Kale Is Actually One of the Healthiest Things You Can Eat
While I’m a lover of all veggies, kale stays on my grocery list for good reason. As a cruciferous veggie in the Brassica family, “leaf cabbage” is low in calories, filled with fiber, and packed with phytonutrients and minerals that are key for short- and long-term health. Plus, it’s an easy addition to basically anything and everything you’re cooking. Here’s the deal with all things kale:
Serving Size: 1 cup chopped, raw kale
- 33 calories
- <1g fat
- 0mg cholesterol
- 25mg sodium
- 329mg potassium
- 6g carbs
- 3g protein
- 2.5g fiber
- 133% DV vitamin A
- 134% DV vitamin C
- 10% DV calcium
- 5% DV iron
- 10% DV vitamin B6
- 7% DV magnesium
Health Benefits of Kale
A cup full of kale can help your body out in a number of ways. Here’s what all those vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds in kale can do:
- Reduce your risk of chronic disease: The immune-boosting carotenoids in kale help protect cells from the DNA disruption and oxidative stress that can, over time, increase your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and some cancers.
- Protect against vision loss: Just one cup of kale has more than your whole day’s worth of the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which help shield ocular tissues from harmful UV damage and may reduce your risk of cataracts.
- Help lower blood pressure: The potassium, calcium, and magnesium in kale and other veggies help counterbalance the effects of sodium that can lead to hypertension.
- Strengthen your bones: Kale supplies 10% of your daily value for calcium, an important nutrient linked to bone-mineral density — good to know if you’re lactose intolerant!
Just in case you’re not already sold on Her Royal Highness Kale, get your other veggie questions answered before stocking up:
How much fiber does kale have?
At first glance of the nutrition facts, 2.6 grams may not seem like a ton of fiber, but that number adds up super quickly if you’re making a leafy lunch. When you’re using kale as a salad base, steamed, sautéed, or nuked, you’re more likely getting at least 8 to 10 grams of fiber.
Is kale healthier than spinach?
Choosing between leafy greens is like Sophie’s Choice for dietitians. Each has their own long list of benefits. Spinach is higher in magnesium, iron, and folate, which are important for muscle and tissue health. On the flip side, kale is higher in calcium, plant-based proteins, and vitamin C (nearly four times as much as spinach!) — not to mention those carotenoids.
FYI: Kale contains high amounts of vitamin K, so take note if you’re on a blood thinner.
What do these slight differences (and therefore, benefits) between greens mean for you? Eat more of both and mix it up often.
Do I have to eat kale raw?
Nope! In fact, recent research found eating both cooked and raw kale can help you reap the best benefits of Brassica veggies. The bottom line still holds: More is more when it comes to kale. Lightly sautéing the leaves in plant-based oils like avocado or canola may help to make an otherwise bitter-tasting veggie more palatable.
The only way I’d recommend you don’t have your kale? In juice, which strips out fiber and other nutritional qualities. If the bottle doesn’t have more than 100% of your daily value of vitamins A and C, you’re likely overpaying for this iteration of greens.
Are kale chips good for you?
Homemade kale chips can be a great way to get your kale fix! Bonus: They’re lower in calories than starchier potato chips.
If you are choosing the store-bought kind, look for as few ingredients as possible. Kale chips (similar to potato chips) should contain just kale, oil, salt, and some seasoning like garlic and onion powder plus salt and pepper.
That said, no single food in isolation can make or break your state of health. What we know about all veggies (but especially kale) is that eating them more often in a wide variety of ways can help you stay healthier for the long haul. Finding new and inventive recipes is another way to experiment with flavors, foods, and cuisines you love — without restricting or eliminating certain food groups.