Kale has more vitamin C than an orange, more iron than beef, and more calcium than milk.
It’s no surprise kale has been called “the new beef” for vegetarians.
Low in calories, fat and high in fiber, kale is one of the healthiest leafy greens you can eat.
Kale is loaded with all sorts of nutrients that can make you healthier.
Here are 9 amazing health benefits of eating kale.
But before we get to all the benefits of kale, let me briefly explain what kale is…
What is Kale?
Kale is a superfood with nutritional power.
This popular dark, leafy green vegetable has been around since Roman times and has long been common across much of Europe (4).
Kale is a member of the cabbage family (Brassica oleracea), which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and collards.
Kale has many variations. The leaves can be green or purple in color and have either a smooth or curly shape.
The most common type of kale is called curly kale or Scots kale, which has green and curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem.
It has a slightly sweet, bitter taste when eaten raw—but it is versatile and delicious sautéed, simmered or roasted.
- At just 33 calories, per cup of raw kale has:
- Nearly 3 grams of protein
- 2.5 grams of fiber (which helps manage blood sugar and makes you feel full)
- Vitamins A, C, and K
- Folate, a B vitamin that’s key for brain development
- Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. (While kale has far less omega-3 than fish, it is another way to get some of this healthy fat into your diet.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green coloring and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc
1. Kale is rich in powerful antioxidants
When you think of antioxidants, you most likely think of berries (blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries).
But it turns out, they are not the only ones with powerful antioxidants.
Kale is one of them.
Kale actually contains more antioxidants than strawberries and have as many antioxidant values as cranberries.
USDA’s ORAC Value Chart per 100 mg:
- Blueberries 2,500
- Blackberries 2,000
- Cranberries 1,750
- Kale 1,750
- Strawberries 1,500
Antioxidants you find in kale are everything from vitamin C to various flavonoids and polyphenols (5).
These antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Many experts believe this damage is one of the leading causes of many diseases—including cancer.
According to the oxygen radical absorbance capacity, a method that used to measure antioxidant activities in foods, kale tops other green vegetables per Ruth Frechman, R.D.
Having a good dose of antioxidants in the body is critical in keeping our cells healthy.
Takeaway: Kale is a great source of antioxidants, which have been found to have numerous beneficial effects on our health.
2. Kale is high in vitamin C
Kale has more vitamin C than an orange.
Vitamin C helps boost your immune system, metabolism, hydration and keeping your skin healthy.
One cup of kale has 134 % of daily vitamin C while orange has nearly 96% (7).
Not only that, with kale, but you can also take in that much of additional vitamin C without a heavy load of sugar like oranges.
Although an authority such as the University of Maryland Medical Center assures that it’s rare to be seriously deficient in vitamin C, they warn many may have low levels of vitamin C.
Amongst those, smokers are at a higher risk, so if you are a smoker, be sure to eat your kale to take in the missing vitamin C.
For us women, it’s especially important to keep higher levels of vitamin C as it has various skin related benefits including:
- Less risk of dry skin
Vitamin C is also linked to protection against the following diseases (10):
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Common cold
3. Kale is a low glycemic food
Glycemic Index (GI) also known as Favorable food list is a measure of how fast or slow a carbohydrate-containing food increases blood sugar.
If you are not familiar with it, think of it as a carbohydrate counting tool (similar to calorie counting) for guiding food choices.
Each carb-food is labeled with a GI value which many organizations categorized as “High”, “Medium” or “Low” for further simplicity.
Below are the categorizations issued by diabetes.org:
- Low: 1-55
- Medium: 56-69
- High: 70 or greater
According to USDA, kale among other dark leafy greens is considered a low glycemic food.
Just as calorie counting, keeping your intake levels of carbohydrates under control brings tremendous benefits to your weight loss and overall health.
Considering the glycemic index was originally designed for people with diabetes to better manage their blood sugar levels, it’s no wonder it’s linked to healthy eating.
According to Rober Glatter, MD on Forbes, the low-glycemic diet manages the level of your insulin, which promotes the storage of fat.
And he is not the only one who recognizes the effect of following a diet based on the glycemic index.
Harvard reported Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital, and his colleagues have discovered some clues to why people on a low-glycemic diet find it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
In their 2012 and 2013 low and high-glycemic diet comparison study, they made the following discoveries about people on a low-glycemic diet.
- Burned more calories than those on a high-glycemic diet
- Less hungry after a meal
- Less activity in the area of the brain associated with craving and reward
The bottom line is, low-glycemic foods take longer to process and digest, leading to gradual releases of insulin (instead of causing a rapid insulin spike) and sustaining fullness longer and preventing overeating.
4. Good Source of Protein
There is a rumor in the health community that “kale is the new beef”, and there is a good reason for that.
A high percentage of kale’s calories come from protein.
Giving that a half-cup of cooked kale containing 1 gram of protein, containing 4 calories to the serving’s 18-calorie total, it satisfies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s protein intake guideline that advises 10-35 % of total calories coming from protein.
Kale’s 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio is exceptionally high for any vegetable and said kale’s new title “the new beef” is a well-earned one.
There is also another reason why kale’s protein is highly acclaimed.
According to Ji, like meat, kale contains all 9 essential amino acids needed to form the proteins within the body.
In addition to the list above, it also contains 9 additional non-essential ones.
5. Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Kale may not look or taste fatty, but it sure got its fat contents, the good ones.
California Baptist University reported that you can find ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), the omega 3-fatty acids in kale. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey’s book of kale, 50 Shades of Kale, there is 121 mg of ALA in every cup of kale.
Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with numerous health benefits such as:
- Brain health
- Reduction of Type 2 diabetes risk
- Heart health
Harvard also reported recent researches to show several more health benefits of omega-3:
- lower blood pressure
- Lower heart rate
- Improve blood vessel function
- Ease of inflammation
- Development of atherosclerosis
6. Kale has almost 1180% daily requirement of Vitamin K
Benefits of vitamin K may be less well-known than other vitamin counterparts such as A, C, and E, but don’t underestimate its importance, especially if you plan to live long.
A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School confirms this claim. According to their research, women who get a least 110 mcg of vitamin K a day are 30 % less likely to break a hip.
Since one cup of cooked kale can provide you with 1062.10 mcg or 1180% of daily recommended vitamin K intake.
Harvard also states that vitamin K makes 4 of the 13 proteins needed for blood clotting.
Adding kale to your meals on a regular basis can certainly bring health benefits.
7. Kale is a perfect detox food
If any of your detox smoothies and juices contain kale, it’s no coincidence.
It’s for a good reason.
When detoxing, one of the purposes is to clean your liver, which keeps your body clean on the inside, says Bembu. And apparently, kale does a good job of that.
Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli have been used to help the liver and included in the detox programs.
Mind-Body Green has another reason why kale is good for detoxing.
They write “Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver happy.”
8. Kale is a great source of calcium
Thinking you have to drink milk everyday to take in is an old story.
There are many other good sources of calcium including kale.
That means, eating 3 cups of cooked kale a day can pretty much replace your milk.
While many understand the importance of calcium during the childhood, its importance still remains well into 20s, 30s and 40s. After turning 51, you even need to up your calcium intake by 20%, says Institute of Medicine.
“Calcium deficiency” is somewhat easy to spot says organicfacts.net.
Here are several symptoms and signs you need to keep you calcium levels in check.
- Muscle aches and twitch
- Sudden cramps and spasms
- High blood pressure
- Loose teeth
- Gum disease
- Premenstrual cramps
- Hypertension and arthritis
In the contrary, a sufficient intake of calcium can bring benefits such as healthy gum and teeth, stronger bones, obesity prevention, and better heart muscles.
Why you may want to avoid kale
Although kale literally has an unlimited number of reasons why it’s good for you, there are two reasons why you need to avoid it for your health sake.
This thyroid dysfunction can then lead to a condition called hypothyroidism, which happens when your thyroid gland (located at the front of your neck) doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. It’s most common in women age over 60.
Wbur’s Common Health site reports two cases of hypothyroidism which apparently caused by overconsumption of kale.
One hypothyroidism patient, Jennifer Berman reported that she was diagnosed with the condition after juicing kale on a daily basis.