Kale is a leafy green vegetable with a lot of versatility and a strong nutritional composition full of vitamins A, C, and K, fiber and antioxidants. Kale belongs to the cabbage family, along with Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables. You can identify kale it by its green or purple curly leaves.
Kale has been used since before the Middle Ages throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa, but it took much longer for it to be made popular in U.S. diet. Today, most of the kale grown in the U.S. comes from farms in California farms, Georgia, New Jersey, and Texas.
Keep reading to learn how adding kale to your diet can benefit your health, and how to go about consuming it regularly.
May Reduce Macular Degeneration Risk
Kale is a natural source of a natural plant compound called carotenoids. One carotenoids, called lutein, may help protect the eyes from developing a condition called macular degeneration. Having macular degeneration means you lose vision in the center of your field of vision.
Some data shows that the concentrations of lutein in plasma and the macular pigment increased significantly after consuming kale extract every day for four weeks.1 Other data shows higher plasma lutein was associated with a 37% reduced risk of macular degeneration. Therefore, adding kale to your diet can have a positive impact in your eye health, reducing the risk of a condition such as macular degeneration.2
May Support Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one killer of both male and female adults in the U.S3 Including kale in your diet may protect the health of your heart, especially if it is included in an overall heart-healthy diet.
One study evaluated how supplementing with kale juice affected the risk of coronary artery disease among 32 men with high cholesterol. The participants consumed 150 milliliters (mL) of kale juice per day for a 12-week intervention period.
The researchers of the study concluded that supplementing with kale juice regularly could have a positive impact on blood cholesterol levels.4 Some evidence suggests the intake of a compound naturally found in kale, called sulforaphane, may have effects that can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.5
May Reduce The Risk Of Certain Cancers
The risk of developing cancer can be impacted by many factors, including some that are completely out of your control, like genetic predispositions. While eating kale won’t necessarily be the magic bullet to living a cancer-free life, adding it your diet may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. However, more studies are needed to confirm this.
That said, some studies have that that the sulforaphane compound found in kale may have inhibitory effects on breast cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, and other malignant tumors.6 So, while stronger data is needed to confirm this link, the evidence suggesting that kale may protect against certain cancers is promising.
May Support Bone Health
When it comes to nutrients that support your bone health, calcium tends to be the most popular and well-known. While it's true that calcium can have an important role in promoting good bone health, it isn’t the only nutrient that has an impact on the strength of your bones.
Like most leafy greens, kale is a great source of vitamin K, which has an important role in bone health. Some data suggests that vitamin K deficiency has been associated with a higher risk of bone fractures.7 One cup of cooked kale provides 493 micrograms (mcg), far more than the recommended "adequate intake" for this nutrient for healthy adults.8
May Support Gut Health
Having a healthy and balanced gut microbiota means that your gut is home to a diverse range of microorganisms working together in harmony to support your health in various ways. Kale may help support a healthy and balanced gut microbiota.
The high proportion of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as certain plant compounds, found in kale may positively affect the balance and quantity of the live bacteria found in your gut (probiotics). One study using mice showed that, among those who were obese and didn’t have a healthy and balanced gut microbiome, those which consumed kale showed positive effects on its gut microbiome.9 That said, additional studies on humans are needed to draw conclusive statements.