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Kale Nutritional Benefits

A Powerful Addition to Your Diet


Updated January 29, 2012

Kale belongs to the cabbage (Brassica) family, is a cruciferous vegetable, and may be the closest thing on supermarket shelves to wild cabbage. This earthy-tasting dark leafy green is rich in antioxidant carotenoids and flavonoids. Kale nutritional benefits are many and it deserves its designation as a superfood.

According to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, a nutrition scoring system created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat for Health, kale scores a perfect 1000. Other foods that earned a perfect score are watercress, mustard greens, and collard greens.

Kale Nutrition

Kale has powerful anti-cancer properties, blocks cancer cell growth, and increases DNA repair. It also has anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, and protective heart and respiratory qualities. Kale helps the body detoxify and is a popular component of detox diets.

This leafy green is very high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, beta carotene, zeaxanthin, manganese, and lutein. It is a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, iron, and copper.

  • Raw Kale: One cup provides about 5% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fiber, 9% of calcium, 9% of potassium, 10% of copper, 26% of manganese, 684% of vitamin K, 9% of vitamin B6, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and only 2% calories and carbohydrate.
  • Chopped Boiled Kale: One cup has about 10% of the RDA of fiber, 9% of calcium, 8% of potassium, 10% of copper, 27% of manganese, 1328% of vitamin K, 9% of vitamin B6, 354% of vitamin A, 89% of vitamin C, and 2% of carb and calories.

Health Concerns

Kale contains small but measureable amounts of oxalates which may interfere with calcium absorption. Oxalates are naturally occurring substances. When too many are concentrated in the body, they can crystallize and have adverse health effects. If you have kidney problems, gallbladder problems, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis you should discuss with your doctor whether adding kale to your diet is okay for your situation. The good news is that kale is considered a low-oxalate food option and the oxalate content is even lower if it is boiled.

To lessen the effects kale might have on calcium absorption, try to avoid eating foods rich in calcium at the same meal with kale.

This vegetable might also interfere with blood thinning medication such as coumadin due to its high vitamin K content. Get your doctor's approval and guidance.

Cooking Kale

This vegetable comes in many varieties such as curly, ornamental, and dinosaur. Kale can be prepared many ways such as sauteed, steamed, baked, boiled, juiced, and eaten raw. Steaming is considered the healthiest way to eat kale. It offers the most cholesterol-lowering and heart benefits when cooked. Cooking kale does not reduce its anti-cancer benefits with the exception of boiling.

When choosing kale, look for dark-colored leaves with hardy stems. Choose kale with smaller leaves for more tenderness and better flavor. Do not wash kale when storing and store in a sealed plastic bag with as much air removed as possible.

A simple way to prepare kale is to steam it for five minutes. Chop and add to stir fries, soups, stews, and casseroles.

Give these recipes a try:

Baked Crispy Kale Chips
Collard Greens and Kale
Kale Pesto
Savory Sauteed Kale
Raw Lemon Garlic Marinated Kale

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