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All About Kale: Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits, How to Use It?
Kale is a member of the Brassica family and is often termed a superfood because of its high nutritional value. Kale is a leafy vegetable from the family of cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli which is low in fat and high in fibre. The leaves of kale are mostly dark green, but it’s also available in a variety of colours like purple. The edges of the leaves are either flat or curly and it is usually sold whole or pre-chopped. One of the major advantages of Kale is that it can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.
As a winter vegetable, kale can be an awesome choice in the cold months when other options are less available. Different varieties of this cruciferous superfood provide different tastes and eating experiences. Some may be more pungent, while others may have a fairly mellow flavour. However, if you buy kale after a heavy frost, you may notice a sweeter taste in the vegetable.
Types of Kale
Kale is easily available in farmers’ markets or grocery stores. This leafy vegetable can be classified into the following types as per its appearance.
Curly Kale − This type has bright green ruffled leaves and is the most common type of kale. It may have a pungent, bitter and peppery flavour. You can partially cook this kale and include it in your diet.
Dinosaur Kale − This type has narrow green leaves which may appear wrinkly. The leaves are attached to a thick stem and it is also called Tuscan kale. It has a sweeter taste and a delicate texture as compared to curly kale and is mostly blue-green.
Ornamental Kale − This type can be green, white or purple and may have a more mellow flavour as compared to other types of kale. It may also be commonly known as salad savoy as it goes well with almost any salad.
Baby Kale − This type of kale is readily available and often has smaller and softer leaves. This makes it more palatable for people around the world.
Redbor Kale − This type of kale has ruffled leaves that may vary in colour from deep red to purple.
Russian Kale − It’s one of the less common kale which has flat leaves with a variation in colour from gree n to red to even purple.
This superfood which is packed with vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients has been on the plates since Roman times and has been among the favourites across Europe. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of raw kale (20.6g) offers 7.2 calories, 0.6g of protein, 0.9g of carbohydrates and 0.3g of fat. Moreover, kale is an amazing source of vitamins A, K, and C, along with potassium and calcium. No wonder, kale is often termed as a plant-based source of calcium which is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diet plans.
There is almost no fat in this vegetable and carbohydrates are in the form of fibre. The glycemic load of kale is also 3 which makes it a low-glycemic food. Type 2 diabetics can easily consume kale as it maintains blood sugar levels by offering the necessary nutrients to the body.
Kale is a rich source of vitamins A, B, C and K. Vitamin A maintains a strong immune system and is important for eyes and bones. Folate is a type of vitamin B which is required for brain development and Kale may be a good source of folate. Vitamin C present in Kale aids in the prevention of chronic diseases and cold and vitamin K is good for bone building and blood clotting.
Additionally, minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium and zinc which are present in Kale may help in lowering cholesterol, preventing cancer and weight loss. Kale has far less omega-3 fatty acid as compared to fish but it may be an alternative to getting a healthy fat like alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) in the daily diet. Also, lutein and zeaxanthin are the nutrients which may protect us against cataracts and macular degeneration. These nutrients give deep and dark green colour to Kale and also help us by providing nutrition to our body.
Kale can improve our overall well-being and here are the health benefits that this leafy vegetable offers−
Kale provides very few calories as compared to other salad greens like iceberg lettuce or spinach. The fibre and protein present in Kale may make you feel full and satisfied after eating, provoking greater weight loss. Its high water content may increase urination and help the body flush out excess water. This also helps in weight loss.
Reduces Risk of Cancer
Research has shown that Kale has glucosinolates which are compounds with the ability to manage health conditions like cancer. Thus, this superfood may also have anti-cancer properties which may reduce the risk of the development of certain types of cancer.
Improves Bone Health
Vitamin K is extremely important for bone health and its deficiency may be associated with osteoporosis. Research has proven that kale is a good source of vitamin K which may have a positive effect on the bone health of postmenopausal women along with others.
Cell Repair and Protection
Kale may provide more than 20% of daily Vitamin C in a one-cup serving which is important for boosting immunity, reducing inflammation, slowing the ageing process and repairing cells in our body. Vitamin C gained from kale may also act as an antioxidant to prevent stress and strengthen the immune system.
Retinol which is a type of vitamin A can be gained from kale and may promote healthy cell growth which may prevent dry skin and acne. Vitamins like lutein and zeaxanthin gained from kale may contribute to healthy eye cells and help in lowering the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
A leafy vegetable like kale may provide cardiovascular health benefits and thereby promote better heart health. Manganese is a trace mineral in kale that may decrease insulin resistance and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
How to Use Kale?
Kale can be steamed, boiled, chopped, sautéed and used raw in salads, soups, stews or smoothies. Also, we can try baking the leaves to turn them into crispy kale chips. It can be stored in a plastic bag in a refrigerator and it is advised to wash the leaves in a bowl of cold water before consuming them to clear off the dirt from the leaves.
Make a delicious Kale Pesto Pizza, include it in caesar salads or cook it with little onion or garlic in a splash of olive oil or butter. You can whip up a homemade kale recipe as per your liking.
Kale is a source of vitamin K and thus promotes healthy blood clotting. However, people who take blood thinners should consult with their doctor to decide the right quantity they can safely eat. Furthermore, kale has thiocyanate, and if consumed in large quantities, it may trigger an iodine deficiency and may lead to hypothyroidism. Individuals with pollen-food allergy syndrome may have an allergic reaction to kale, especially if it is consumed raw.
Kale can enhance the flavour and serve as a healthy addition to any meal. You may include this superfood in your daily diet for a healthy lifestyle. However, if you are on any medication or have any particular health condition, always consult your healthcare provider before including kale in your diet plan.
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