental decline. So, the benefits of the daily consumption of green leafy vegetables are innumerable.
Out of all the healthy green leafy vegetables, kale ranks the highest in terms of its health benefits. Kale is rich in antioxidants and is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. To reap the maximum benefits of Kale, it is advised that you consume it raw as cooking the vegetable will bring down its nutritional richness.
Kale belongs to the mustard family or Brassicaceae family like cabbage and brusells sprouts. Kale is one of the cruciferous vegetables among the other green leafy ones like broccoli, cauliflower, collard green, and Brussels sprouts. Though there are many kinds of kale – popularly, green and purple in color and smooth or curly in shape – the most common type is the curly kale or Scots kale. It is green in color, is curly shaped, and has a hard, fibrous stem.
To talk broadly about the nutritional benefits of Kale, the following health benefits are discussed elaborately:
1. Kale is one of the nutrient-rich food items:
One cup of uncooked kale (67 grams or 2.4 ounces) consists of 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber), and 3 grams of protein. To break down the dietary components of kale, the vegetable contains the following nutritional value:
206% of the Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin A
684% of the DV for Vitamin K
134% of the DV for Vitamin C
9% of the DV for Vitamin B6
26% of the DV for Manganese
9% of the DV for Calcium
10% of the DV for Copper
9% of the DV for Potassium
6% of the DV for Magnesium
More than 3% of the DV for Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Iron, and Phosphorus.
Antioxidants such as lutein and beta-carotene.
A little quantity of fat, the majority of which is an Omega-3 fatty acid named alpha linolenic-acid.
Since the food is low on calorie content and loaded with dietary goodness, a daily intake of kale will boost the nutritional value of your diet by leaps and bounds.
2. Kale comes packed with antioxidants:
Kale, like the other green leafy vegetables, is loaded with antioxidants like Quercetin and Kaempferol. Kale also has beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and different kinds of flavonoids and polyphenols. These antioxidants are crucial in counteracting the oxidative damage caused by the free radicals in the body. If oxidative damage is not countered, it can lead to aging and developing the tendencies of cancerous diseases. Besides this, Kale has heart-protecting, blood pressure-lowering, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and anti-cancerous effects on one’s body.
3. Kale is a great source of Vitamin C:
Kale has a greater content of Vitamin C than other vegetables (about 4.5 times more than spinach). This makes raw kale one of the best sources of Vitamin C in the world so much so that having a cup of raw kale has more Vitamin C than an orange.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is soluble in water and has the ability to aid many vital functions in the cells of one’s body. For instance, one of the many significant functions of Vitamin C is to synthesize collagen which is the most abundant and one of the most important structural proteins in the body.
4. Kale works in lowering cholesterol, thus reducing the chances of heart diseases:
Contrary to popular understanding, cholesterol has a big role to play in quite a few important functions in one’s body. To cite one, cholesterol helps in preparing bile acids which are the substances that help in the process of digestion of fats. The liver acts to turn cholesterol into bile acid. The bile acid is then consumed in the process of digestion whenever one consumes a high-calorie or fat-dense meal.
After the bile acids have been used up to absorb and digest fat in the body, the acids get absorbed back into the bloodstream to be used again.
Furthermore, substances in the name of ‘bile acid sequestrants’ play an active role in reabsorbing the bile acids into the bloodstream by binding the acids together in the digestive system. This, leads to a reduction in cholesterol levels in a person’s body.
Kale is a rich source of bile acid sequestrants that contribute in lowering the cholesterol levels in the body. Thus, kale does contribute to reduce the chances of heart disease in a person’s life span. Researchers found out in a study that daily consumption of a cup of kale juice for 12 weeks can increase the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) in the body by 27% and brought down the bad cholesterol (the LDL) levels by 10%. Besides this, kale is also high in antioxidants.
In another study, scientists have found that steaming kale can increase the binding effect of the bile acids. Therefore, if you wish to increase the good cholesterol levels in your body, kale is the easiest and the most effective way to achieve your goal.
5. Kale is one of the major sources of Vitamin K in the world:
Vitamin K is a crucial component required by the body for blood clotting. Vitamin K is crucial for activating certain kinds of proteins and rendering them the capability to bind calcium. Kale is one of the richest sources of Vitamin K on the planet as a single cup of raw kale contains more than 7 times the amount of Vitamin K found usually in other known sources of the vitamin.
The form K1 of vitamin K is profoundly found in kale.
6. Kale fights actively in the prevention of cancer:
Kale is loaded with dietary compounds that restrict the uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. Thus kale forms a protective shield to keep off cancer. One such compound is sulforaphane, a substance that is proven to have the power to combat the formation of cancer at the molecular level. Besides sulforaphane, kale also has indole-3-carbinol which also acts in the abatement of cancerous diseases.
7. Kale is rich in trace minerals:
Kale is extremely rich in minerals. The minerals also include the types which are hard to be found in food items. Therefore, most people are usually deficient in such kinds of minerals. If one is looking for a plant-based source of calcium (which is usually the case for vegan diets), kale is the most appropriate food to consume. Calcium is crucial for the upkeep of bone health and also plays a critical role in the mechanisms of various cellular functions.
Additionally, kale also comes loaded with magnesium, a trace mineral that is hardly made part of in people’s diet. People do not usually come across magnesium-rich foods. Regular intake of calcium aids in the abatement of type 2 diabetes and various kinds of heart diseases.
Furthermore, potassium is also found amply in kale. Potassium is a mineral that maintains the electrical gradients in the cells of a person’s body. Along with this, the consumption of potassium in adequate amounts directly leads to a reduction in blood pressure levels and thus lowers the risk of heart diseases.
Unlike other green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale has lower concentrations of oxalate, a mineral responsible for the prevention of the absorption of minerals by the body.
How to include kale in your diet?
Thus, if you are willing to make healthier choices in your diet, including kale in your meals is one easy and simple way to reach your diet goals. Since kale is mostly nutritious when consumed raw, you can add kale in your salads. You could also consume kale in your snacks by preparing easy dishes like kale chips. It can be easily made in a matter of a few minutes by drizzling a tad bit of extra virgin olive or avocado oil on the kale, adding salt to taste, and then baking the kale in an oven until dry. If you love your snacks crunchy and super nutritious, the dish, kale chips, is a great way to have a tasty and healthy snack. You can also add kale to your smoothies to increase the nutritional content.
So, stock up on kale today to have a more balanced and nutritious approach to your diet.