Ingredient Spotlight: Kale

Kale is a member of the brassica family of vegetables. They are not only packed with health-boosting vitamins and minerals but are full of anti-carcinogenic phytonutrients, mostly in the form of the organo-sulphur compounds that give them their slightly bitter taste.


Kale’s sulphurophane, for example, interferes directly with tumour growth, as well as stimulating the body’s own defences against disease to create an antioxidant effect that lasts long after the kale has been eaten. Recent research has found that sulphurophane can disrupt the growth of breast cancer cells, even at the later stages, while an epidemiological study from China found that women who eat more brassicas, such as kale, have significantly reduced risks of breast cancer.


Kale has the highest levels of the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. Along with vitamin A and its beta-carotene precursor (which the body converts to vitamin A), good dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin are vital for eye health. They are thought to act as filters in the eye, protecting against damaging ultraviolet light, and also as antioxidants that quench similarly damaging free radicals.


Epidemiological studies suggest that an increased consumption of the latter two nutrients is associated with a reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration, while another important study found that people who had the highest dietary intake of lutein-zeaxanthin had half the risk of cataracts as those with the lowest. Diets rich in carotenoids are also linked to lower rates of heart disease, while lutein protects against colon cancer.


Just 100g of kale provides 769mcg of vitamin A – that’s 110% of a man’s and 128% of a woman’s RDA – and very high levels of beta-carotene, which in the diet are linked to a reduced risk for heart disease. Kale can protect your heart in other ways, too: there are 120mcg of vitamin C per 100g of kale, providing an incredible 300% of your RDA. Apart from playing an important role in immunity and a healthy nervous system, this antioxidant vitamin is known to protect ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol from the oxidative damage by free radicals that can lead to cardiovascular disease. Kale is also high in fibre (2g/100g – 11% of RDA), and fibre-rich diets have been shown to lower the risks of heart disease by up to 12% and potassium (447mg/100g – 13% of RDA), which can help to lower blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of strokes.


Epidemiological studies suggest that diets rich in vitamin-C foods such as kale may protect against inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. These greens also supply you with lots of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which can also protect against arthritis and rheumatism, as well as reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.



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