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Kale 101 : 8 Biggest Health Benefits & 3 Easy Recipes

by Rebecca Jacobs

Kale has become one of the most talked about vegetables and has even been deemed a superfood due to some of its amazing health benefits.

As one of the healthiest sources of fiber, Kale continues to be a staple of a healthy diet.

In this article, we’re diving in and talking about the top 8 health benefits kale brings to the table, the nutrition facts you’ll want to know about, plus some tips and tricks on shopping, storing, and using kale in your diet.

Ready to become an expert on this mighty dark leafy green veggie? Read on.

What is Kale?

So we know kale has become a trend-worthy vegetable everyone seems to be adding to their diet, but what exactly is it? Kale is a vegetable that was commonly enjoyed in Greek and Roman cultures, and just recently became popular in the United States as of 2012.

It’s part of the Brassica oleracea plant family, similar to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and bok choy. The veggies in this plant family are also commonly known as cruciferous vegetables.

Nutritional Facts (1 Cup of Kale)

Calories: 7.8

Carbs: 1.4g

Fiber: 0.6g

Protein: 0.7g

Fat: 0.1g

8 Health Benefits of Kale

#1
May Help Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease:

Adding dark leafy greens to your diet is always a great way to support overall health, including better cardiovascular health. Kale may be able to help reduce cholesterol levels, an important part of supporting heart health.

#2
May Help Fight Cancer:

Cruciferous vegetables such as kale may be able to help protect the body from cancer. This is thought to be due to substances like sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, which may hold anti-cancer properties and are abundant in kale.

#3
Kale May Help You Lose Weight:

A healthy diet is a key part of supporting a healthy weight, and kale may be able to help. Kale is a low-calorie vegetable with high water content, that also packs in fiber and bulk helping to keep you full longer. Try adding kale to your meals to help promote satiety while also fueling your body with the nutrition it needs for optimal health.

#4
Anti-inflammatory Properties:

One of the most well-known health benefits of kale happens to be its anti-inflammatory properties. With more people turning to nutrition to help reduce their inflammatory load, kale makes a great addition to a well-balanced diet. Kale is rich in antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, which are known to help fight inflammation.

#5
Great Source of Vitamin C:

If you’re looking for a vegetable to help boost your vitamin reserves, kale is an excellent choice. This dark leafy green vegetable is rich in vitamin C to help support the immune system and keep you healthy all year long.

#6
Excellent Source of Vitamin K:

Kale also happens to be one of nature’s best sources of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a very important role in blood clotting. Vitamin K is also important for supporting bone health and bone density to help reduce the risk of bone fractures.

#7
Supports Eye Health:

Kale is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps fight off free radical damage in the body, and also supports eye health.

#8
Promotes Healthy Skin & Hair:

Due to the beta-carotene and vitamin C content, kale makes a great vegetable to help support healthy skin and hair. Vitamin C is an important vitamin to help support collagen production, which is important for skin elasticity. Beta-carotene helps support healthy growth of both hair and skin as well. So, if you’re looking for a superfood vegetable to help support healthier looking hair and skin, look no further than kale.

The Different Types of Kale

While some variations, like lacinato kale, are more well-known and popular than others, there are quite a few varieties of kale.

Lacinato Kale:

AKA, “dino kale”, lacinato kale is commonly found in grocery stores, and is available all year round. Lacinato kale leaves are tall and narrow.

Curly Kale:

One of the more commonly enjoyed varieties, curly kale offers a mild and sweet flavor and is easy to find in most grocery stores.

Redbor Kale:

Unlike the other green varieties, this variety of kale is dark red.

Siberian Kale:

The kale variety with very large leaves that also withstands the colder temperatures.

Premier Kale:

One of the newer kale varieties, premier kale is commonly found in the winter months as it is able to withstand the colder temperatures.

Red Russian Kale:

This variety of kale has red leaf stalks, and is commonly seen in the winter months.

Overconsumption of Kale & Thyroid Health

Since kale is a cruciferous vegetable, many people question how it affects thyroid health due to its goitrogen content. Goitrogens are naturally present in certain foods, like cruciferous vegetables, and can block iodine from getting into the thyroid. This can be an issue for those with an under-active thyroid as iodine is a necessary trace mineral that helps promote the production of thyroid hormones.

The concern comes in with excessive goitrogen intake, especially with foods like raw cruciferous vegetables. The good news is that there is a way to bypass this so that you can get the health benefits kale has to offer. Cooking kale, and other cruciferous vegetables can help decrease this goitrogenic effect. The overconsumption risk can affect anyone dealing with an under-active thyroid, and this is especially true for over-consuming raw kale.

Too much raw kale for someone with an under-active thyroid could be problematic. So, just be sure to cook your kale, and balance your kale intake with plenty of other non-cruciferous vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.

How to Buy Kale: Stick to Organic!

When shopping for kale at the grocery store, you want to stick to organic whenever possible as kale has found its way onto EWG’s 2019 Dirty Dozen List.

It’s been found to be strongly contaminated with pesticide residue. So, shop for organic kale to reduce your pesticide exposure when possible.

How to Prepare Kale

Tip#1: Wash Your Kale: Kale tends to be pretty dirty when you bring it home from the store. The solution? Washing it really well will help remove all the dirt that’s built up on the leaves. The easiest way to wash kale is to remove the stems and then run the leaves under cold water. If your kale is really dirty, you can soak it in a bowl of cold water with a little vinegar, and then rinse, or you can even use a store-bought vegetable wash spray.

Tip #2: Remove the Bitterness: Some people may notice a bit of a bitter taste, especially with raw kale. The good news is that this is easily fixed by adding something acidic like freshly squeezed lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar. Kale is available through most of the year, but did you know that if you want a less bitter tasting kale, the best time of year to enjoy it is in the colder months? Low temperatures are thought to help kale convert starch into sugar which can result in a less bitter taste.

Tip #3: Massage Your Kale: You may have heard of the term “massaging your kale” when it comes to making a kale salad. Massaging kale with a healthy fat like olive oil helps to soften the leaves and make them easier to chew. Simply massage the leaves with olive or avocado oil for 1-2 minutes before enjoying.

Tip #4: Use a Recipe: Scroll to the bottom of this page to read 3 quick & easy Kale recipes you can try right now.

How to Store Kale at Home

You will find kale in the refrigerated area of the produce section, so be sure to keep it refrigerated at home as well.

Also, as with most vegetables, don’t pre-wash your kale. You’ll want to wash the kale right before you cook it or add it to salads.

Washing kale and then storing it may cause the leaves to wilt and the vegetable to spoil before you get a chance to enjoy it.

How to Grow Kale & Avoid the Pesticides

Want to grow kale yourself and bypass the pesticide issue altogether? It’s best to plant your kale in the spring or summer, but it can tolerate the winter frost.

With the right care, it’s fairly low maintenance, and you may be surprised to have fresh kale available to you all year long.

You will want to water you kale regularly and pick the leaves when they are the size of your hand.

3 Easy Kale Recipes

If you’re ready to add kale to your diet and need a little inspiration to help you get started, here are three simple and delicious kale recipes you can whip up with just a handful of ingredients.

The Bottom Line

There’s no denying that adding organic kale to your diet is a wonderful way to support overall health.

So, if you are looking for a nutritious and hearty vegetables to add to your diet, there’s no better time to enjoy kale than now.

The fall and winter months bring sweeter and less bitter tasting kale, so try adding a handful to your daily smoothies, soups and stews, or try one of the recipes above for a superfood boost we all could benefit from.

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