What Are the Health Benefits of Kale?

The benefits of kale have been enthusiastically promoted of recent years but it has only been in the past year or so that I have seen this old-fashioned vegetable in markets and shops in tropical Australia.

The Cairns wider region includes the Atherton Tablelands, an extremely fertile area, an hour’s drive up the mountains, where the climate is markedly cooler. So cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and kale, which are usually grown in winter across southern Australia, also thrive in this small, high altitude, pocket of the tropics.

Kale Nutrition

Dark green, curly kaleA bunch of kale

Benefits of kale mostly relate to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Quite high in protein and complex carbohydrates it also contains: 

Vitamins : K, A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and E.
Minerals :  Calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper sodium and zinc.

Sulforaphane, a compound released when kale or broccoli is eaten, is thought to be helpful for those suffering from arthritis and some forms of cancer.

Touted as a miracle superfood, kale is so rich in vitamins, complex carbohydrates, protein, minerals, such as magnesium, and other beneficial elements, that it is a serious contender for assisting many conditions, such as elevated cholesterol levels, osteoporosis and glaucoma, in addition to those noted above.

What is kale?

I expect that you know all about it, but because it seemed to have vanished from common usage until recently, here are some general facts about it.

Kale is of the same family as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. It has quite large, dark green, or even purplish/black, often frilly, leaves and is thought to be a descendant of wild cabbage. Unlike cabbage, kale does not form a dense ‘heart’, its separate leaves radiating out from central roots. When grown as a ‘micro green’ kale is usually a lighter green and more tender to eat that its mature counterparts, so is often used in salads.

Benefits of kale - what is kale good for?

curly kale at marketsBunches of curly kale at tropical market

Because it is so nutritionally dense this ‘super-green’ can be used with any healthy eating plan. As mentioned, it helps in the prevention of eye conditions such as glaucoma, is thought to assist with cancer prevention and cure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis – my guess is that the benefits of kale extend to almost everyone - include it on your ‘healthy food list’!

A word of caution: unless you know that the kale that you buy is organically grown, wash thoroughly before use to remove pesticides.

How to eat kale

Kale is great, rinsed thoroughly then cut finely and steamed as a green vegetable with meats or used in soups and salads or quickly cooked in stir-fries or added to frittatas, pasta or egg dishes such as breakfast omelets. It can also be dehydrated into ‘crisps’, with the addition of salt and other spices.

Select only fresh, un-wilted leaves that have not yellowed then store in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. A bunch will last you a few days – depending, of course, on the size of your family!

For a real nutritional boost add kale to your smoothies, along with fresh or frozen pineapple chunks, apples or strawberries.

How to grow kale

Preferably organically! It grows in winter and is a great crop for your back garden or even in pots on your balcony. As with all food crops its nutritional values will reflect the richness of soils in which it is grown. 

I have read recently about a perennial version of the annual type of kale, so shall try growing it next winter and let you know how it lives up to its reputation for being highly suited to the tropics.

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