Eating kale and other cruciferous vegetables two to three times a week or, even better, four to five times a week, is an easy way to significantly boost your health. Just one cup of kale will flood your body with disease-fighting vitamins K, A, and C, along with respectable amounts of manganese, copper, B vitamins, fiber, calcium, and potassium.
With each serving of kale, you’ll also find more than 45 unique flavonoids, which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. In terms of green leafy vegetables, you really can’t go wrong… but kale is definitely worthy of its reputation as “king of veggies.”
And here’s a secret: kale’s flavor gets sweeter after it’s been exposed to a frost, making winter the ideal time to eat it (and it is in season starting mid-winter). When the temperatures drop you might not feel like eating a raw kale salad, but what about a bowl of warm kale soup?
The recipe that follows, from the George Mateljan Foundation, will not only warm you up and boost your nutrition, it’ll give you a nice energy boost, too.
Super Energy Kale Soup
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 5 cups chicken or bone broth
- 1 medium carrot, diced into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 red potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 cups kale, rinsed, stems removed and chopped very fine
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp dried sage
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop garlic and onions and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out their health benefits.
- Heat 1 TBS broth in a medium soup pot.
- Sauté onion in broth over medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring frequently.
- Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.
- Add broth, carrots, and celery and bring to a boil on high heat.
- Once it comes to a boil reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 more minutes.
- Add kale and rest of ingredients and cook another 5 minutes. If you want to simmer for a longer time for extra flavor and richness, you may need to add a little more broth.
Kale May Fight at Least Five Types of Cancer
Like other cruciferous vegetables, kale is a good source of cancer-fighting sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. To date, kale has been found to lower the risk of at least five types of cancer, including bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate.
The glucosinolates in kale and other cruciferous vegetables break down into products that help protect DNA from damage. As noted by the George Mateljan Foundation:
“Kale’s special mix of cancer-preventing glucosinolates has been the hottest area of research on this cruciferous vegetable.
Kale is an especially rich source of glucosinolates, and once kale is eaten and digested, these glucosinolates can be converted by the body into cancer preventive compounds. Some of this conversion process can also take place in the food itself, prior to consumption.”
While some research suggests raw kale is best for cancer prevention, other studies suggest lightly cooked is best, in part because it improves kale’s ability to bind with bile acids in your digestive tract.
This makes the bile acids easier for your body to excrete, which not only has a beneficial impact on your cholesterol levels, but also on your risk of cancer (bile acids have been associated with an increased risk of cancer). According to one study inNutrition Research:
“Steam cooking significantly improved the in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage compared with previously observed bile acid binding values for these vegetables raw (uncooked).
Inclusion of steam-cooked collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage in our daily diet as health-promoting vegetables should be emphasized.
These green/leafy vegetables, when consumed regularly after steam cooking, would lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, advance human nutrition research, and improve public health.”
Eat Kale to Support Natural Detoxification
Foods that support both Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification are key to supporting your body’s daily removal of harmful substances from your body. Phase 1 detoxification is when toxins are broken down into smaller particles, while during your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, the broken down toxins are shuttled out of your system.
If you eat foods that support Phase 1, but not Phase 2, the broken-down toxins may begin to accumulate in your body. But the isothiocyanates (ITCs) in kale help to promote both Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification. The George Mateljan Foundation explained:7
“In addition, the unusually large numbers of sulfur compounds in kale have been shown to help support aspects of Phase II detoxification that require the presence of sulfur.
By supporting both aspects of our cellular detox process (Phase I and Phase II), nutrients in kale can give our body an “edge up” in dealing with toxic exposure, whether from our environment or from our food.”
Kale Earns Its Reputation as a Superfood
Kale is one vegetable that lives up to its nutritional hype. It’s loaded with both lutein and zeaxanthin at over 26 mg combined, per serving, for starters. Of all the carotenoids, only zeaxanthin and lutein are found in your retina, which has the highest concentration of fatty acids of any tissue in your body.
This is because your retina is a highly light- and oxygen-rich environment, and it needs a large supply of free radical scavengers to prevent oxidative damage there.
It is theorized that your body concentrates zeaxanthin and lutein in your retina to perform this duty, and consuming these antioxidants may help to ward off eye problems like age-related macular degeneration.
And as far as calcium is concerned, one cup of kale will give you 90 milligrams in a highly bioavailable form. One calcium bioavailability study found that calcium from kale was 25% better absorbed than calcium from milk. What else do you gain when you eat kale?
- Anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent arthritis, heart disease and autoimmune diseases
- Plant-based omega-3 fats for building cell membranes, protecting against heart disease and stroke, and regulating blood clotting
- An impressive number of beneficial flavonoids, including 32 phenolic compounds and three hydroxycinnamic acids to help support healthy cholesterol levels and scavenge free radicals
Choose Organic Kale When You Can
When choosing kale, look for firm, fresh deeply colored leaves with hardy stems. Avoid leaves that are brown or yellow or that contain holes. Kale with smaller leaves tends to be more tender and milder than larger-leaved kale. Choose organic varieties (or grow your own), as kale is frequently sprayed with pesticides, and particularly toxic pesticides at that. One study by the Environmental Working Group detected 51 pesticides on kale, including several they described as “highly toxic.” For best results, store kale in your refrigerator (unwashed) in a plastic storage bag. Remove as much air as you can. Ideally, eat kale as soon as you can, because the longer it sits the more bitter the flavor becomes.