As I often say to my husband, if I run out of kale for my green smoothie again, I’m going to “kale” myself. Terrible puns aside, the popularity of kale is undeniable: Kale is America’s favorite new superfood.
I may be a kale-eating monster with permanently green-stained teeth, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
Dr. Drew Ramsey — psychiatrist, farmer, author of 50 Shades of Kale and the enthusiast behind National Kale Day on October 1 — explains the appeal of this all-star green, “The number one reason to eat more kale is because of how versatile it is in the kitchen. You can use it in smoothies, salads, kale chips and a lot more. Kale is also easy on the planet. It grows everywhere, so eating more kale can be a great way to get more plants into your diet and support your local farming community.”
I consulted a few more health and nutrition experts to drum up the hard facts about why you need this leafy green on your plate, like yesterday.
1. All-in-one superfood
Popping a daily multivitamin is such a chore, amirite? While the importance of a daily multi can’t be underestimated, kale can play a supporting role as a well-rounded superfood in your diet. Donovan Green, celebrity fitness trainer and author of No Excuses Fitness, tells SheKnows, “Kale comes from the cabbage family, which also includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collard greens. Kale is a superfood and is packed with vitamins A, C and K and minerals.”
2. Beautiful skin
Barbara Komorek, former research scientist and founder of Lean Healthy and Wise, explains why kale can be a thing of beauty, “Kale is a lot higher in vitamin C than many other vegetables, and it contains 4.5 times as much as spinach. The high vitamin C content of kale will help you with collagen production. Collagen is the most abundant structural protein, so you need a lot of vitamin C to have beautiful, firm skin.”
3. Better vision
Vision loss is a far worse side effect of aging than getting your first wrinkle. The California Optometric Association has a simple solution to prevent waning eyesight that could compromise quality of life: Load up on the kale. “Kale may help protect your eye health and vision. Kale is a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin — important nutrients found in green leafy vegetables. Many studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.”
4. Cancer protection
Komorek cheekily calls kale the “Queen of Greens,” saying: “The chlorophyll content of most plants, especially kale, has been studied and observed to be effective in blocking carcinogenic chemicals that are produced in grilled foods and meals cooked at a high temperature. This is why it is advisable to pair charred meats with kale to ‘neutralize’ the molecules produced in food through grilling.”
5. Healthy hair
Megan Ware, R.D.N., L.D., owner of Nutrition Awareness, nutrition coach and counselor, says, “Want healthier looking hair? Eat more kale! Kale is high in vitamin A, a nutrient required for sebum production to keep hair moisturized. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.”
6. Longer life
Here’s another top reason to feel pious every time you put kale on your plate: You just might live longer, according to Ware. She explains, “Eating kale is beneficial for maintaining healthy skin, hair and strong bones, as well as helping with digestion, lowering the risk for heart disease and improving blood glucose control in diabetics.” Troyleesha Brooks, NASM-certified personal trainer, adds, “Kale contains the omega-3 acid alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) that reduces type 2 diabetes, boosts the heart and is essential for brain health.”
7. Smoother digestion
Leigh Tracy, dietitian at the Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, considers digestive support to be one of the prime benefits of eating kale. “Kale is full of iron, potassium, calcium and antioxidants and is a good source of fiber to help regulate bowel function. Try it in a soup, salad or smoothie! Roast it, steam it or sauté it! There are many ways to enjoy this delicious vegetable that not only taste good, but are good for you.”
8. Stronger bones
Tiffany Malone, founder and editor of Fitty Fattys, says, “Good news, vegans and those who are lactose intolerant! Kale has more calcium than cow’s milk. However, be aware, when kale is cooked, the calcium content drops significantly. So if you’re eating kale for its calcium benefit (which aids in healthy teeth, bones and hair), the best way to go is raw.” J.C. Niala, osteopath and naturopath, confirms, “Kale has better quality and higher availability of calcium than milk.”
9. Weight loss results
With its high nutrient and low calorie content, kale is a must if you want to get lean fast. René Ficek, registered dietitian and lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, says, “One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat.” Green endorses kale as part of an overall fitness program to regulate appetite and provide stamina for a tough workout, “Kale can give you an increase of energy because of the nutrients and vitamins it contains. Kale also has a very high dose of fiber, which helps manage blood sugar and makes you feel full.”