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What’s the Deal With Kale?
If you asked someone 10 years ago what kale was, they might have not known. Sure, they could have accidently seen it as a garnish on one of their meals, but they never would have thought to eat it or even known it was edible. However, kale has recently gained much attention as a ‘superfood’ with seemingly miraculous medicinal properties. The cruciferous leafy green has truly gone mainstream, appearing on menus in trendy restaurants and nestling in the aisles of supermarkets, a testament to a more health-conscious society.
The question is, what does the scientific evidence say about kale?
Is it an overblown new trend or does it contribute to overall health?
Kale Improves Cholesterol Scores
Many people in the modern western world suffer from high cholesterol which increases the risk for our most common killers. One study conducted in Japan measured the cholesterol-lowering benefits of consuming shots of kale juice. Seriously, almost like a drug trial without the drugs.
They found that the subjects, after taking 3 to 4 shots of kale juice for 12 weeks, had reduced their bad cholesterol and increased their good cholesterol. Amazing what one vegetable can do!
These kale shots also improved the subject’s antioxidant levels within the blood.
Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals. Having too many free radicals floating around without antioxidants to neutralize them increases the risk for a whole host of issues including depression, cancer, heart disease, and more.
Free radicals form from your body’s natural processes and even from exercise. Therefore, there’s not much you can do to thwart them in the first place, nor would you necessarily want to. You just want to have a constant supply of antioxidants to keep them in check and diets high in colorful fruits and vegetables (such as kale) are a necessary part in doing so.
Kale Improves Immune Response
Kale can also be very effective in improving immune response thus working to prevent disease. One study controlled for the impact of diet and daily life by dripping kale directly onto white blood cells in a laboratory setting. They found an amazing increase in antibody production within the white blood cells (around a 4X increase)!
Kale and Cancer
Although a functional part of our digestive system, bile acids can also promote the growth of cancer cells. This is because bile acid from our intestines (which was originally put there by the liver to help with digestion) can get absorbed back into the bloodstream where it has a carcinogenic effect on certain tissues such as the breast.
This is why vegetables like kale (and others veggies too) are critical to the diet. Kale has bile acid binding properties which help move them though the digestive tract so that you eliminate them before getting reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
Kale has Loads of Nutrients Per Calorie
Kale is a member of the cabbage family. Like cabbage, it is vitamin rich, but very low in calories. For example: 100g of kale will give you well over your RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin C and K. It is packed with micronutrients and minerals, but low in calories (and thus macronutrients). This means, you can use it to fill many of your vitamin and mineral RDAs the day, but you will have to eat some more calorie dense foods to meet your energy needs such as beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
Can You Overconsume Kale?
Of course, you can get too much of a great thing. The main negative effect of kale be because of the overconsumption of ‘goitrogens’, which could interfere with thyroid function by preventing the ability of the thyroid to uptake iodine.
The simple way to prevent this negative effect is to cook kale thoroughly, which will deactivate the culprit enzymes. By cooking your kale you can also increase your culinary options by creating great tasting snacks and dishes such as: kale chips, stir fries, cashew based creamed kale, and more.
As illustrated, the phrase “eat your vegetables” wasn’t invented for no good reason. Leafy greens such as kale are not only beneficial, but essential in maintaining your health and wellbeing. While excess raw consumption comes with some risk, cooking kale is the perfect way to consume it while neutralizing the potentially negative effects.
Find your favorite way to prepare kale and eat more of it!
Special thank you to Joe from ThriveCuisine.com for writing this article and spreading the message of health to all.
These statements are for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.