10 Reasons Why Kale Is Still King

Medically reviewed by Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C on May 30, 2017Written by Michelle Klug

Overview

Kale Protein

Kale earned its reputation as the hottest health-food trend around. This leafy green veggie packs an arsenal of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and even a little protein.

On top of its outstanding health benefits, it’s uber-versatile. You can enjoy it blended into a smoothie, simply sauteed, processed into a tasty pesto, or just raw. Kale is also usually available year-round, and it’s inexpensive too.

However you slice it, here’s why you should feel good about eating more kale.

1. Vitamins and minerals and antioxidants — oh my!

True to its reputation, kale is packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

A kale serving of 100 grams — about a cup and a half — has twice the Food and Drug Administration’s daily recommendation for vitamin C, and double the recommendation for beta carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A.

And that’s not all: Kale also contain other nutrients such as riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin E. It’s also low in calories — just 49 in that 100 grams — as well as low in fat.

MicronutrientAmount in 100 grams of kale Percent of the FDA’s Daily Value
Vitamin K705 ug881 percent
Vitamin C120 mg200 percent
Vitamin A (beta carotene)9990 iu200 percent
Folate141 ug35 percent
Vitamin B-60.271 mg16 percent
Calcium150 mg15 percent
Potassium491 mg14 percent
Magnesium47 mg12 percent
Phosphorus92 mg9 percent
Iron1.47 mg8 percent
MacronutrientAmount in 100 grams of kale
Fiber3.6 g
Protein4.28 g
Carbohydrates8.75 g
Total fat0.93 g

Takeaway: The word on the street is right — kale packs a wallop of many important nutrients.

kale growing

2. Vital vitamin K

Of all the nutrients in kale, one stands out: vitamin K.

Vitamin K helps your blood to clot, which prevents excessive bleeding. Without it, a small cut could turn into a life-threatening wound. Vitamin K also helps your body use calcium to build healthy bones.

The vitamin K in kale is notable because of the sheer volume of it. With nearly nine times your recommended daily amount, kale has you covered for vitamin K.

Note to people taking a blood thinner such as warfarin: By helping your blood to clot, vitamin K works in the exact opposite way that your medication does. Before you add more kale to your diet, talk to your doctor about how much vitamin K is safe for you to consume.

Takeaway: Spinach, collard greens, and other leafy greens are contenders in the vitamin K game, but kale is the true winner for this essential vitamin.

3. Fiber-licious

Kale is a good source of insoluble fiber, which helps to keep your digestive tract healthy and helps to relieve constipation.

In addition, a high-fiber diet decreases your risk of heart disease.

Fiber also helps keep your blood sugar levels balanced. As a result, it can help in the prevention and management of diabetes. As an added bonus, kale also contains magnesium, which some studies have found to help manage diabetes.

Takeaway: Kale provides your diet with a healthy dose of fiber, which can benefit your heart and your blood sugar levels, as well as your regularity.

sautéed kale.

4. Great source of iron

Kale and other leafy greens contain iron, which is an important mineral that helps your red blood cells carry oxygen to your cells.

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition that affects almost 5 million Americans. Women are more likely than men to be anemic. Vegetarians, vegans, and those who don’t eat a lot of red meat need to be mindful about getting enough iron in their diet.

An added bonus of kale is its high content of vitamin C. This vitamin helps increase the amount of iron your body absorbs from plant-based sources of iron.

Takeaway: Adding kale to your diet can up your iron intake and help you avoid anemia.

5. Super disease fighter

Cruciferous veggies such as kale are being researched by the National Cancer Institute as possible cancer fighters.

Kale contains high levels of glucosinolates, which are naturally occurring components found in pungent or bitter veggies. When they’re digested, glucosinolates are broken down into compounds such as isothiocyanates and indole.

Research studies in animals have found isothiocyanates to help prevent some types of cancer, including lung and esophageal cancer. In addition, another study found indole to limit abnormal cell growth in the cervix.

Takeaway: While kale can’t be considered a cancer killer just yet, preliminary studies have shown promising correlations.

kale smoothie

6. Curb those calories

If you’re a kale junkie, there should be no shame in your game, as this veggie is low in both calories and fat.

A 100 gram-serving of raw kale contains 49 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.

Paired with lean protein and whole grains, chopped or cooked kale is a great addition to any weight-loss plan.

Takeaway: Kale is low in both calories and fat, which means you can munch it to your heart’s — and your hips’ — content.

7. A-plus antioxidant source

Antioxidants are a healthy buzzword, but what exactly are they? In short, they’re substances that may help prevent cell damage and lower a person’s risk of certain diseases.

Kale contains a bounty of antioxidants, including quercetin and kaempferol. Studies have found these antioxidants to have anti-inflammatory and antiviral qualities.

Quercetin has also been linked with decreased blood pressure in people and depression effects in animals, but more studies are needed.

Takeaway: Kale can help you reap the health rewards of a daily dose of antioxidants.

kale leaves

8. All eyes on kale

We see you, carrots, but there’s another veggie in town that’s easy on the eyes.

The antioxidants contained in kale include lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies show that these nutrients may help prevent eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Takeaway: Its abundance of key antioxidants that can boost eye health make kale a truly visionary vegetable.

9. Oh baby

Kale is a great source of folate, which is part of the B-vitamin family. Folate helps your body form red blood cells and DNA.

Folate is especially important for women during pregnancy because it supports infant brain development and may prevent birth defects. This means pregnant women need an extra dose of folate.

Takeaway: If you’re lucky enough to have kale as one of your pregnancy cravings, feel free to indulge. It’s high levels of folate are good for both you and baby.

10. Protein on the side

A 100-gram serving of kale contains 4.28 grams of protein, which doesn’t come close to the FDA’s daily recommendation for protein, which is 50 grams.

Clearly, kale won’t quite cut it in meeting your daily protein needs. However, when you consider all the other nutrients in kale, it’s easy to look at this pop of protein as an extra bonus.

Takeaway: Kale has nearly twice as much protein as spinach, so if you’re looking for a healthy leafy green, protein content may tip the scales in favor of kale.

kale salad

To sum it up

It may seem like you’re reading about a new superfood every day, but some things stay the same. Kale is a tasty and versatile veggie that’s one of the most nutrient-rich foods you’ll find.

If you’re reconvinced of kale’s nutritional superpowers and hankering for a healthy kale recipe, check out these outside-the-box ways to eat kale. Your body — including your taste buds — will thank you!

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