For a while there, it seemed that kale was going to take over the world. It was the best possible thing you could eat, crammed full of health benefits and didn’t taste too bad either. It looked set to take over everything in food – we would be facing kale sausages and kale burgers soon because it was so good. Then the movement seemed to stall a little and doubt was introduced. The reality may be somewhere in the middle so here we look at is kale really good for you?
What is kale?
Let’s start with the basics – what is kale? Kale is also known as leaf cabbage and is a member of the species of plants called Brassica. It comes in green and purple variations and, unlike cabbage, grows in a loose manner without a head. They are generally considered to be closer to the wild, undomesticated cabbages of times gone by than the modern veg we all know.
At one time, kale was one of the most common vegetables grown around Europe, dating from the 4th century BC Greece through the end of the Middle Ages. It fell out of favour but came back in the UK during World War II because it was easy to grow and nutritious.
The good stuff
So let’s start with the good stuff. Kale is high in vitamins A, C and K. Vitamin A is used to support healthy vision and skin while Vitamin C boosted the immune system as well as helping having healthy joints. It also boosts the metabolism and helps with hydration levels. Vitamin K is a little less well known but is important for bone and heart health as well as preventing diabetes and cancer.
A portion of kale is said to contain as much as 1000% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin K that the body needs as well as 98% of the Vitamin A and 70% of Vitamin C, more than what is found in an orange.
As well as these vitamins, kale also has calcium, magnesium and iron within it as well as those handy anti-oxidants that we are all trying to consume more of. It is easier to digest the iron and calcium in kale because it has a low oxalate content, unlike some greens such as spinach. High levels of oxalate have been associated with calcium in urine and causing kidney stones.
Kale also includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, normally associated with fish. The latter has been shown to reduce heart disease. Potassium is another element in the greens but balanced with fewer calories than other potassium rich foods such as bananas. Potassium can help lower blood pressure and types of heart disease.
A cup of cooked kale also includes 10% of the fibre the body needs and this can help manage diabetes. There are various studies connecting fibre with blood glucose levels that shows increasing the former can decrease the latter. It also contains sulphur which is shown to have detoxification properties and also helps with managing diabetes.
Other possible benefits include cancer prevention, brain health, lowering bad cholesterol levels, improving bone health and even working for better skin and hair.
The bad stuff
After this list of impressive plus points, are there any bad points to consider? The answer is yes but these only really become a risk when kale is eaten to excess. For starters, any leafy greens eaten in excess can lead to bloating, gas and constipation. Also its high Vitamin K content can cause problems for anyone taking a blood thinning drug. Those oxalates mentioned earlier are another possible problem through eating too much kale.
Switching to an all-kale diet clearly isn’t’ the best idea anyone ever had but including it in the diet in sensible amounts has a clear list of benefits that will help nearly everyone. It is also easy to incorporate in your diet, even if you aren’t a leafy greens fan – smoothies are one such example as well as adding to stir fry dishes or anywhere else you would include greens. It is one of those foods that it is worth finding a way to eat for its benefits, even if its taste may not be stunning.