Observe National Kale Day with this power-packed superfood.
There’s a reason kale is often called a “superfood.” The leafy green is a veritable powerhouse of nutrients! Whether you’ve jumped on the kale bandwagon or not, there are compelling health reasons to include more of it on your plate. Here are seven of the many health benefits of kale:
- Great source of healthy plant-based protein
- Improves digestion
- Protects against diabetes
- Contains powerful antioxidants
- Boosts heart health
- Builds strong bones
- Gives you healthy skin and hair
Continue reading to learn more about these health benefits of kale, plus how to cook kale and a few recipes to try in honor of National Kale Day.
1. Great source of plant-based protein
When you hear the word “protein,” vegetables might not immediately come to mind – but many are high in healthy plant proteins. While green peas and spinach are a couple of great sources, kale holds its own with about 3 grams of protein per cup. Considering that’s only 33 calories – and about a third of them come from protein – kale can deliver loads of healthy protein that serves as an essential building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
2. Improves digestion
Fiber is another macronutrient that is well-represented in kale. Dietary fiber is essential for healthy digestion, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight control, and more. Though many vegetables are a great source of fiber, kale will give you about 2 grams per cup, which is a third of its overall carbohydrate content. Depending on your age and gender, you should be aiming for 21-39 grams of fiber per day.
Check out more health benefits of fiber.
3. Protects against diabetes
Upping your intake of kale and other high fiber foods can also help regulate blood sugar that can lower your risk for developing diabetes. Kale also has a secret ingredient called alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), which can increase insulin sensitivity. When you’re more sensitive to insulin, your body will only need to produce small amounts to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Conversely, you’ll need to produce larger quantities if you’re not sensitive to insulin, which can increase your risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes.
4. Contains powerful antioxidants & compounds
Another one of the health benefits of kale is its abundance of several powerful micronutrient compounds. Two of them are quercetin and kaempferol, flavonoids that have anti-viral, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects, in addition to improving brain and heart health. There’s also an anti-cancer phytochemical called sulforaphane, and vision-protecting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, among others.
5. Boosts heart health
Kale supports heart health primarily thanks to its fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Potassium, in particular, has been shown to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease when consumed in high enough quantities.
Get more tips to protect your heart – and ears – here.
6. Builds strong bones
“Got kale?” It might surprise you, but kale has more calcium per calorie than milk. The leafy green is also one of the best sources you can find of vitamin K, another bone-health necessity based on studies that associate vitamin K intake with higher bone density.
Check out more easy ways to boost bone strength here.
7. Gives you healthy skin and hair
Kale is high in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A and vitamin C. Both vitamins are great for skin and hair. Now that’s a veggie with health benefits that are good for you inside and out.
Kale recipes and how to cook kale
So, how do you get more of this miracle food into your diet? Fortunately, you have plenty of options thanks to all the deliciously healthy kale recipes out there.
Here are a few mouthwatering ways to cook kale:
Blend fresh or frozen kale in a smoothie, along with other fruits and veggies, almond milk, protein powder, or your other favorite fixings. Here are kale smoothie recipes to get you started!
If you like the taste and texture of raw kale, mix it into your favorite salads. Here are some salad ideas to inspire you.
Perfect for fall and winter, you can include kale in just about any soup you can think of. Try this two-bean soup with kale or a sausage and kale soup.
- Kale chips
You can’t beat this one for simplicity! The basic recipe is just baking kale with olive oil and salt until it’s crispy and delicious. But you can always experiment with other seasonings too, like garlic or soy sauce. See 15 other kale chip flavor ideas here.
With so many health benefits of kale, look for ways to fit this versatile vegetable into many types of recipes, from pasta dishes to stir-fries. This power-packed superfood may just become one of your new produce staples!
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