Kale has taken the center plate in the vegetable world. Chances are you would get a lot of blank stares If you had asked most Americans what kale was just 20 years ago. That’s no longer the case. Kale saw a 400% increase on restaurant menus between 2008-2013, and shows no signs of slowing down. Why is this once obscure vegetable now a culinary A-lister? In addition to its delicious taste and versatility, Kale packs a powerful phytonutrient punch with a host of health benefits.
Read the top 10 health benefits of kale below and you might find yourself hopping on the kale bandwagon.
Kale Can Lower Your Risk for Cancer
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients like carotenoids which decrease the risk of cancer and eye diseases. The chlorophyll in kale binds to carcinogenic heterocyclic amines which are generated when animal-derived foods are grilled at a high temperature. By binding to these compounds, chlorophyll prevents their absorption in the body which is suggested to reduce the risk of cancer.
Improves Bone Health
Kale is high in vitamin K, which modifies bone matrix proteins and improves calcium absorption in the body for stronger bones. Making kale a regular addition to your diet will provide you with a good source of vitamin K, protein, and calcium which are very important for cellular functions and bone health.
Aids in Digestion
Kale contains a high amount of fiber, which will help keep you feeling fuller for longer and promotes regular and healthy elimination. Additionally, kale is low in oxalates, which in high amounts can prevent the body from absorbing calcium.
Improves Skin and Hair
The healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in kale will do wonders for your hair and nails when consumed regularly with a balanced diet. The beta-carotene in kale is converted to vitamin A in the body, which is essential for the production of healthy hair, skin, and nails. The vitamin C content in kale is good for the production of collagen, which provides structure for skin, hair, and bones.
Low in Calories
1 cup of kale has only 33.5 calories per serving while providing a day’s worth of vitamin C, twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, plenty of vitamin K, and a sizeable dose of fatty acids and minerals.
High in Antioxidants
Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin which are antioxidants that have been linked to eye health and drastically reduced risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Kale is also a good source of flavonoids, which have been shown to have anticancer activity
Kale Helps Lower Blood Pressure
1 cup of kale contains about 329mg of potassium, which is an important mineral to have in your diet because it is needed for the proper function in the body. Finding in one study indicated that those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49% lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day). Another study indicated that having an adequate intake of potassium would reduce your risk for stroke as well.
Kale Helps Lower Cholesterol
Consuming kale has been shown to have cholesterol-lowering effects when it is regularly incorporated into your diet. Steam cooking kale also significantly improves its bile acid binding capacity, which will help lower your cholesterol when consumed regularly.
Kale Helps Elevate Mood
Kale contains a lot of phytonutrients, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids which all help fight depression and contribute to elevated mood. Additionally, the combination of iron, folate, vitamin b6, and protein help your body to create more serotonin and dopamine which are both neurotransmitters that have important mood regulatory functions.
Kale Fights Inflammation
Reducing the inflammation in the body is key for health and the omega-3 fatty acid content in kale helps to do just that. Inflammation is undoubtedly an underlying precursor to chronic diseases such as type II diabetes and heart disease. Foods that are processed and contain a high amount of fat promote inflammation in the body, so cutting out refined carbohydrates, sodas, red meat, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is essential for lowering your risk of inflammation and chronic disease.