Recently, scientists have found that some of the more common causes of death like coronary heart disease and cancer can be prevented through eating properly. In this post, I want to talk to you about why is kale good for you and what health benefits kale has. I also want to share with you my favorite kale salad recipe.
Modern science, along with diet and nutrition has been able to determine a correlation between what you put into your body and the outcomes of your health. As a result of these findings, we are making a consistent effort to improve our nutritional habits.
Is kale really that important to your diet? What about it gives you all of the nutritional benefits that you so often hear about?
In this post I want to give you a breakdown of what kale is and what benefits it brings to the table (pun intended).
I used to use kale to decorate cheese trays at my first job in high school. I never would have thought twice to eat it on a regular basis or replace my house salad with kale. Kale started to become popular back in 2008 when Whole Living deemed kale a “superfood“.
So, I had to do some research on this topic of kale to figure out what the big hype was and share it with you.
What is Kale?
The popular question is — “What is kale?”
At the top of the superfoods list is kale; a dark, leafy, green, cruciferous vegetable that has become popular to the point of cultural significance.
In 1 cup of kale you can expect to find almost an entire week’s worth of nutrients you can’t get from any other foods. There are numerous amounts of nutrients from vitamins, minerals, to DNA cell repairing phyto-nutrients. Some of the best nutrients found in kale are:
- 684% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K
- 206% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A
- 134% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C
- Less than 35 calories
- 2.9 grams of protein
- 329 mg of potassium
You can still use kale to decorate your favorite food trays, but after reading this post, you definitely will want to incorporate more kale into you diet. I’ll also include my favorite kale salad recipe.
Here is my favorite kale recipe. It is so easy to make and tastes so good!
Click Here To Print Recipe
Kale Can Modulate Breast Cancer
There are many nutrients out there that can really benefit those who are sick and suffering a long battle with cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. It is believed that 12%, or 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.
Kale contains a phytochemical called sulforaphane. It is an antioxidant and stimulator of natural detoxifying enzymes. This basically means it is extremely healthy for you! In fact, sulforaphane can slow cancer cell growth in early stages of breast cancer.
Sulforaphane inhibits certain enzymes called histone deacetylases, or HDAC’s. This, in turn enhances the expression of tumor suppressor genes that are often silenced in cancer cells. In a 2010 study these phytochemicals reduced the positive cell population of human breast cancer cells by 65%–80%.
These phytochemicals found in kale, help suppress tumor growth and block cancer-causing substances from reaching their targets.
When I was doing my research on sulforaphane, I found that it is safe when consumed in the amounts found in foods. But, there isn’t enough information available to know if it is safe to take by mouth as a medicine or supplement.
Blood Clotting and Cardiovascular Health
Kale is a wonderful vitamin K food because vitamin K is heavily concentrated in kale. In fact there is over 680% of the daily value of vitamin K in kale. If you cook it, boil it, drain it, and don’t add salt to kale this value increases to over 1300%.
There are two main types vitamin K; K1 and K2. You can get vitamin K1 from leafy greens and some other vegetables, such as:
- Collard greens
- Brussel sprouts
You get vitamin K2 from a variety of compounds found in meats, cheeses, and eggs, which are then synthesized by bacteria.
Both of these nutrients play integral roles in blood clotting, and cardiovascular health. In a 10-year follow-up study of 4,500 elderly patients, scientists saw a 9% reduction in mortality risk for each 10 micrograms/day of extra vitamin K.
Here is a fact that I found out while searching for all of this information. Babies have very little vitamin K in their bodies at the time of birth. There is a narrow window from birth to 6 months of life when babies are exposed to a small but potentially life-threatening risk of bleeding.
Vitamin K does not cross the placenta to the developing baby. So, doctors usually give a shot of vitamin K after birth to avoid any complications. I had no idea about this and found this to be pretty interesting.
It looks like eating kale regularly can help maintain proper vitamin K levels in your body. The reference range of vitamin K is 0.2-3.2 ng/mL, but impaired blood clotting has been associated with levels below 0.5 ng/mL.
If you are taking a blood thinner medicine, such as warfarin, be sure to ask your doctor how much vitamin K you should be getting.
Vitamin A is known as a retinoid. Retinoids have many important and numerous functions throughout the body including roles in:
- regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation
- growth of bone tissue
- immune function
- activation of tumor suppressor genes
A common form of Vitamin A is beta carotene, a crucial component in pigmentation and in the neurological communication in your retina.
In the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which was led by the National Institute of Health, patients who had high daily amounts of beta carotene (along with other nutrients) were 25% less likely to progress to advanced age-related macular degeneration over the five-year study period.
Kale is a great vitamin A food. It contains 206% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A.
Calcium in Kale is Better than Dairy
Are you not a very big milk drinker? Neither am I. According to Dr. Mercola for every gram of kale there is 1.35 mg of calcium. For every gram of whole milk, there is 1.13 mg of calcium.
How is kale calcium different from milk calcium? The difference is with milk calcium it is harder to digest. Milk contains a protein called casein, which is considered a sticky protein. Casein is extremely hard for your stomach to digest. This makes the calcium difficult, if not impossible to deliver.
In one cup of kale, there is 101mg of calcium. If you are eating a whole-food, plant-based diet, you can expect to receive over 500mg of calcium per day, easily.
In one trial, researchers saw that people who were on a vegan diet had a 30% higher risk of bone fractures compared to those who ate meat. In this research, the vegan eaters had a noticeably lower calcium consumption than the other groups.
When the researchers only examined vegans who ate at least 525mg of calcium per day, they noticed that vegan eaters had no increased risk of bone fractures.
This means that, when vegans consumed at least 525mg of calcium per day, the increased risk of bone fracture disappeared.
But that’s not all!
In a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk.
D. Neal Barnard says:
Calcium absorption from milk is approximately 30%, while figures for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, and some other leafy green vegetables range between 40% to 64%.
When it comes to your musculoskeletal health, calcium plays a role in strengthening your bones. As you age, your bones become more brittle and the external pressures placed upon them cause deterioration.
This can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis, which severely decreases the quality of life in individuals with this condition. Eating kale on a regular basis can help strengthen you bones and prevent osteoporosis.
Iron plays an integral role in various aspects of your health. First, your body uses iron to promote good blood health. When you are getting adequate iron into your body via your diet, it helps keep your red blood cells healthy.
The major reason we need it [iron] is that it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Iron in kale naturally binds to oxygen. The iron you take in through kale and other foods often goes directly to your red blood cells and to the formation of hemoglobin.
Red blood cells and hemoglobin are the two main constructs of your blood. Together, they are able to transport the oxygen they absorb around your body and to vital organs. The more oxygen you have in your blood, the better your body is able to carry out other biological functions.
More iron throughout you body means you will feel less tired and sluggish throughout the day.
Kale is rich in iron containing 1.17 mg per cup. The type of iron that kale contains is called Non-Heme iron. Heme iron is found only in meats.
How much iron should you get each day? According to the National Institute of Health, it is recommended that women should receive more iron per day than men. For men, you should be getting about 7 – 11 mg/day. For women it is much higher, you should be receiving 7 – 18 mg/day. If you are pregnant, 27 mg/day is the recommendation.
The Miracle Antioxidant – Indole-3-carbinol
Just like we find things around the house such as a leaky faucet or a loose door hinge that needs to be repaired, your cells need some fixing too. Your cells are constantly identifying problems within the sequence of your DNA to prevent problems from arising.
Kale gives your cells the nutrients they need to make this happen. Some phytochemicals found in kale aid in the protein development your cells need for DNA repair as well as fighting off the bad stuff too.
In order to understand this, you must know what DNA cell repair really is. DNA repair refers to a collection of processes by which a cell identifies and corrects damage to the DNA molecules that encode its genome.
This entire DNA repair process must be continuously happening in your body so it can respond rapidly to any damage in the DNA structure. Damage could be as simple as UV light hitting your skin.
The antioxidant, indole-3-carbinol (I3C), found in kale, works in your body to protect the DNA and other cell structures. This powerful antioxidant contains inducing enzymes that metabolize carcinogens and enhances DNA repair.
In one double-blind study on women with cervical cancer, supplementation of 200 mgs to 400 mgs of I3C reversed the early stages of cancer in 8 of the 17 women.
Antioxidants that Fight Cancer
It seems that regardless of what kind of healthy foods are being talked about, the high antioxidant content is front and center when listing any food’s health benefits.
Kale has been known to fight cancer. Kale and other cruciferous vegetables contain similar phytonutrients called glucosinolate, which are apart of the isothiocyanates (ITC) group. I just mentioned one of them, indole-3-carbinol. The other phytonutrient known to fight cancer is sulforaphane.
These two antioxidants fight cancer in three different types of ways:
- They don’t allow carcinogens to be activated
- They counteract the poisonous effects of carcinogens that have been activated
- They speed up their removal from the body
Isothiocyanates have been shown to be especially effective in fighting lung, cervical and esophageal cancers.
In a study done with HeLa cells (cervical cancer cells), these phytonutrients called isothiocyanates were able to inhibit cancer growth by 41% – 79%. These results suggest that isothiocyanates delay the cell cycle progression of HeLa cells, resulting in the inhibition of cell growth.
Some amazing facts about sulforaphane are:
- Sulforaphane blocks tumors from growing
- Sulforaphane detoxifies carcinogens and helps excrete them from your body
- Sulforaphane mudulates cell growth and cell death signals to suppress cancer progression
When you think of Vitamin C, your mind probably takes you to orange juice and bananas. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
Kale contains 134% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of vitamin C. The truth is, kale is actually one of the best sources of vitamin C on this planet! It contains 4.5 times more vitamin C than spinach. Watch out Popeye!
Vitamin C is required for the production of collagen in your skin. This is what helps wounds heal in tissues. As you get older, vitamin C begins to decline in your skin in both the epidermis and dermis layers. Excessive exposures to UV light and smoking can also lower your vitamin C content in your skin.
Vitamin C found in kale and other foods helps protect your body from free radicals. It’s not necessarily a sunscreen but it doesn’t allow light to be absorbed in the UVA and UVB spectrum. It mainly protects you from UV-induced damage caused by free radicals.
Under laboratory conditions, it has been shown that an application of 10% topical vitamin C showed statistical reduction of UVB-induced reddening of the skin caused by dilatation of the blood capillaries by 52%. It also showed reduction of sunburn cell formation by 40-60%.
The use of vitamin C in doses ranging from 250 mg/day to 1 g/day reduced cold incidence by 50%. In the general population, use of prophylactic vitamin C modestly reduced cold duration by 8% in adults and 13.6% in children.
When I feel symptoms of a cold, I usually run to the store and grab some Zicam or Emergen-C packets. According to the data in this study, when vitamin C was taken after the onset of cold symptoms, vitamin C did not affect cold duration or symptom severity.
Eating kale regularly can maintain appropriate vitamin C levels in your body to keep you healthy and fight colds before you feel sick.
Throughout this post, I talked a lot about the health benefits of kale. Kale has a lot of ways to help protect your body from cancer, free radicals, and other toxins. With all of this evidence, it is safe to say that kale really does live up to the lofty nutritional claims that its advocates often make.
It has the ability to drastically improve the health of multiple different body systems and can protect you from numerous conditions that can be hazardous to our quality of life. Your heart, your bones, your cells, and many other components of your body can benefit greatly from the inclusion of kale in your diet.
Next time you find yourself strolling down the produce aisle at your local grocery store, make sure that you get a few bunches of kale. If you make a commitment to introduce more kale into your diet, your heath and body will surely thank you in the long run.
Here is my favorite kale recipe. It is so easy to make and tastes so good!
Click Here To Print Recipe
I would love to hear your thoughts on kale. Do you have any good kale recipes you would like to share? Comment below!