What is kale?
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, and has large, edible leaves with a tough central stem. Typically dark green in colour, kale is available in a variety of colours, including purple. The edges of the leaves are either flat or curly. When you buy kale, you’ll normally find it sold whole or pre-chopped, and it can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.
Nutritional benefits of kale
An 80g serving (raw) contains:
- 26 kcals / 112 kJ
- 2.7g protein
- 1.3g fat
- 1.1g carbohydrate
- 3.3g fibre
- 360mg potassium
- 104mg calcium
- 1.36mg iron
- 96mcg folate
- 88mg vitamin C
What are the 5 top health benefits of kale?
1. May support immunity
Kale contains four times the vitamin C content and twice the selenium content of spinach, as well as nutrients like vitamin E and beta-carotene. These are all important for supporting a healthy immune system.
2. May support bone health
Kale contains many of the minerals our modern diets lack. It’s a good source of plant-based calcium, needed for strong bones and teeth, and has low levels of a natural compound called oxalate, which makes the calcium more available for absorption. Kale is also a good source of vitamin K, which studies suggest works with vitamin D to support healthy bone metabolism.
3. May protect against heart disease
Kale contains a number of nutrients that support heart health, including potassium, which maintains a healthy blood pressure. Another benefit of kale is that it contains substances that bind to cholesterol to help manage levels. Studies suggest that even if you juice or steam kale, you will still benefit from these advantages.
4. May protect against cancer
5. May support eye health
Kale is rich in two phytonutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, that support the health of our eyes and vision. Consuming sufficient quantities of these nutrients lowers the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Is kale safe for everyone to eat?
As kale is a rich source of vitamin K, those on anti-coagulant medication (commonly referred to as blood thinners) need to consider the amount they eat. Typically the advice while on this medication is that you should aim to keep your dietary intake approximately the same. Check with your GP before making any significant dietary changes.
Some people with thyroid issues or those on thyroid medication should be mindful about consuming cruciferous vegetables like kale. This is because they may affect the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine. That said, kale is of lower risk because of its low levels of these goitrogenic compounds.
If you are concerned or have queries, please consult your GP or registered dietician for guidance.
This article was reviewed on 22 February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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