Eating kale has many benefits for the body. The leafy green is good for the brain, immune system, gut, bones, and more.
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What Is Kale?
Kale is a leafy green plant. It’s a type of cruciferous vegetable, just like cauliflower, cabbage, and bok choy.
In the grocery store kale is available fresh, frozen, and powdered. Fresh kale can be found full-grown or as young leaves, known as baby kale.
Both fresh and frozen kale are popular smoothie ingredients. They add essential nutrients and will turn any drink into a green smoothie.
RELATED: How to Freeze Kale Properly
12 Kale Health Benefits
1. Aids Immune Function
Kale is a good source of vitamin C, a key nutrient for immunity. It works by helping immune cells find and destroy bad germs.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, meaning it protects cells from damage. This could help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Plus, kale contains prebiotics, or carbohydrates that feed good gut bacteria. The result is a more balanced gut.
Since the gut is connected to the immune system, this benefit is good for immunity. In fact, about 70 to 80% of the body’s immune cells is in the gut.
2. Supports Bone Health
For a natural way to maintain healthy bones, add kale to your smoothies. The vegetable provides nutrients needed for strong bones, including magnesium and calcium.
Magnesium is a mineral needed for osteoblasts. These are cells that help bones form properly.
Calcium, another mineral, makes bones strong and sturdy. It’s also needed for strong teeth.
Raw kale has more calcium than cooked, so adding it to your smoothies is a great way to increase your calcium intake.
3. Boosts Digestive Health
As a source of prebiotics, kale is good for the gut. Prebiotics provide nutrients for beneficial gut bacteria.
This ensures the good bacteria stay healthy while preventing bad bacteria from growing too much.
Kale also contains insoluble fiber, a type of fiber that doesn’t dissolve in water in your gut.
It increases the bulk of stool, making it easier to move through your system. This can help prevent constipation and other digestive issues.
4. Reduces Feelings of Hunger
Smoothies made with kale are more filling and satisfying. It’s due to the high fiber content of the vegetable.
Fiber does this in several ways. First, it stays in the stomach for longer, making you feel more full.
It also triggers the production of certain hormones that tell your brain you’re full. Hormones are chemicals that send signals to different parts of the body.
These effects might be useful if you’re trying to manage weight or control your appetite throughout the day.
5. Fights Oxidative Stress
Kale is known as a superfood thanks to its high content of antioxidants. These are molecules that reduce oxidative stress and keep cells healthy.
By protecting cells, antioxidants reduce the risk of serious conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Examples of antioxidants in kale include carotenoids, glucosinolates, and polyphenols. These nutrients are linked to good health.
The vegetable also has vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, and riboflavin, which are vitamins with antioxidant properties.
6. Manages Inflammation
Inflammation, like oxidative stress, can lead to illness. So it’s important to eat a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods, such as kale.
The leafy green has antioxidants and vitamins that reduce inflammation. One major example is glucosinolates, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables.
Glucosinolates work by stopping chemical reactions that cause inflammation. They also lower inflammatory proteins.
7. Lowers High Cholesterol
High cholesterol can lead to heart disease. However, eating cruciferous vegetables like kale might help lower the risk.
Cruciferous vegetables have fiber, a nutrient that binds to extra cholesterol. When the fiber leaves the body through the stool, it takes the cholesterol with it.
The antioxidants in cruciferous vegetables are also beneficial. They prevent certain types of cholesterol from undergoing a process called oxidation.
If cholesterol is oxidized, it can make your blood vessel narrow and cause heart problems. So it’s important to eat foods high in antioxidants, such as kale.
8. Controls High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another risk factor for heart disease. It happens when blood moves through your blood vessels with too much force.
This can damage the walls of your blood vessels, causing heart problems over time.
Eating kale is a natural way to avoid this. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it contains natural compounds called glucosinolates.
Glucosinolates have been shown to reduce blood pressure, making kale a good food for hypertension.
9. Protects Eye Health
Aging increases the chances of developing eye problems. Examples include cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
These diseases are due to oxidative stress and inflammation. Both processes damage cells in the eyes, resulting in poor sight.
Adding kale to your diet may help, as it contains substances called carotenoids. They’re powerful antioxidants and great for the eyes.
Carotenoids decrease both oxidative stress and inflammation. In fact, a diet high in carotenoids is linked to a lower risk of age-related eye problems.
10. Enhances Brain Function
Oxidative stress and inflammation can damage neurons, or nerve cells. This can cause issues with brain function over time.
Kale has nutrients that protect nerve cells. One example is vitamin A, a nutrient that supports memory and learning.
The vegetable also has carotenoids, which fight oxidative stress and protect the brain.
Another brain-friendly nutrient found in kale is vitamin K. It’s needed for healthy brain function and cognition.
11. Helps Wound Healing
Rich in vitamin C, kale is beneficial for healing wounds. That’s because vitamin C is needed for the production of collagen.
Collagen is the main structural protein in the body. It repairs skin tissue and makes it strong.
Additionally, kale supports normal blood clotting, a process that ensures you don’t bleed too much when you get hurt.
This is due to its high content of vitamin K, which helps the body make proteins that strop bleeding.
12. Promotes Iron Absorption
Iron is a mineral that’s needed for healthy blood. It helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your tissues and organs.
If you’re unable to efficiently absorb iron, your tissues and organs won’t get enough oxygen. You’ll feel tired and exhausted.
However, eating kale can increase iron absorption. It’s high in vitamin C, a nutrient that makes iron easier to absorb.
Vitamin C also works against phytates, or compounds that prevent proper absorption of iron.
Some people experience digestive issues after eating kale. This is caused by the fiber content.
If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber, add kale to your diet slowly.
Pick deep green leaves.
Look for kale with firm, crisp leaves. They should be deep green with no yellow or brown discoloration.
Store kale in the vegetable drawer.
For the best way to store kale, put it in a plastic bag or container. Keep it in the vegetable drawer, where it’s more humid. It will last for about 7 days there.
Refrigerate kale unwashed.
Avoid washing kale before putting it in the refrigerator. Otherwise, the extra moisture will make it go bad faster.
Instead, wait to wash kale just before using it.