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All-Star of the Day: Kale

Posted Sep 12 2008 11:50am
Kale is a dark green curly-leaf vegetable related to cabbage and collard greens that is growing in popularity and quickly becoming “the new spinach.”

One cup of cooked kale adds 36 calories to our day and provides 3 grams of fiber, 354% of our daily vitamin A needs, 89% of the vitamin C we need, 27% of our manganese requirement, and a showstopping 1,328 percent Vitamin K! It also has high amounts of lutein, a powerful antioxidant crucial in the maintenance of ocular health.

Vitamin K is crucial in helping form blood clots. Although we often talk about the blood-thinning effects of Omega-3 fats, it is just as important to consume nutrients with blood-clotting properties. If you were to only have blood-thinning nutrients, you could potentially bleed to death from a papercut.

There's more to it than blood clots, though. Vitamin K deficiencies are not only linked higher incidences of gingivitis and nosebleeds, but also osteoporosis and bone fractures. Although calcium receives all the “good for your bones” press, don’t forget its partners in crime!

One of kale’s main drawing points is its sulfur-containing phytochemicals. What’s the big deal? Recent research suggests they help trigger detoxifying enzymes in our liver that stop cancer-causing substances in their tracks before they start damaging cells.

The phytonutrients in cruciferous vegetables such as kale appear to be super antioxidants. Case in point? A study at the FredHutchsinonCancerResearchCenter concluded that men eating 28 servings of vegetables a week lowered the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. Superb!

However, those who only had THREE servings of cruciferous vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, mustard greens, and watercress) a week lowered it by 44 percent!

One reason why kale is such a nutrition champion is because it has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any vegetable.

An April 2007 study by the National Cancer Institute, which tracked 183,000 participants in California and Hawaii, found that those eating vegetables with high antioxidant capacity, such as kale, lowered their risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.

Kale is one of the more bitter greens, but don’t let that dissuade you from making it a must-have vegetable in your household. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is to sautee it with some extra virgin olive oil, sweet onions, and garlic.

If you have an enlarged thyroid, I don’t recommend making kale a staple in your diet since it contains goitrogen, which can aggravate your condition.

Otherwise, go green and have a blast!

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