Kale, otherwise known as leaf cabbage is a leafy vegetable from the plant species, Brassica Oleracea. Kale has green or purple leaves. Unlike headed cabbage, the central leaves of Kale do not form a head and hence called leaf cabbage. Many varieties of Kale are grown. All the varieties are used for diet. Some varieties of Kale which have red, pink, white, lavender and blue colors are used as ornamental leaves too.
Kale is a vegetable of European origin and subsequently migrated to Canada and U.S. It is now a part of many countries with suitable climatic conditions.
Kale is an annual or biennial plant grown from its seeds during winter season and the plant grows up to 6 to 7 feet in height. Both tender and coarse leaf varieties are grown and it is only the tender variety that is used as vegetable as the coarse variety is not digestible.
Nutrition in Kale
Kale has many culinary uses and it contains many other ingredients beneficial to health. Consumption of 100 gm. kale provides 49 calories of energy, 8.8 gm. carbohydrates, and 2.3 gm. sugar, 3.6 gm. dietary fiber, 0.9 gm. fat and 4.3gm protein.
Kale contains many vitamins. 100 gm of kale provides vitamin K 705 mg (671% RDA),vitamin C 120 mg. (145% RDA), vitamin A 500 mg (63% RDA), folate 141 mg (35% RDA), vitamin B(6),0.27 mg.(21%), pantothenic acid 0.9 mg. (18% RDA), riboflavin 0.13 mg.(11% RDA), thiamine 0.11 mg,(10% RDA), vitamin E 1.54 mg.(10% RDA) and niacin 1 mg (7% RDA). It contains high level of lutein and zeaxanthin at 8198 mg.
In the same quantity of Kale many minerals are also present. These are: manganese 0.66mg (31% RDA), Magnesium 47mg (13%), phosphorous 92mg (13%), calcium 150mg (15%RDA), iron 1.5mg (12%RDA), Potassium 491mg (10%RDA), sodium 38mg (3% RDA) and zinc 0.6mg (6%RDA) with water content as high as 84 gm.
Health benefits of Kale
Kale is a high fiber, low calorie vegetable diet providing many health benefits. The important benefits are below.
Dietary fiber is very important to lower blood sugar levels in both type-1 and type-2 diabetic patients, The 3.6 gm. of fiber available in just 100 gm. of Kale is equal to 17% of RDA for men and 12% RDA for women. Being a low calorie and good fiber substitute diet, Kale improves the lipid profile, insulin levels and maintains blood sugar levels in patients.
The antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid in Kale lowers the glucose level and increases insulin sensitivity in the patients. Alpha lipoic acid also prevents oxidative stress and decreases peripheral and autonomic neuropathy (nerves related problems in general) in diabetics.
Cancer prevention and cure
The inability of the human intestinal tract to absorb chlorophyll is overcome by consumption of Kale. The chlorophyll in Kale prompts absorption of conciogenic heterocyclic amines produced due to consumption of animal based food. By this process of absorption of carcinogens, Kale prevents the risk of cancer. Allyl isothiocynate is a glucocinolate present in Kale which prevents bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate cancers. The antioxidants in Kale removes the cancer causing free radicals from the body and prevents and cures cancer. Lutein, quercetin and kaemphenol in kale have anti-cancer properties.
The very high levels of vitamin K at 705 microgram or 671% of RDA improves calcium absorption in the body and prevents excretion of calcium through urine. Vitamin K in Kale is a modifier of bone matrix protein.
Potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 and dietary fiber in Kale promotes heart health. To prevent cardiovascular problems, reduction in sodium and increase in potassium intake are vital. Kale provides 491 mg of potassium (105%RDA) and only 3%RDA of Sodium. Moreover increased intake of potassium and reduced intake of sodium enhances bone density and prevents formation of kidney stones. Potassium also reduces blood pressure essential to combat cardiovascular problems. Steamed Kale has the potential to enhance functioning of the bile acid which lowers cholesterol levels thereby preventing heart diseases.
The significant amount of fiber in Kale improves digestive power. High fiber coupled with high water content in Kale improves the functioning of the digestive tract and prevents constipation.
Kale contains 120 mg of vitamin C which is 145% of RDA. This is a very important water soluble anti-oxidant needed to synthesize collagen in the body. A cup of Kale provides more vitamin C than an orange and 4.5 times of vitamin C in spinach.
Beta-carotene in Kale enhances eye sight. Lutein and zeaxanthin available in large quantities in Kale are very important carotenoid anti-oxidants which lower the risk of macular degeneration and formation of cataract in elders.
Hair and Skin care
Beta-carotene in Kale changes into vitamin A which helps the growth of body tissues including skin and hair. Vitamin A is important to maintain the immune system and eye sight. Moreover, it produces sebum, an oil which keep the skin and hair moisturized and glow. In addition iron in Kale restricts hair fall.
How to use Kale
Kale is like any regular leafy vegetable and you can consume it raw or after cooking. Steam cooking is better. You can also use it in soups and salads. Both culinary and ornamental uses are common depending on the color of leaves.
Over consumption of Kale leads to bloating and formation of gas. As vitamin K in Kale has blood clotting property people on blood thinner medicines must avoid consuming Kale as a matter of precaution.