Health Benefits of Kale
What is Kale?
This leafy plant may be one of the healthiest vegetables on earth. Unlike other leafy greens, kale is not part of the lettuce family. Kale is actually a member of the cruciferous family which includes cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Although kale is genetically similar to cabbage and broccoli, it does not form a head when it grows except for the ornamental varieties. Kale offers all of the goodness of broccoli, but in a leafy, winter cultivated vegetable form.
Kale grows on a white, fibrous stalk. The most common of the kale varieties are curly kale or plain-leafed kale. The leaf colors of kale can be light green, green, dark green or even violet-green or violet-brown. Dinosaur kale is one of the kale varieties that has dark blue-green leaves. It has a more delicate and sweeter taste than curly kale. The vibrant color of this curly-leafed plant makes this a beautiful vegetable.
Raw kale has a pungent flavor with bitter, peppery qualities. The benefits of kale for the raw foods are such that you can use it in many versatile ways, perhaps more than those of its “head” relatives.
There are kale varieties called flowering kale and even “Oriental cabbage.” Although these plants are usually grown and sold for ornamental purposes, they are just as edible and nutritious as the kale varieties sold in grocery stores or at the farmers markets.
If you want to eat any of the ornamental kale varieties, just make sure that they have not been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals since they are raised for decoration rather than human consumption. Ornamental kale has a more tender texture and mellower flavor.
Health Benefits of Kale
There are many kale nutrients. Cancer-fighting properties and other health benefits have been linked to members of the cruciferous vegetable family. The health benefits of kale are similar to the many health benefits of broccoli and cabbage. Here are some specific kale nutrients and how they affect your wellness:
- Vitamins – Kale is rich in vitamins A, C and K and contains some vitamin B6 and E. Being a rich source of vitamin K, gives it anti-inflammatory properties. Foods rich in vitamin C are known to help with some joint inflammations.
- Minerals – Notable minerals in kale include manganese, calcium and copper. These minerals have already been broken down by the kale plant and can be directly absorbed into the cells of the body.
- Antioxidants – The antioxidants in kale seem to be anti-cancer, too. Specifically, the antioxidants in kale are its carotenoids including lutein and beta-carotene, which are significant in the realm of cancer prevention and perhaps even treatment. Lutein and beta-carotene are two specific antioxidants that help to protect the human body from oxidative stress, specifically against such diseases as cataracts, atherosclerosis and COPD and, of course, cancer.
- Cancer Preventative – The phytonutrients in kale help to reduce the risk of several cancers including, but possibly not limited to, breast, bladder, colon, lung and ovarian. The actions of these phytonutrients not only reduce cancer, but in general, help to strengthen the entire immune system.
- Lung Health – The presence of vitamin A in kale helps protect the lungs. This is especially important to smokers and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.
- Anti-Inflammatory – The abundance of vitamin K makes kale an anti-inflammatory vegetable.
- Heart Health – A phytonutrient called Indole-3-carbinol in kale helps to reduce harmful cholesterol levels in the blood and protect the cardiovascular system.
- Diabetes – Kale helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This makes kale an excellent food for diabetics.
- Omega 3 – Omega 3 is another kale nutrient as kale is a rich vegetable source of Omega 3.
- Fiber – Kale is a high fiber food. Of the many kale nutrients, its high fiber characteristic may be the most practical when compared to a lettuce-based salad.
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