All Hail The Kale! These Top 5 Benefits Of Eating Kale Make It A Superfood
Kale is one of the past few years trendiest superfoods. It’s rise to superstardom came seemingly out of nowhere. In fact, prior to the rise of Kale as a “superfood” in 2013, Pizza Hut was the biggest consumer of Kale. You might be scratching your head thinking, I’ve never seen kale pizza at Pizza Hut. And that’s because they didn’t even feed it to people, they used it as the garnish to cover the ice at their salad bar. It wasn’t even an option to put in your salad.
And then the Kale craze happened and now it doesn’t seem like you can go anywhere without seeing a Kale salad, Kale chips, or some sort of Kale creation. So what’s so great about Kale? Let’s explore the top 5 benefits to eating Kale!
1. Kale is low in calorie, high in fiber and has zero fat.
One cup of Kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with so many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium and a whole host of others. It’s like an edible multi-vitamin.
Arguably the most beneficial property of eating Kale is its ability to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. When you consider the ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, Kale is the perfect anti-inflammatory food. According to a study published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy: (1)
Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established.
Being “pro-inflammatory,” the omega-6-rich processed foods that many people live off of today cause a chronic inflammatory state on a widespread scale, which has been linked to nearly every disease known to man, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s and cancer.
Kale, on the other hand, naturally promotes the pro-inflammatory omega-6 and anti-inflammatory omega-3 balance. Nearly at a 1:1 ratio, Kale contains slightly more omega-3s (1), which can help reduce the negative effects that people experience when they eat omega-6 rich processed foods loaded with vegetable and canola oil.
3. Kale is a great detox food.
Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy. It not only helps remove toxins but also helps eliminate them from your body.
Going hand-in-hand with its anti-inflammatory potency, Kale is a marvelous antioxidant food. Of the three main antioxidant vitamins in the world, Kale is particularly rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A). (2)
Your body is exposed to highly unstable free radical molecules every day through the polluted air you breathe, toxins in your food and chemicals in your water. These cause “oxidative stress,” a process that triggers cell damage and has been linked to everything from cardiovascular disease to cancer to cataracts.
Oxidative stress is also known to be one of the main contributing factors to neurocognitive disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
The health benefits of Kale are most potent the sooner you can get it after harvesting, as glucosinolates are easily diminished under certain conditions. In fact: (4)
These compounds remain intact unless brought into contact with the enzyme myrosinase by pests, food processing, or chewing….Glucosinolates can be gained or lost by vegetables during storage. They may be degraded or leached during processing…
So if your produce undergoes any sterilization or radiation treatment (as most imports do), this can greatly weaken the ITCs that are available. This is why it’s so critical to get your Kale from a solid, responsible source, such as a local farmer or organic grocery store.
5. Cancer Prevention
Like all of the cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables, Kale has been shown to help stop cancer in its tracks. Studies have shown, for example, that more than 70 percent of all research conducted on cruciferous vegetables has found that they protect against cancer. (5)
According to the National Cancer Institute, the secret behind the cancer-killing ability of cruciferous veggies is that they’re rich in glucosinolates — a large group of sulfur-containing compounds. (6)
These powerhouse chemicals are known to break down during the chewing and digestion process into biologically active compounds that prevent cancer cells growth, which are referred to as indoles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates.
Having been discovered to prevent cancer growth in rats and mice, indoles and isothiocyanates are heralded to protect against cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach. There are several reasons why indoles and isothiocyanates stop cancer from spreading:
- They inactivate carcinogens.
- They contain antiviral and antibacterial properties.
- They contain anti-inflammatory properties.
- They protect cells from DNA damage.
- They induce cell death (apoptosis).
- They inhibit tumor blood vessel formation.
- They inhibit tumor cell migration.
Kale Precautions: Where you Buy Your Kale Matters
As you can see benefits of eating Kale are numerous. But like most food, quality matters if you are looking for the top benefits. The health benefits of eating Kale greatly depend on the source you buy it from. Whenever you shop for Kale, make sure to get organic Kale, as it’s one of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops. If possible try to find a source that uses no pesticides (like your friendly aquaponics farmer!!)
Two-thirds of produce sampled in recent evaluations were poisoned with pesticides and non-organic Kale ranks among the world’s most heavily polluted crops. Known as the EnvironmentalWorking Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen Plus,” this list includes:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas (imported)
- Hot peppers
Non-organic Kale is one of the most deadly because, according to the EWG report, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists found 51 pesticides on Kale in studies conducted in 2007 and 2008.
So, bottom line, buy Kale from a good source, and always wash your produce thoroughly before eating it.
Always Cook Or Blanch Your Kale
Kale contains many beneficial nutrients, but it’s not a good idea to eat these hearty leafy greens raw. Kale is a goitrogenic vegetable and when eaten raw in small quantities, this vegetable can inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. If it’s eaten in excess, these chemicals can inhibit the incorporation of iodine into thyroid hormone. This is a process that iodine supplements can’t reverse. (7) Raw Kale also contains oxalic acid, which binds with minerals such as calcium and magnesium in the body causing them to crystallize. These crystals can damage tissues, cause inflammation in the body and kidney stones. So a daily dose of raw Kale and other goitrogenic vegetables may not be such a great idea.
Instead, you can either blanch your Kale (cook it in boiling water for a few minutes then cool it in ice water). This will keep your Kale crisp for use in salads, smoothies or as a garnish. You can also sautee your Kale or bake it in oil and salt to make Kale Chips.
Want To Try Kale? Join Weekly Harvest!
OurWeeklyHarvest members always come home with Kale week in and week out. Because our Kale is grown aquaponically, it is never sprayed or treated with any pesticides, even organic ones. With the fish in our system we cannot use any pesticides because it would affect the health of our fish. Our Kale is always harvested the same day as our WeeklyHarvest pickup so you can be sure it’s as fresh as any you could get anywhere. If you are interested in trying Kale check out our WeeklyHarvest to sign up and learn more about our subscription plan for getting the best in local, fresh food.