Kale is one of the oldest members of the cabbage family, and it is believed to have originated in Eastern Mediterranean or Asia minor and brought to the US in the 17th century by English settlers. Today, kale is a very popular vegetable in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, where it is commonly stir-fried with beef.
This dark green vegetable is available year round but it grows best in the winter or early spring as the cold temperatures help to make the leaves sweeter.
There are three common types of kale: curly kale, dinosaur kale, and ornamental kale. Curly kale tends to have a stronger flavor and bumpy texture than ornamental kale. While dinosaur kale tends to be sweet in taste and blue-green in color.
Kale can be eaten either as cooked vegetable or raw as salad, but since the leaves are generally tough and bitter, kale is often cooked to reduce the bitterness and tenderize the leaves. In the Southern United States, kale is often served braised, either alone or mixed with other greens, such as collard, mustard, or turnip.
Apart from being a popular ingredient in global cuisine, kale is also considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable that is packed with powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. In fact, one cup of raw kale contains approximately 200% of Vitamin A, 130% of Vitamin C and a whopping 680% of Vitamin K.
It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, as well as many minerals, including folate, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Health Benefits of Kale
1. Prevent Cancer
All cruciferous vegetables, including kale, contain phytochemicals which known to have anti-cancer properties. Epidemiological studies suggest that eating cruciferous vegetables can help prevent some forms of cancer, particularly colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and ovarian cancer.
2. Anti-aging Properties
Eating kale regularly has been shown to have incredible anti-aging effects by increasing the elasticity of your skin.
3. Anti-inflammatory Properties
kale is considered to be strongly anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory is important to have in your diet as it can protect your body from chronic inflammation, which can result in chronic joint pain, stiffness and arthritis.
4. Lowers Cholesterol
The high fiber content in kale helps to lower high cholesterol levels, and thus may helps in preventing atherosclerosis. It is estimated that one cup of kale provides approximately 10.4% of the daily fiber requirement.
5. Prevent Cataract
Kale contains tons of beta-carotene and lutein which can ward off blindness and cataracts caused by UV rays.
6. Weight Loss
Kale is also low in calorie. One cup of kale has only 36 calories and zero grams of fat, making it a great addition to your diet when you’re trying to lose weight. Add kale to your soup or salads to get the best nutritional value.
7. Detox the Body
Kale contains sulfur, which is needed in the detox process. This helps eliminate free radicals and toxins like uric acid from the body.
8. Strengthen Bone and Teeth
Kale is a great source of calcium, manganese, and magnesium which can help keep your bones and teeth strong.
9. Enhance Immune System
Since kale is rich in vitamin C, it can helps enhance your body’s immune system.
10. Prevent Anemia
Due to its high amount of iron, kale is also good for preventing anemia, particularly iron deficiency anemia.
When choosing kale, look for smaller-size leaves since these will be more tender and have a milder flavor than those with larger leaves. To get the full benefits of kale, consider eating raw kale as this will minimize the nutrient loss. For raw kale, rinse the kale and remove the stems. Slice the leaves into strips and add into salads or used as an ingredient in a soup.