Everything You Need To Know About Kale

Start kale'n the fat! All the reasons to incorporate this leafy green into your diet

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Nutritional And Scientific Facts Kale

Kale has been all the rage in the last five years and for good reason! This dark green health food has the hearts of young and old alike, and it can be paired with many dishes and drinks for optimal versatility. Whether you are craving kale chips or a cold kale smoothie this amazing food has a ton of health benefits on top of being “hot” in the health and fitness world. Because of its mineral content, low calorie count, and very high levels of vitamins A, C, and K, there is no doubt that kale is truly king, as it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

Kale Fun Facts

  • “A serving of kale has more absorbable calcium than a small carton of milk.” [1]
  • “One cup of chopped kale has 134 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, while a medium orange fruit has 113 percent of the daily C requirement. “ [2]
  • “Kale has 133 percent of a person’s daily vitamin A requirement.”
  • “Kale can decrease blood cholesterol level and absorption of fat from food. It also acts beneficially on the function of [the] liver.” [3]
  • “Ancient Romans and Greeks cultivated and consumed several varieties of kale.”
  • “Kale was [a] primary source of food in Britain during the WWII due to low planting requirements and ability of this plant to quickly develop under poor weather conditions.”

History/Mythology of Kale

While there is some debate about when humans actually enjoyed their first bite of kale, they do know that the ancient Greeks were the first to cultivate it over 2,000 years ago. According to Aggie Horticulture:

The ancient Greeks used to eat kale after it was boiled to help with drunkenness, and it started to spread in popularity around the Middle Ages. “By the Middle Ages, kale had spread through Europe and Asia. The Italians developed plants with ‘dinosaur’ scales, while the Scots created varietals with leaves like frilly petticoats. The Russians produced kale that could survive in the snow.” [5] It is believed that Europeans introduced kale to North America in the 17th century.

What many thought was a “fad” stuck around, and has been consumed by more people than just vegans and vegetarians. Today it is made into kale smoothies, kale chips, and kale salads, alongside hundreds of other kale recipes to dive into. While it is still more popular in other regions of the world, such as Denmark, Italy, Portugal, and Scotland, Americans average about two to three cups of kale annually per person.

Kale Nutrition Facts

Kale is a part of the cabbage family, and it can grow up to 6 feet tall depending on which variety you are growing. There are over 50 different varieties of kale you can grow, and this nutrient-dense food has a variety of recipes aside from just eating it in a salad. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, “Recent studies show that kale can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you cook it by steaming. The fiber-related components in kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed.” [6] They also note that there are over 45 varieties of flavonoids present in kale of many types. This makes the nutrition content extremely high and off the charts as far as health benefits are concerned.

“Our rating system shows kale to be an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, and copper; a very good source of vitamin B6, fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, and vitamin B2; and a good source of iron, magnesium vitamin B1, omega-3 fats, phosphorus, protein, folate, and vitamin B3.” [6]

As you can see, kale is a nutrition-packed vegetable that can be easily grown and survives cold temperatures, which makes it very feasible to have around. If you cannot handle the bitter taste of kale, you can try to make chips and add a little salt to them, or you can blend it up in a smoothie and still reap the nutritional rewards it has to offer; it will also be less bitter when grown in cooler months.

Kale Health Benefits

The health benefits are many when it comes to kale consumption. Kale is directly related to cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and cabbage. Kale is loaded with healthy and powerful antioxidants and, according to Authority Nutrition, “This includes the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which are found in relatively large amounts in kale. These substances have been studied intensely in test tubes and animal studies. They have powerful cardioprotective, blood pressure lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects… to name a few.” [7] The study was found through NCBI, and it proved quercetin and kaempferol found in curly kale had positive effects in the body. [8]

Other known health benefits of consuming kale are the reduction of inflammation in the body, as well as getting a substantial amount of vitamin C in just one serving. Kale has the power to help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and that power is increased when kale is steamed. Overall, it is an amazing food for your whole body to reap the benefits from.

There are two cautions regarding kale. Kale is meant for consumption, so the more you eat the better off you will be, right? Actually, it is best to take it slow if you are new to eating kale, as it can cause bloating. Also, people taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) should be cautious, as vitamin K and warfarin counteract each other in the body. If this is your case, please check with your doctor before blending up a green smoothie or trying out the amazing kale chip recipe below.

Varieties of Kale

With over 50 different varieties to choose from, there are certainly more popular varieties than others. Curly kale is one of the more popular varieties but there are a few others that many people know well.

Curly Kale

The most common type of kale you will see at your grocery store. It has a pungent and peppery taste to it, so if you are not a fan of the bitter taste seek out a younger kale bunch. [9]

Lacinato (or Dinosaur) Kale

Dark blue-green leaves and a nutty sweetness. The leaves are softer and more wrinkled than those of curly kale.

Red Russian Kale

Resembles the arugula leaf and has a reddish-purple spine. This is the sweetest kale sold, but the stems are very woody, so it is best to remove them before eating.

Kale Uses

There are several ways to enjoy kale. It can be added to soups without turning mushy like spinach can, or sautéed with garlic for a delicious side dish. Have it raw in a salad or add it to a sausage and pasta dish for color and flavor. Try making a caramelized onion and kale pizza, or enjoy kale as these delicious kale chips.

Kale Chips Recipe

This recipe comes from Nom Nom Paleo

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of kale
  • 1-2 tablespoons of avocado oil
  • Fleur de sel, or your favorite seasoning salt

Directions

  1. Make sure that after you wash your kale thoroughly the leaves are completely dry.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the kale leaves and avocado oil in a bowl and mix until coated completely.
  3. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and lay out the kale leaves evenly.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes in the oven, and then sprinkle with salt once they are out of the oven.
  5. Enjoy!

A universal and nutrient dense food, kale hits the mark for being a great snack option to boost your health. This food has been around for thousands of years but hasn’t been truly appreciated until recently. With the different snacks, drinks, and other recipes you can create there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to getting a healthy food item like kale into your diet!

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Upon receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in college, and competing at a Division 1 level for tennis Lauren has loved writing for many years. She specializes in health and nutritional topics, which has come from the decades of high level education from her competitive tennis days where she worked with nutritionists, strength coaches, and mental coaches full time. After graduation she went onto compete at a professional level for tennis, in which injury sidelined her career. She then jumped straight into the health and wellness space working for a nutritional company, as well as writing for multiple health organizations to date.

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