Kale: Myth, Reality and Practicality

Kale has become one of the most widely touted “superfoods” out there. In fact, yesterday was declared National Kale Day by some of the leafy green’s more zealous disciples, a festival to be celebrated with a kale dance party and kale cocktails after a kale health summit. And there’s good reason for kale to be a featured part of a healthy diet. But, let’s get this out of the way first: It is not a magic-bullet or a cure-all.

Where does the fact about kale, though, separate from the fiction? Despite all of the positive press, are there any health concerns associated with the nutritional powerhouse?

The Good

“Powerhouse” really is an accurate description of kale, too. Just one cup of chopped kale packs 9% of your daily intake of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and an amazing 684% of vitamin K. The majority of kale’s health benefits are connected with this bouquet of powerful anti-antioxidants, which health to fight both cancer and heart disease.

That doesn’t even account for the large quantities of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. These minerals are all essential to nerve function, immune health and several other equally important bodily systems.

There’s also a variety of plant chemicals which work to promote eye and brain health, along with adding to the fight against cancer.

Of course, kale is loaded with, actually made of, fiber. While not actually offering any caloric fuel, fiber can lower your cholesterol, improve your overall cardiovascular health and aid in digestion.

The Not-So-Good

Often, when it comes to health, there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Specifically, in the case, the main concern is the extremely high level of vitamin K stuffed into just a little kale. Vitamin K promotes clotting and can interfere with certain anticoagulant medications, like warfarin.

Another source of concern when it comes to overdoing it on kale are the naturally occurring chemicals called oxalates, which block calcium absorption. These substances have also been shown in lab tests to cause kidney and gall stones.

All that fiber could be a bad thing, too. Especially when the kale is raw it can be very hard on your digestive system, causing gas, bloating and other issues.

Another compound found in raw kale could cause thyroid problems in some people, as well. If you have any preexisting thyroid issues, you should talk to your doctor before drastically increasing your raw kale intake.

What To Do

Obviously, there are some stark differences between consuming raw and cooked kale. The research is mixed, though, frustrating the issue. Because of the above-noted concerns, however, many experts recommend not juicing or eating the veggie raw more than twice a week.

No such warnings are necessary when it comes to eating cooked kale, fortunately.

The only problem that pops up, then, is that of trying to find the best way to cook your kale. The raw-food supporters are right in saying that many of the nutrients are removed when you overcook the greens but, there are ways around it.

For example, if your cook your kale in broth or water, make sure to eat the leftover broth. That delicious liquid will now be infused with many of the healthy compounds that escaped the leaves.

How can you been enjoying your kale? Please share your tips with us in the comments.







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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.