Kale is a popular leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica oleracea family. The leaves can be green or purple and have either a smooth or curly shape. It looks beautiful and has an earthy flavor.
Though available year-round, it is in season from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring. During this time, kale has a sweeter taste and is more widely available.
Kale has an excellent nutritional profile, putting it high on the list of the world’s healthiest foods. It contains vitamins like A, K, C, B6, B1, B2 and B3.
Other nutrients found in kale are manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, dietary fiber and protein.
Plus, it contains very little fat, most of which is the omega-3 fatty acid called ALA (alpha linolenic acid). Moreover, kale contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, cardio-protective, antiviral and antidepressant properties.
Health experts recommend eating this vegetable 4 or 5 times per week. Suggested serving size is from 1½ to 2 cups.
Top 10 health benefits of kale
Here are the top 10 health benefits of kale.
1. Fights Cancer
Kale contains powerful antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, that help protect against various cancers like colon, prostate and ovarian.
In addition, the sulforaphane compounds in kale are effective at fighting cancer, particularly colon cancer. A 2014 study published in the journal Advances in Nutrition and Cancer found sulforaphane to be a promising molecule for fighting cancer.
The high amount of vitamin K and phytonutrients in kale helps prevent free-radical damage, a contributing factor for high cancer risk. It also contains a compound known as indole-3-carbinol that helps prevent cancer.
If you already have cancer or you are at a higher risk of developing cancer, include kale in your diet.
2. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation in the body can be the cause and the symptom of many health problems, including arthritis, autoimmune disorders and asthma. Kale contains omega-3 fatty acids, especially ALA that works as a potent anti-inflammatory agent to reduce pain and inflammation.
In addition, kale contains carotenoids that work as inflammation-reducing antioxidants, as well as vitamins E and C. These components help protect the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.
Drink kale juice regularly to fight inflammation and pain.
3. Improves Eye Health
Kale is one of the healthiest foods for your eyes. It is loaded with many carotenoids that the body needs to produce vitamin A. This vitamin helps protect the cornea and prevents degeneration of eye cells to ensure good eyesight for years.
In addition, kale contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are good for eye health. In fact, they play a protective role against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Plus, carotenoids act like sunglass filters, preventing damage to the eyes from excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Start taking kale in your diet in juice, salad or soup form to ensure good eyesight.
4. Helps in Detoxification
Kale provides comprehensive support for the body’s detoxification system. In fact, it is one of the most effective detoxifying foods. The fiber and sulfur in kale help the detoxification process. Fiber binds with toxins, preventing them from being absorbed by your body and eliminating them as waste products.
In addition, the isothiocyanates made from glucosinolates in kale help regulate the detoxification process at a genetic level.
To make a detox smoothie, blend together 1 cup chopped kale, ½ lemon (peeled and seeded), ½ lime (peeled and seeded), 1 banana, ½ tablespoon grated ginger, 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon raw honey. Start your day with this green smoothie.
5. Boosts Heart Health
Kale can help protect against heart disease. It contains antioxidants that help your body fight free radicals that damage cells and genetic material. In addition, its magnesium and potassium content helps keep the blood pressure level normal. High potassium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of strokes.
Moreover, kale contains substances that bind bile acids to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol) levels in the body. This reduces reduce the risk of heart disease over time.
Drink kale juice with 1 teaspoon of powdered flaxseeds or chia seeds a few times a week to improve cardiovascular health.
6. Helps Manage Diabetes
Kale contains fiber, which is good for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Fiber helps lower blood glucose levels in people suffering from Type 1 diabetes. In people who have Type 2 diabetes, it helps improve blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels.
In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in kale help lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes. Moreover, the magnesium in kale may help prevent against Type 2 diabetes.
Plus, the American Diabetes Association identifies this non-starchy vegetable as a low glycemic index (GI) food.
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