Veggies and Fruit

A Complete Guide to KALE and Its Benefits

vegetable kale

What is KALE?

Kale aka leaf cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the family of vegetables known as Brassicaceae. The name cruciferous comes from the cross-bearing shapes of flowers. Other members of the vegetable family include cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower that have large, edible leaves and a slightly tougher stem running through the middle.

The leaves are normally dark green in color, but you can also find purple varieties. The leaf edges are either flat or curled. The central leaves of Kale do not form a pronounced head like headed cabbage, which makes it closer to wild cabbage than other members of the Brassica oleracea family.

History

It might come as a surprise to many that Kale was considered as one of the most widely eaten green vegetables around 2000 years ago. It was an important part of Europe’s food supply between the 5th and 15th centuries, during the medieval period and at the time of the Roman Empire.

We also know Kale by the name of “Borecole “. It is believed to have been originated in the eastern Mediterranean & some parts of Asia and was supposed to be used like the whole cabbage-like group of plants.

Cultivation

Kale is grown from seeds in and can germinate in a wide range of temperatures, making it an annual plant. It thrives in the wintertime and is able to survive in as low as 5°F (-15°C). It becomes sweeter following a heavy frost.

Taste & Shape

Kale is a kind of cabbage that is found in various shapes and colors. Kale is usually pale to deep green with large, ruffle-edged leaves and long stems. Depending on the variety, Kale can sometimes be spicy, other times a bit sweet, and usually slightly bitter. In general, Kale offers an earthy flavor with a nutty sweetness that is accentuated when cooked.

Availability

It is available throughout the year with winter being its peak season. It is also among the very few green vegetables that are widely available during the coldest months of the year while still being flavorful.

Types of Kale

The most common types of Kale, which have their own benefits and usage include:

Curly kale

This is the most common type and you can recognize it by its curly or ruffled edges. It is available in different colors namely purple, dark green, and bright green.

Red Kale

Red Kale looks slightly different than curly kale. The main difference is in the appearance as it’s leaves can be deep-red or grayish-green.

Lacinato/Dinosaur Kale

With a deeper color and dark bluish-green leaves, Dinosaur Kale is more tender than curly or red kale, eating it raw is comparatively easy than other types.

Baby Kale

Baby Kale has younger and tender leaves and is a good example for a raw and healthy snack.

Purple Flowering Kale

This kale has a slight bitter taste and narrowly resembles cabbage leaves.

White Flowering Kale

If you prefer a peppery taste in your soups and side dishes, you should consider adding this type of Kale to your menu.

Benefits of Kale

There are many benefits associated with consuming Kale and it can help people with various illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, bone related, digestion, skin and hair, eye health and even cancer.

Cardiovascular

Kale contains nutrients which can prove to be very useful for heart’s health, including potassium and fiber.

The Human Body

Kale can serve as an important vegetable that contains important ingredients beneficial for different parts of the body like skin, hair, nails and eyes. Kale contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants in kale helps prevent aging and some other serious diseases.

Nutrition

The nutritional value can vary according to the type of Kale. Each type offers different nutritional values. Vitamins which are present in Kale in high percentage include Vitamin A, C and K. Vitamin A helps improve skin health and vision.

Vitamin C is considered essential for immune and joint health and metabolism, while is also plays a role in keeping us hydrated. Vitamin K is important for the heart, blot clotting, bones, preventing cancer and keeping a check on diabetes. Kale is also considered to be very beneficial for losing weight.

Pregnancy

Kale is also surprisingly very effective during pregnancy. Even in small quantities it provides a handful of Vitamin A and C, which are very effective in keeping the immune system resilient and strong. As a bonus, it also carries vitamin K in which is vital for making blood vessels strong. Since pregnant women have extended blood flow, these properties of Kale can help them a lot during pregnancy.

Digestion

Being a leafy green vegetable, Kale aids in the process of digestion and elimination.

Liver Health

Kale can be very helpful in natural detoxification process of our body. That’s why experts believe that consuming Kale can help a lot in keeping the liver healthy.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Kale is also considered an anti-inflammatory food. Sulfur-containing phytochemicals in the vegetable (called glucosinolates) help maintain normal inflammatory levels in human body.

Mineral Proportions in Kale

A cup of cooked-kale has around 42 calories (9% carbohydrates), 106 grams of water (84% by weight), and 1.4 grams of fat (1% fat). Other nutritional values include:

  • 7 g fiber (19 % daily value)
  • 5 g protein (14% DV)
  • 3,440 IU (international units) of vitamin A (69 % DV)
  • 21 mg vitamin C (35 % DV)
  • 8 micrograms of vitamin K (617% DV)
  • 177 mg of calcium (18 % DV)
  • 30 mg of magnesium (8 % DV)
  • 170 mg of potassium (4% DV)
  • Vitamin A, C and B6 (20% DV)

Risks Associated with the Use of Kale

Kale is considered to be among the vegetables that are at the highest risk of contamination due to use of pesticides.

As the saying goes, “Excess of everything is bad” there are certain reasons that some people should avoid using Kale in large quantities, including:

Beta-blockers

Physicians usually prescribe this type of medication for cardiovascular diseases because it can raise the level of potassium in the blood. People should eat foods like Kale in moderation and under observation when using beta-blockers.

Kidney disease

Consuming more than usual potassium can be harmful to people who have partially functional kidneys or are suffering from any kidney related disease. Consuming additional potassium could be fatal for people whose kidneys cannot remove excess potassium from the blood.

Blood thinners

Kale has Vitamin K in abundance, which contributes to the clotting of the blood. As a result, it could restrict the function of blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Thyroid problem

People having thyroid issues or on thyroid medication should also be careful about consuming cruciferous vegetables like kale. That’s because of the possible effects they can have on the ability of thyroid to absorb iodine, which is required for production of certain thyroid hormones.

Precautionary note

Anyone who is taking any of the mentioned medications or is affected by a certain disease should speak to their physician about which foods to consume and the ones to avoid. This can help ensure that Kale or similar vegetables don’t become a source of harm for them.

Different Ways of Consuming Kale

There are many ways of consuming Kale, including:

In Raw Form

Crunching the leaves in the hands can break them into smaller pieces, which can make digestion easier. We can Add raw Kale to salads, sandwiches, wraps, or smoothies.

In a Side Dish

Deep-fry fresh garlic along with onions in olive oil until they become soft. Add kale and continue to fry until they get reasonably tender. Alternatively, you can also steam it for 5 minutes, then drain and stir in a dash of soy sauce.

In Chips

Take out the ribs from the kale and toss them in olive oil or lightly spray and sprinkle with a mixture of cumin, curry powder, chili powder, roasted red pepper flakes or garlic powder. Bake at 275°F (135-Degree Celsius) for 15–30 minutes to observe crispness.

Just as Smoothies

Add a handful of kale to any smoothie as required. It will add nutrients without significantly altering the flavor.

General Tips

Here are some handy tips that can be helpful if you plan on consuming Kale or want to increase its effectiveness.

Buying

When buying Kale fro consumption, make sure it has a fresh green color with crisp, moist and non-wilting leaves. Young, small-leaved specimens are more tender, while bigger leaves are well suited for use in soups.

Storage

The longer you keep and store Kale, the bitter and more strongly flavored it becomes. The vegetable should be eaten fresh and not stored in quantity for extended periods of time unless you really like bitter and strong flavor for some reason.

Preparation

Kale should be properly washed in plenty of water to make sure no dirt remains clinging to the leaf inside. You can cook the stems with leaves if they are tender and small. Thicker, but still softer stems can be cut off and cooked for a few minutes before you add the leaves. It’s better to avoid thick and tough stems.

Kale has relatively low moisture content and does not shrink like other green vegetables. That’s why is usually requires a longer cooking time than normal vegetables. Except when very young, kale is not particularly pleasant when undercooked and should be served soft. Steam, simmer or fry gently for several minutes until it is tender, while you can also add a stock for extra flavor.

Conclusion

The vegetable Kale comes with a lot of benefits and is rich in many essential nutrients. However, too much of anything is also bad and it’s strongly recommended to consult your physician, especially if you are suffering from a health condition such as cardiovascular or kidney related illnesses.

It contains a large amount of Vitamin K, which is 3.7 times the recommended DV. Keeping these important things in mind, it’s easy to conclude that you need to strike the right balance and be fully aware of the benefits as well as the risks associated with consuming Kale.

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