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Kale: Types, Nutritional Benefits & How To Eat


Kale is deemed as a wonderful superfood due to its amazing health benefits. It is one of the world's nutritious and healthiest foods with powerful medicinal properties.

Kale is a vegetable which belongs to the cabbage family (Brassicaceae). It contains very little fat, is low in calories and high in nutrients, making it a nutrient-dense food.

Types Of Kale

There are many types of kale with a slight difference in flavour and nutrient profile [1] . These include the following:

  • Curly kale - It is the commonly available type of kale which is usually dark green or purple in colour. The leaves are tightly ruffled that make them easier to tear.
  • Lacinato or dinosaur kale - It is usually dark blue-green in colour with longer leaves and scaly texture. This type of kale is ideal for making kale chips.
  • Red Russian kale - The leaves of this type are sweet and sour. The kale stalk is slight purple in colour and the leaves have a reddish hue. The leaves almost resemble oak leaves. Red Russian kale is ideal for making salads, juices, and sandwiches.

Nutritional Value Of Kale

100 g of raw kale contain 89.63 g water and 35 kcal (energy). They also contain

  • 2.92 g protein
  • 1.49 g total lipid (fat)
  • 4.42 g carbohydrate
  • 4.1 g fibre
  • 0.99 g sugar
  • 254 mg calcium
  • 1.60 mg iron
  • 33 mg magnesium
  • 55 mg phosphorus
  • 348 mg potassium
  • 53 mg sodium
  • 0.39 mg zinc
  • 93.4 mg vitamin C
  • 0.113 mg thiamine
  • 0.347 mg riboflavin
  • 1.180 mg niacin
  • 0.147 mg vitamin B6
  • 62 mcg folate
  • 4812 IU vitamin A
  • 0.66 mg vitamin E
  • 389.6 mcg vitamin K

Health Benefits Of Kale

1. Lowers heart disease risk

Kale is rich in fibre, vitamin b6, vitamin C and potassium, which are nutrients that contribute to heart health. Whenever you consume a fatty meal, the liver turns cholesterol into bile acids which are sent to the digestive tract to absorb fat. These bile acids are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used again.

Bile acid sequestrants present in kale can significantly increase the bile binding effect and prevent them from being reabsorbed which in turn reduces the cholesterol level in the body. This lowers the risk of heart disease [2] .

A study showed that drinking kale juice everyday decreased the risk of coronary artery disease in men with high cholesterol [3] .

2. Improves digestive health

Kale is a good source of insoluble fibre which prevents digestive issues like constipation by promoting bowel regularity. Fibre adds bulk to your stool which can then easily pass through the small intestine. However, avoid having too much kale as a carbohydrate called raffinose present in kale isn't easily broken down during digestion.

3. Helps in weight loss

As kale is very low in calories and high in water content, it is a low energy-density food. Consuming foods which have low energy density has been shown to reduce weight [4] . In addition, the protein and fibre in kale keep you feeling full and satiated, thus preventing unwanted food cravings.

4. Prevents cancer

Kale contains sulforaphane, a substance that has the ability to fight cancer and prevent the growth of cancer cells [5] . The antiproliferative activity of kale against cancer has been shown in a study [6] . Another study also mentioned that kale contains indole-3-carbinol, another substance that helps in preventing cancer [7] .

5. Strengthens the immune system

Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that plays many roles from fighting free radicals to synthesising collagen. Several cells of the immune system, especially t-cells and phagocytes accumulate vitamin C to perform their tasks which include building strong resistance against certain pathogens and reducing the severity of illness [8] .

6. Maintains eye health

Kale is rich in vitamin A which is beneficial for optimal eye health [8] , [9] . The vegetable also contains carotenoid antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin which accumulate in the retina and filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and protect and maintain the eye's healthy cells. Lutein and zeaxanthin lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts[10]

7. Promotes bone health

Kale is a good source of vitamin K. The form of vitamin K found in kale is vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), which performs many functions that include clotting of the blood, lowering the risk of bone fracture, modifying bone matrix proteins, helping in better calcium absorption and reducing the amount of calcium excreted in urine [11] .

8. Prevents diabetes risk

As kale has a high amount of fibre, it aids in lowering blood glucose level in individuals with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes [12] . In addition, the alpha-lipoic acid in kale reduces glucose levels, decreases nerve damage, and increases insulin sensitivity [13] . It also prevents eye damage caused by diabetes.

9. Reduces inflammation

Kale is loaded with anti-inflammatory flavones like quercetin and kaempferol [14] . These flavones prevent or reduce chronic inflammation which is a risk factor for harmful diseases and health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and fatty liver disease[15] .

10. Enhances skin and hair health

Kale is a rich source of vitamin A which helps in building tissues of the skin and hair and synthesises collagen that reduces fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin A aids in the production of sebum which keeps your skin and hair moisturised [16] .

Side Effects Of Eating Excess Kale

Consuming excess amount of raw kale can lead to unpleasant side effects like constipation, bloating and stomach pain due to the indigestible fibre. It can also interfere with the thyroid function. So if you have hypothyroidism, speak to your doctor before eating kale.

How To Cook Kale

  • Kale soup: In a pan, add coarsely chopped onions, garlic, kale, beans, tomatoes, salt and pepper and fry it. Add chicken stock and cook for 15 minutes. Serve with rosemary or coriander leaves.
  • Kale chips: Take the kale leaves and tear into pieces, toss in extra virgin olive oil and a dash of salt, chilli powder, cumin powder, garlic powder and curry powder. Bake for 15 minutes at 275 degrees Fahrenheit to get the desired crispness.
  • Kale salad: Crunch the kale leaves slightly in the hand for releasing the nutrients. Add them in a bowl, and drizzle a salad dressing of your choice and enjoy!
  • Sautéed kale: In a pan, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, add a teaspoon of chopped onion and garlic. Add kale and sauté for a few minutes and have them.
  • Kale smoothies: In a blender, add a handful of kale to your favourite fruit or vegetable smoothie. This will enhance the nutrients and won't change the flavour.

How Much Kale Should You Eat In A Day

The recommended intake of kale is one to two servings, which is roughly one to two cups a day.

View Article References
  1. [1] Hahn, C., Müller, A., Kuhnert, N., & Albach, D. (2016). Diversity of kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica): glucosinolate content and phylogenetic relationships.Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,64(16), 3215-3225.
  2. [2] Kahlon, T. S., Chapman, M. H., & Smith, G. E. (2007).In vitro binding of bile acids by spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, mustard greens, green bell pepper, cabbage and collards. Food Chemistry, 100(4), 1531–1536.
  3. [3] Kim, S. Y., Sun, Y. O. O. N., Kwon, S. M., Park, K. S., & Lee-Kim, Y. C. (2008). Kale Juice Improves Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors in Hypercholesterolemic Men1.Biomedical and Environmental Sciences,21(2), 91-97.
  4. [4] Rolls, B. J., Roe, L. S., Beach, A. M., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2005).Provision of Foods Differing in Energy Density Affects Long-Term Weight Loss. Obesity Research, 13(6), 1052–1060.
  5. [5] Fimognari, C., & Hrelia, P. (2007). Sulforaphane as a promising molecule for fighting cancer.Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research,635(2-3), 90-104.
  6. [6] Olsen, H., Grimmer, S., Aaby, K., Saha, S., & Borge, G. I. A. (2012). Antiproliferative effects of fresh and thermal processed green and red cultivars of curly kale (Brassica oleracea L. convar. acephala var. sabellica).Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,60(30), 7375-7383.
  7. [7] Maruthanila, V. L., Poornima, J., & Mirunalini, S. (2014). Attenuation of carcinogenesis and the mechanism underlying by the influence of indole-3-carbinol and its metabolite 3, 3′-diindolylmethane: a therapeutic marvel.Advances in pharmacological sciences,2014.
  8. [8] Becerra-Moreno, A., Alanís-Garza, P. A., Mora-Nieves, J. L., Mora-Mora, J. P., & Jacobo-Velázquez, D. A. (2013).Kale: An excellent source of vitamin C, pro-vitamin A, lutein and glucosinolates. CyTA - Journal of Food, 12(3), 298–303.
  9. [9] Novotny, J. A., Kurilich, A. C., Britz, S. J., & Clevidence, B. A. (2005). Plasma appearance of labeled β-carotene, lutein, and retinol in humans after consumption of isotopically labeled kale.Journal of lipid research,46(9), 1896-1903.
  10. [10] Gale, C. R., Hall, N. F., Phillips, D. I., & Martyn, C. N. (2003). Lutein and zeaxanthin status and risk of age-related macular degeneration.Investigative ophthalmology & visual science,44(6), 2461-2465.
  11. [11] Novotny, J. A., Kurilich, A. C., Britz, S. J., Baer, D. J., & Clevidence, B. A. (2010). Vitamin K absorption and kinetics in human subjects after consumption of 13 C-labelled phylloquinone from kale.British journal of nutrition,104(6), 858-862.
  12. [12] Post, R. E., Mainous, A. G., King, D. E., & Simpson, K. N. (2012).Dietary Fiber for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 25(1), 16–23.
  13. [13] Golbidi, S., Badran, M., & Laher, I. (2011). Diabetes and alpha lipoic Acid.Frontiers in pharmacology,2, 69.
  14. [14] Olsen, H., Aaby, K., & Borge, G. I. A. (2009). Characterization and quantification of flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids in curly kale (Brassica oleracea L. convar. acephala var. sabellica) by HPLC-DAD-ESI-MS n.Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,57(7), 2816-2825.
  15. [15] García-Mediavilla, V., Crespo, I., Collado, P. S., Esteller, A., Sánchez-Campos, S., Tuñón, M. J., & González-Gallego, J. (2007). The anti-inflammatory flavones quercetin and kaempferol cause inhibition of inducible nitric oxide synthase, cyclooxygenase-2 and reactive C-protein, and down-regulation of the nuclear factor kappaB pathway in Chang Liver cells.European journal of pharmacology,557(2-3), 221-229.
  16. [16] Meinke, M. C., Friedrich, A., Tscherch, K., Haag, S. F., Darvin, M. E., Vollert, H., … Rohn, S. (2013).Influence of dietary carotenoids on radical scavenging capacity of the skin and skin lipids. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, 84(2), 365–373.

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