The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Kale into Your Diet

Good health is the quintessential asset in an individual’s life, and it takes a combination of factors to maintain it. Studies have revealed that one of these factors is eating the full rainbow of colors in a diet that is heavy on fruits and vegetables. Incorporating colorful fruits and vegetables in the diet also helps reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Nutritional and Health Benefits of Kale

Among the many colored fruits and vegetables that mother nature has provided is kale. Part of the reason why this green, leafy, cruciferous vegetable has beneficial health effects on the body is that it contains antioxidants. These are compounds that help prevent cell damage from oxidation, thus preventing ailments such as cancer.

Recent studies have also shown that green vegetables such as kale contain phytochemicals, which are health-promoting nutrients. Fruits and vegetables that are bright in color contain the most phytonutrients. In addition to the health benefits of plant based diet, the nutritional value of kale makes it a great addition to everyday meals.

One cup of raw kale has about 33 calories and 7 grams of carbs. This makes it diabetes-friendly or a weight-friendly vegetable. What’s more, the fiber contained in kale helps manage blood sugar and comes in handy for people striving to lose weight. Below, we take a look at more health benefits of a plant based diet containing kale.

Reduces the Risk of Certain Cancers

All green vegetables, including kale, contain chlorophyll, which helps prevent the absorption of heterocyclic amines by the body. These chemicals are associated with grilled animal products and have been linked to various types of cancer. While the body doesn’t absorb much chlorophyll, this compound binds to carcinogens and inhibits their absorption by the body.

Kale also contains a plethora of antioxidants, including beta carotene, selenium, and vitamin C, which may help prevent cancer. Phytochemicals such as indoles and sulforaphane are also believed to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Eating kale for its dietary fiber has also been linked with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

Reduces Diabetes-Related Complications

Kale is a nutrient-dense vegetable that contains vitamins A, B6, C, and K. The American Diabetes Association recommends eating foods rich in antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and such vitamins due to their potential protection against diabetes.

Studies have also indicated that one benefit of plant based diet that is rich in dietary fiber is the low risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Dietary fiber may also play a vital role in lowering blood sugar levels. Other studies show that high glucose levels in the blood can trigger the production of free radicals. Antioxidants such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and vitamin C present in kale can help prevent the complications that may come with diabetes.

Promotes Eye Health

Another benefit of a plant based diet containing kale is good eye health. Kale contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that may reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Antioxidants and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and beta-carotene present in kale also play an essential role in eye health.

Improves Lung Function

Kale also contains quercetin, a dietary flavonoid that is abundant in colorful fruits and vegetables. This compound has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation related to allergies. Further, quercetins can help protect the lungs from the adverse effects of air pollutants and cigarette smoke.

Supports Heart Health

Among the many benefits of plant based diets containing vegetables such as kale is the promotion of heart health. One of the minerals present in kale is potassium. According to the American Heart Association, increasing potassium intake in the diet while reducing the consumption of sodium or added salt significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure.

Kale is also high on fiber and low on cholesterol, a combination that is linked to healthy blood pressure. Individuals who consume lots of dietary fiber are more likely to have little amounts of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or what is commonly known as “bad” cholesterol. Typically, a lower blood lipid level is good for the heart.

Healthy and Strong Bones

The benefits of plant based diets containing kale are numerous, and bone health is yet another. Vitamin K is probably the most abundant mineral in kale – one cup of cooked kale provides almost five times the daily need for vitamin K in adults. This, and other minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, help in the formation of healthy bones and may help reduce the risk of bone fractures.

Healthy Skin and Hair

Kale is a good source of phytochemicals such as beta-carotene, which is the carotenoid that is converted into vitamin A as the body needs. These minerals help slow the aging process as they are crucial for the growth and maintenance of body tissues, including the hair and skin tissues. Vitamin C present in kale also helps build and maintain collagen, which is the protein that provides the structure for bones, skin, and hair.

Healthy Ways of Integrating Kale into Your Diet

The easiest way of consuming all the vitamins and minerals that kale has to offer is eating it raw. However, if you are looking to cut the bitterness, make a kale smoothie containing other fruits and vegetables such as red berries, apples, and carrots.

You can also use cooked kale to make a variety of dips that can be enjoyed with other dishes. Kale is also a good substitute for other vegetables such as lettuce and can be added to salads for antioxidants and vitamin boost. If you want to keep it simple, you can add cooked kale to your favorite soup or add raw kale some minutes before the soup is finished cooking.

Bottom Line

Kale is a super-healthy vegetable that contains many phytochemicals and minerals. These compounds promote healthy living by preventing ailments and inhibiting the oxidation of body cells. What’s more, kale prevents high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. As such, integrating kale into your diet could go a long way in preventing amputations.