By Ian Santos; First Year Project Manager
Looking back on your childhood, I’m sure you’ll remember at one time, or multiple times, when your parents told you that it’s important to eat your vegetables. Today, it seems like the media, dieticians, and yes, our parents again, are telling us that it is important to have those foods known as “superfoods” in our diet. I can tell you though that they are right. These superfoods have amazing health benefits that can help people live healthy lives and prevent the development of chronic diseases. The main superfood that I will be focusing on today is the wonderful, green superfood known as kale. I’ll explain some of the benefits of kale, give a first-hand account of an athlete who implements kale in his diet, and finally provide you with a recipe that implements the use of kale.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable from the Brassicaceae family, or in other words, the cruciferous vegetable family, which include broccoli, arugula, and brussels sprouts. It almost reminds you of very crunchy lettuce leaves. Kale is highly nutritious containing important vitamins, minerals, and brain-boosting phytonutrients. Specifically, vitamins A, C, and K can be found in kale.
Health Benefits and Quick Facts of Kale
Besides the plethora of nutrients that kale provides, it is also packed with phytonutrients such as glucosinolates and flavonoids as well. Not to mention that it is an antioxidant superstar. Why is that good? Well with these properties, kale has been found to help fight cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and promote urinary tract health. According to healthwithfood.org, kale is one of the vegetables with the highest ORAC rating. ORAC, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, measures a food’s antioxidant ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species. Thus, kale could contribute to the prevention of cancer and stop free radicals involved with exacerbating certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Research presented in the Biomedical Reports Journal even found that consuming kale lowered postprandial plasma glucose levels and could help patients with diabetes.
In terms of urinary health, kale is listed as one of the best foods to ward off urinary tract infections. Due to its high vitamin A content, it also keeps the lining of the urinary tract healthy. You can read the full benefits of kale in the articles linked in the references section. Next are just some quick facts about maximizing the health benefits of kale:
- Kale has an ORAC rating of 1,770. The ORAC rating of a food gives an indication of the food’s antioxidant capacity. For the sake of comparison, raw spinach has an ORAC rating of 1,515, cauliflower has an ORAC of 839 and celery has an ORAC of 497.
- Young leaves of this green leafy vegetable can be eaten raw, for example in salads.
- An easy recipe to transform kale into a healthy warm dish: Sauté kale in a pan and mix it with chopped onions, crushed garlic and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- When kale is cooked, it loses a significant proportion of its vitamin C and polyphenol content. However, cooking does not have a significant impact on the beta-carotene content of kale.
Hunter Pence Loves Kale
If you know me, then you know I am an avid baseball fan. I had heard of kale before, but I never really got into it, but I vividly remember hearing a story about kale while watching a Giants game. The commentators were talking about how Hunter Pence, right fielder for the San Francisco Giants, implemented kale, daily, into smoothies and salads. Pence is famous for his athleticism and longevity on the field as he has been one of the few players in baseball history to play more than 300 consecutive games.
Pence is known to regularly keep kale and olive oil in his fridge. Maybe it was the power of kale that helps him play all those consecutive games? Needless to say, once I heard that Hunter Pence ate kale, I started eating kale. With all the antioxidants that kale possess, it could be a great addition to an athlete’s diet to help them recover after a game. From that point, I began eating kale. Maybe not as much as Hunter Pence, but every chance I got, I would have kale. Many times, in college, I would make salmon burgers and use kale instead of lettuce to get that nice crunch. Kale is very easy to prepare and inexpensive at the supermarket. I try to get it as much as I can and can vouch for its health benefits.
Below is a recipe for a great kale smoothie. With the hot summer coming up, this may be a great and nutritious way to keep you cool and healthy. Give this one a try, especially if you like pineapples.
- 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened)
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 1 cup kale (chopped, packed)
- ½ cup fresh pineapple (diced)
- 1 banana
- Combine all ingredients together.
- Blend until smooth.
I hope that through this article you were able to get some insight on the benefits of kale. It is my hope that many of you will go out and try kale after this. Personally, I think kale is great and I have seen its benefits. I know that many students want to live a healthier lifestyle, especially with all the sitting we do with studying. Adding kale to a smoothie, for example, would be a great start to eating healthy. By doing this, your older self will thank you later. Good luck!