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08/24/2020

5 Science-Backed Benefits of Eating Kale

 

Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support overall health and well-being. 


This article lists the top five benefits of eating kale as well as some ways to include it in your diet. 


1. Kale may promote healthy bones


Eating nutrient-dense greens – kale, in particular – has profound benefits to bone health largely due to its calcium and vitamin K content. 


There are many plant foods that contain calcium, however, due to the high oxalate content of many vegetables, calcium absorption is inhibited. 


Oxalates are a natural compound found in plants that bind to calcium in the intestines and therefore reduce its absorption into the body (1). 


Kale has a lower oxalate content, and therefore calcium is more absorbable, which can be distributed throughout the body and help build strong bones (2). 


In addition to kale’s calcium content, its vitamin K content plays a large role in bone health as well. Those who consume high levels of vitamin K are likely to have greater levels of osteocalcin, a protein that helps to improve bone density and reduce fracture risk (3). 

 

2. Kale can help reduce inflammation


Kale is a natural anti-inflammatory, thanks to its antioxidant content, which helps keep systemic inflammation at bay. Studies show that increasing intake of cruciferous vegetables such as kale can reduce the risk of chronic disease as the antioxidants and phytochemicals help to reduce inflammatory markers (4).


Quercetin, one of kale’s main antioxidants, is getting the spotlight lately for its anti-inflammatory benefits and potential ability to fight off bacteria and viruses, keeping the immune system strong. 


Higher intakes of quercetin have been associated with reduced inflammation, and therefore a stronger immune system to fight off pathogens, and reduce the risk for illness and chronic disease (5, 6).


3. Kale contains plant-based iron 

 


Iron transports oxygen throughout the body and acts as a cofactor for many physiological functions. It’s vital for many body processes such as the regulation of body temperature, maintaining adequate energy levels, and supporting a healthy immune system. 


Studies estimate that nearly 60% of the population worldwide is iron deficient, and iron-rich vegetables such as kale can play an important role in a healthy diet to increase iron status (7). 

 

Heme vs. non-heme iron


Dietary iron is found in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. 


Heme iron is found in animal products such as meat, fish, and poultry and is highly absorbable, whereas nonheme iron is found in plant foods such as nuts, seeds, and vegetables, such as kale. 


Kale is a great source of plant-based iron, which is non-heme iron. Although non-heme iron is less absorbable than heme iron, it is still an important part of a healthy diet and contributes to overall iron intake. 


For those who follow a more plant-based diet, consuming adequate iron from plants is quite important. 


To increase absorption from plant-based sources of iron, it’s a good idea to consume foods rich in vitamin C such as bell peppers, oranges and citrus fruits, apples, or strawberries, for example, as vitamin C increases absorption of iron from plants (8).

 

4. Kale can improve digestive health 


Kale is a good source of dietary fiber, specifically, insoluble fiber, which many people are lacking in their diets. Consuming adequate amounts of dietary fiber is crucial to supporting overall health, but specifically digestive health. 


Insoluble fibers do not ferment in the gastrointestinal tract and they promote better digestive motility (9). 


Consuming fiber-rich foods such as kale provides an optimal environment for a wide variety of healthy bacteria to flourish. The more diverse our gut microbiome is, the healthier our digestive system is. 


A healthy microbiome also has significant benefits to other aspects of our health in addition to digestion (9). 


Cruciferous vegetables such as kale also contain special compounds called glucosinolates that gut bacteria thrive off of to increase the population of healthy bacteria and reduce inflammation in the gut (10, 11).  

 

5. Kale may boost immune function


In part because of kale’s high vitamin C content, this leafy green vegetable is an immune system booster. Just one cup of chopped kale contains 80mg of vitamin C, which is a whopping 134% of the recommended daily intake, or RDI (12). 


Vitamin C is critical to immune health, because it is a potent antioxidant, and it kills harmful cells that may otherwise lead to illness. Vitamin C also plays a role in producing white blood cells to help fight off infections (13).


In addition to vitamin C, kale also provides a good source of vitamin A, which boosts the immune system by reducing inflammation and protecting barriers in the body such as the eyes or intestines, for example (14). 


How to eat more kale

 


After reading about the many benefits of kale, you may be wondering how you can easily add more of this healthy vegetable into your diet. Here are some great ways you can integrate kale into your daily routine:

  • Add to soups and stews 
  • Add to stir-frys 
  • Add to scrambled eggs and omelets
  • Make a chopped kale salad
  • Cook with garlic and oil as a side dish
  • Make kale chips
  • Add to smoothies 

 

 


Smoothies are especially convenient, as it’s easy to combine with other nutrient-dense ingredients for a health-boosting meal or snack. 


But kale can sometimes add a strong taste, which is why using something like our super greens powder is a fantastic way to add kale to your smoothie without changing the flavor. 


Naked Greens also provides the added benefit of other superfood greens like broccoli, spinach, and wheatgrass. It’s the perfect superfood supplement to add antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals – either for at home or on-the-go. 

 

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