Kale is a nutrient-dense green leafy vegetable that belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and collards.
There are three varieties of kale: curly, dinosaur, and ornamental. The curly kale that have green curly leaves and green stems are typically referred to as green kale. The curly kale that has green curly leaves but purplish stems are commonly referred to as red kale. The dinosaur kale have rather straight but textured dark green leaves and are commonly referred to as black kale. The ornamental kale look like large flowers usually with the appearance of green outer petals with white, pink, purple, or red inner petals.
Nutritional and Medicinal Value
In just 1 cup (130 grams), raw kale is rich vitamin A (192% of the Daily Value), lutein, zeaxanthin, beta carotene, retinol, vitamin K (1327% of DV), vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and calcium (94 mg). Vitamin K is necessary for protein synthesis, vitamin A for supporting reproductive and immune system and healthy bones, and vitamin C for immunity and antioxidants.
Kale is loaded with two classes of antioxidants: flavonoids and carotenoids. Both help build up the blood to help prevent cancer (e.g., breast, colon, prostate, stomach) and other inflammatory diseases (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, lung disease). Kale has 45 different powerful flavonoids including kaempferol and quercetin which also help slow down the aging process and help speed up athletic recovery. In particular, lutein and beta carotene are the key nutrients our bodies use to fight against cancer, pulmonary disease, cataracts, and atherosclerosis.
Kale also helps stimulate bile production in the liver and supports the body’s detoxification system due to its large amount of at least five organic sulfur compounds (I3C, SFN, PEITC, BITC, and AITC) called glucosinolates (or thioethers in chemistry). All attack ingested carcinogens in the body and work with flavonoids and Vitamin C to rid the body of toxins and free radicals.
When kale is steamed fiber-related components (resins) bind with the bile acids which then make them easier to excrete from the body along with the fat-soluble toxins that bile acids help neutralize. The removal of toxins from our blood circulatory system helps prevent further arterial damage and therefore eliminates the need for the liver to produce cholesterol for cellular membrane repair and prevents the cholesterol that is manufactured by the liver from being oxidized or calcified and turned into hard plaque. These same resins also combine with vitamin C to protect the stomach lining preventing harmful bacteria (e.g., H. pylori) from attaching themselves and multiplying thereby allowing the body to remove harmful toxins from the body. When resins and other phytonutrients in kale enter the circulatory system in the body, they provide the same protective and detoxifying effects for all other organs and tissues in the body.
As a good replacement for expensive fish or krill oil supplements, you can eat less than 100 calories of kale and get about 350 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Kale boasts only 36 calories per 1 cup and contains complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids, even more complete protein than beef per gram).
Kale can be eaten raw in salads, smoothies, as a wrap, in sandwiches, in raw zucchini noodle dishes, etc. If you are concerned about eating kale raw, see The Green Smoothie Revolution for some eye-opening information. It can also be cooked in soups, sauteed in stir-fries, steamed, or even baked to make kale chips. You can do a keyword search on the Internet for “kale recipes” to find many great ideas and delicious ways to prepare and consume kale.
Kale is a versatile plant, able to withstand frosts in cold climates and grow in tropical ones. When planting from seed it is important to water the sprouts regularly but not to over water them. Mulching the soil is a good way to make sure the plant can still produce leaves during cold winters. Once leaves have fully matured they can be picked and eaten.