Dr. Kathleen Jones
Is Kale Really That Good For You?
Considering adding Kale to your table this holiday season?
Here is a little breakdown of why Kale is such a great superfood!
WHAT KALE IS
Kale is a leafy, dark green vegetable that has recently become popular in the media and amounts health nuts for its surplus of benefits. It is a cruciferous vegetable and shares this category with several other familiar veggies including broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, and radishes. But what makes it so good for us...?
Kale contains no shortage of nutrients, such as calcium, iron, and fiber, making it a powerhouse for fighting a wide variety of health concerns. It is also rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Why are antioxidants important? In short, they counteract toxins known as free radicals, which are unstable molecules that result from daily activity, natural processes, and environmental stressors. Over time these free radicals build up, causing oxidative stress, which may result in cell damage, inflammation, and diseases. Because these processes happen gradually over time, regularly including kale and other antioxidant-rich foods into your diet can be a significant step in reducing long term damage and preventing disease. For example, vitamin C and alpha-linolenic acid found in kale can help reduce complications associated with diabetes.
Kale also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may reduce the risk of macular degeneration (a common, age-related degenerative eye disease). The head-to-toe health benefits of antioxidant-rich kale is a compelling reason to consider ditching the lettuce for this much more nutritious green.
REDUCING CANCER RISKS
Several studies have shown promising results of decreased cancer risks in people who regularly consume large amounts of kale and other cruciferous vegetables. The anti-cancer properties of kale are most likely attributed to the presence of glucosinolates, which break down to form biologically active compounds. These compounds have been shown in laboratory studies to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and help inactivate carcinogens and inhibit tumor blood vessel formation. In both cohort studies and control-case studies, multiple researchers have found that people who ate greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables, like kale, had a reduced risk of cancer, including specific studies looking at lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
BUYING AND PREPARING KALE
Kale is an accessible way to boost your health - it can be easily spotted in the produce section of most grocery stores. You might also want to look for pesticide-free or organic options, often available in health markets and farmers' markets.
When it comes to preparing kale, keep it simple: rinse thoroughly, separate the leaves from the stems, and slice into strips. Raw kale has an earthy (and slightly bitter) taste, so it is best served in a salad or as part of a sandwich. For a milder flavor, add strips of kale to an omelet or blend it into your favorite fruit smoothie. You can also bake kale with olive oil to create crunchy ‘chips’!
However, you serve it, know that its health benefits might not be immediate, but are there and serving your body well. For more information about the benefits of kale and kale prep, check out the resources below.
Ware, Megan. (2020). What are the health benefits of kale? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270435?c=917786693300
Unknown Author. (2013). National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants-in-depth#:~:text=Examples%20of%20antioxidant s%20include%20vitamins,suggests%20sources%20for%20additional%20information.
Unknown Author. (2012). Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. National Cancer Institute.