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Kale: A Detailed and Explanatory Guide to This Simple Superfood

By: Femi Agbaje-Williams March 27th, 2017

What the kale?

Kale has quickly risen from a popular garnish at salad bars to a superfood that people can’t seem to get enough of. With all the hype around kale, one must wonder whether it’s just a new diet fad or a superfood that should be eating on a regular basis. In addition, even if the latter is true, can you possibly get too much of it and suffer negative consequences? Let’s dive into the science a little more and find out.

Kale Nutrition

Just like any leafy green vegetable, kale is packed with vitamins, but very few macronutrients and thus very few calories. This means that a diet comprised strictly of kale (or any green vegetable for that matter) would be inefficient to sustain a person for lack of caloric density. This chart that Wikipedia posted from the USDA database illustrates this point. 100g of kale is only going to give you 49 calories, but well over your RDA on Vitamin C and Vitamin K as well as lower amounts of other vitamins and minerals. It is truly the embodiment of what you’d call a micronutrient rich food.

Your Immune System & Kale

A recent study (cited below) showed the truly amazing positive impact that kale can have on your immune system. Because of the complex nature of every day diets, scientists chose to directly drip kale directly onto white blood cells and measure any change in antibody production. Amazingly, it spiked antibody production around 4X. To learn more about this study, check out this video as well as the actual study itself found here.

Kale & Your Cholesterol

Even though the immune system study was done directly to cells, there is another great human trial where scientists in Japan measured the effects of kale juice in humans. A total of 34 participants with high cholesterol consumed 3-4 shots of kale juice per day over a 12-week period. The results were astounding. Their bad cholesterol dropped, their good cholesterol rose, and their blood levels were chocked full of antioxidants. Even the smokers in the study saw a positive effect, just not nearly as much as the non-smokers. Here’s a link to the full study as well as an excellent video report on it.

Kale & Antioxidants

As shown in the previous study, kale has a massive impact on antioxidant levels in the blood. As you may have heard, antioxidants are responsible for neutralizing free radicals in the blood. The most common thing that free radicals are known for is causing DNA damage that occurs in everyday life, even from beneficial activity such as exercise. There’s a whole host of prevention benefits that come with keeping your antioxidant levels elevated including slower aging, Alzheimer’s prevention, and many more seen here.

Kale & Cancer

While bile acids are crucial to digestion, they can harm us at the same time. If they are not moved quickly enough through the digestive tract, they can be absorbed into the body and promote cancer growth. This is why a high fiber diet is critical as it helps with the motility of the digestive tract. Kale, as well as other vegetables such as okra and beets, will aid in this process even further as they have additional bile-acid binding properties. For the full details, including the actual studies, check out the video report here.

Can You Eat Too Much Kale?

Much like anything in life, you can get too much of a good thing, especially if you don’t prepare it in the right way. That doesn’t mean you should be scared of kale, though. Here’s the deal:

Kale is part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Most, if not all vegetables in this family contain “goitrogens”. These compounds can interfere with your thyroid’s ability to uptake iodine thus interfering with its function. There are two ways to counteract this effect: by consuming more iodine rich foods or by cooking the kale which will deactivate the enzymes. Cooking the kale is usually the better option anyway, because it makes it even more delicious if prepared properly. For the full details on this topic, check out this excellent resource.

If you’d like to see unabridged version of this article, please check it out over at ThriveCuisine.com.

About the author:
Joey Bruno, owner of ThriveCuisine.com, holds a master’s degree in Nutrition & Food Science from Montclair State University. He’s a foodie and wannabe vegan chef. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife and likes to go for long walks with his dog and practice jiu-jitsu in his spare time.

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