As a self-taught foodie and avid runner, I’ve always been a huge advocate for eating healthy and staying active, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be writing this post about one of our favorite superfoods, kale.
I mean, come on, it’s even in our brand name, Trail & Kale – that’s how much respect we have for its health benefits.
Today, I want to share with you some amazing health benefits of kale, a cruciferous vegetable that’s packed with nutrients and has gained quite a reputation as a superfood.
Let’s dive into the world of kale and discover how it can positively impact our overall health and well-being.
8 health benefits of kale
1. Rich in antioxidants
Kale is one of those leafy greens that is packed with antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Similar to other cruciferous vegetables, like another favorite of ours, spinach, because kale is so well-known for being oxidant-rich, it is great for maintaining eye health, as these antioxidants can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
2. Supports heart health
Kale contains nutrients that promote heart health, including fiber, potassium, and vitamin K. By incorporating kale into your diet, you can support a healthy heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
3. Boosts digestion and gut health
The fiber in kale aids in digestion and supports gut health, so consuming kale regularly can help maintain regular bowel movements and promote a healthy gut environment.
4. Helps with weight management
Kale is low in calories and high in nutrients, making it an excellent addition to any weight management plan.
The fiber content in kale can also help you feel fuller for longer, reducing the temptation to overeat.
5. Strengthens the immune system
With its high vitamin C content, kale can help strengthen your immune system and support overall health.
A strong immune system is essential for warding off infections and keeping you healthy.
6. Promotes healthy skin and hair
The vitamins and minerals present in kale, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron, are essential for healthy skin and hair.
Incorporating kale into your diet can help maintain a radiant complexion and strong, lustrous hair.
7. Supports bone health
Kale is a great source of calcium and vitamin K, which are important nutrients for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis.
8. Aids in detoxification
Kale contains compounds that support liver health and aid in the body’s natural detoxification processes.
By eating kale, you can help your body eliminate toxins and maintain optimal health.
Types of kale: a guide to the different varieties
Kale comes in several varieties, each with its unique characteristics and flavors. By exploring the different types of kale, you can find the perfect variety for your taste buds and culinary adventures.
Here’s a guide to some popular kale varieties:
This is the most common type of kale found in grocery stores.
It has a bright green color and ruffled, curly leaves with a slightly bitter and peppery taste. Curly kale is excellent for making kale chips, adding to salads, and using in soups or stews.
Dinosaur Kale (also known as Lacinato or Tuscan kale)
This variety features dark blue-green leaves with a slightly wrinkled texture.
Dinosaur kale has a more delicate taste compared to curly kale and is less bitter. It’s perfect for making pesto, sautéing, and adding to pasta dishes.
Red Russian Kale
This kale variety has flat, fringed leaves that are green with reddish-purple veins.
Red Russian kale has a mild and slightly sweet flavor, making it a great addition to salads or smoothies.
This vibrant kale variety has deep reddish-purple, curly leaves that add a pop of color to any dish.
Redbor kale has a similar taste to curly kale and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Baby kale is simply a younger version of the other kale varieties. It has smaller, more tender leaves and a milder flavor.
Baby kale is perfect for salads or adding to sandwiches, as it doesn’t require any additional cooking or preparation.
This variety is known for its large, flat leaves that are green with a hint of blue.
Siberian kale has a mild, sweet taste and tender texture, making it ideal for salads, smoothies, and juicing.
When choosing which type to use in your recipes, consider the flavor profile and texture you prefer.
You can even mix and match different varieties to create a unique and flavorful dish. No matter which variety of kale you choose, you’ll enjoy the numerous health benefits and delicious taste this leafy green has to offer.
Kale raw or cooked: which provides the most nutritional benefits?
Both raw and cooked kale offer health benefits, but the cooking method can affect the availability of certain nutrients.
For example, cooking kale can increase the bioavailability of some nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
However, raw kale may retain more vitamin C since this nutrient can be sensitive to heat.
Ultimately, the best way to enjoy kale is to mix it up – eat it raw in salads or smoothies and cook it in dishes like stir-fries and soups.
Kale nutrition facts: a closer look
Kale is a powerhouse of nutrients. Here’s a breakdown of the nutritional information for 100g of raw kale:
- Calories: 50
- Carbohydrates: 9 g
- Fiber: 3.6 g, 14% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 4.3 g
- Fat: 0.7 g
- Vitamin A: 15376 IU, 308% DV
- Vitamin C: 120 mg, 200% DV
- Vitamin K: 817 mcg, 1021% DV
- Folate (Vitamin B9): 141 mcg, 35% DV
- Calcium: 150 mg, 15% DV
- Iron: 1.5 mg, 8% DV
- Magnesium: 47 mg, 12% DV
- Potassium: 491 mg, 14% DV
One cup of raw kale contains an impressive amount of protein for a leafy green vegetable.
Because of its antioxidant properties, it’s the ideal plant-based whole food to blend in a smoothie with water and berries (such as blueberries) after a workout or run, in order to aid in faster recovery.
Getting the right nutrition into your body after intensive workouts is crucial, especially if you’re an endurance runner training for a challenging race such as a half marathon, marathon or ultramarathon – recovery is a crucial part of your training plan to get right!
How to add kale to your diet
With its incredible nutritional profile and versatility in the kitchen, it’s easy to include kale in your daily meals. Here are some simple ways to incorporate this nutritious leafy green into your diet:
- Add kale to your morning smoothie with other superfoods such as blueberries, for an extra boost of nutrients.
- Toss fresh kale into salads for added texture and flavor.
- Sauté kale with garlic and olive oil for a simple, flavorful side dish.
- Stir kale into soups, stews, and curries for added nutrition and color.
- Make kale chips for a healthy, crunchy snack – one of my personal favorites!
- Add kale to omelets, frittatas, or quiches for a nutrient-dense breakfast.
Delicious kale recipes to try today
- Kale, avocado, and pomegranate salad: A colorful and delicious salad combining tender kale, creamy avocado, and juicy pomegranate seeds, all tossed with a tangy citrus dressing.
- Creamy kale and potato soup: A comforting and hearty soup featuring kale, potatoes, and a touch of cream, perfect for a cozy dinner on a chilly night.
- Kale and black bean tacos: Stuff soft corn tortillas with sautéed kale and black beans, then top with avocado, salsa, and a squeeze of lime for a tasty and nutritious twist on taco night.
- Stuffed portobello mushrooms with kale and goat cheese: Fill large portobello mushroom caps with a mixture of sautéed kale, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes, then bake until tender and golden.
- Sesame-ginger kale stir-fry: Quickly stir-fry kale with garlic, ginger, and a splash of soy sauce and sesame oil for an Asian-inspired side dish that pairs well with rice or noodles.
- Kale and roasted vegetable quinoa bowl: Toss roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and onions with cooked quinoa and massaged kale, then drizzle with a lemon-tahini dressing for a nutrient-dense and satisfying meal.
- Kale and caramelized onion pizza: Top your favorite pizza crust with a layer of caramelized onions, sautéed kale, and crumbled feta or goat cheese, then bake until bubbly and golden, ideally in a pizza oven such as the Ooni Karu or Solo Stove pizza oven, for that stone-baked taste!
- Garlicky kale and white bean stew: Simmer kale with cannellini beans, garlic, and diced tomatoes in a flavorful broth for a warming and nourishing stew that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner.
By trying out these innovative ways to incorporate kale into your diet and experimenting with the delicious recipes provided, you’ll not only enjoy its great taste but also reap the numerous health benefits it offers.
How to select and store kale leaves
When selecting kale, look for leaves that are firm, deeply colored, and free from blemishes.
Smaller leaves tend to be more tender and have a milder flavor.
Store kale in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, ideally with a damp paper towel to maintain freshness. It’s best to consume kale within a week of purchase.
Side effects of eating too much kale
While kale is packed with nutrients, consuming excessive amounts can lead to some side effects, particularly for those taking blood thinners, as vitamin K in kale can interfere with the medication.
Additionally, some people may experience digestive discomfort if they suddenly increase their kale intake, so it’s best to gradually introduce more kale into your diet.
Can dogs eat kale?
In small amounts, kale can be a healthy treat for dogs, as it contains many of the same health benefits for them as it does for humans.
However, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian before introducing new foods into your dog’s diet.
In conclusion, kale is a versatile, nutrient-dense leafy green that offers numerous health benefits. By incorporating kale into your meals and exploring different recipes, you can enjoy its delicious taste while reaping the rewards of its incredible nutritional profile.
So, go ahead and add some kale to your diet – your body will thank you!