Kale, kale, bo bell, banana nana fo fell, fee fi fo fell – kaaallee. This leafy green can make some mouths drool and others afraid to come to the dinner table. Obviously, for Becky and I, it is the former (ya know, since we named our blog after it and all). It is not just the taste that gets us so excited to eat kale, it is also all the nutrients packed in it. This post is only going to go over the basic nutritional benefits of kale, but believe me, there are so much more than what is listed here. For starters, just one cup of kale contains enough vitamin K, A and C for the entire day. JUST ONE CUP (gasp).
But what do all of these vitamins do for you and why is kale so important? Great questions! We covered antioxidants in some of our previous posts, but I can’t stress how important they are for daily intake. Every day our body undergoes stress and this stress creates free radicals. Whenever I picture free radicals in my head I see little hooligans with California surfer dude accents, beating up my cells while saying “radical dude”. Vitamin C and Vitamin A are both powerful antioxidants that have the power to fight against those California hooligans, so eating kale regularly can help keep you from getting sick, prevent cancer, and keep you looking and feeling young. Vitamin K is an important fat-soluble vitamin that helps with blood clotting. I’m sure you are wondering why blood clotting would be a good thing, and yes many times we want to avoid clots within our cardiovascular system, but the fact is our body still needs to be able to make clots when necessary. All those tiny knicks from shaving or bruises you get from running into the end of the bed in the middle of the night require Vitamin K to heal up nicely.
Something that I learned more recently is that kale contains a tiny bit of fat. In general, vegetables have pretty minimal fat contents, so I never would have imagined that it could be another one of kale’s amazing health benefits. The reason why the fat content in kale is so special is the ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s. A western diet typically contains an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 15:1 to 16.7:1, but the recommended ratio is 1:1. Kale has the exact ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s recommended to achieve ultimate health and keeping a balanced ratio can help fight inflammation, which is suspected to be the main cause of the majority of diseases. Kale is also a great source of fiber, a key component in keeping your bowels regular and your heart healthy!
Cooking kale can be tricky and I think that is why many people don’t find it enjoyable. One of the most common complaints I hear is how long it takes to eat kale because of its hard to chew center, but the easy fix to this is removing the center before using kale in recipes. Experimenting with new vegetables can be tons of fun, so try to include it in several different recipes until you find what you like. I love to include kale in almost every soup I make and I also love to chop it up really fine and include it in salads. Check out our recipe page for tasty kale recipes and share some of your favorite recipes in the comments!
As a dietitian, I find it aggravating that breakfast is considered the “most important meal of the day”, #everymealisimportant. Why do I find it aggravating? Mainly due to the fact that in America breakfast is another excuse to eat dessert – pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls, frosted flakes, French toast, and pastries/doughnuts! Breakfast could be one of the most important meals of the day if it actually contains ingredients that are nutritious. A grrrrreat, and important breakfast, would include these 5 ingredients!
- Lean Protein – Proteins are the main building blocks of the body! Protein helps build muscles, hormones, neurotransmitters, skin, etc. – without protein, life would not be possible. Proteins must be broken down into amino acids to be digested though. This process requires more energy and time than digestion of carbs and fats, which results in a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time. So, not only do you burn more calories eating it, but you also eat less over time! It gets even better though (*gasp). Since protein slows down digestion, it has the ability to prevent sugar highs and low – and as Trinh Le, MPH, RD points out, a lot of bad diet decisions can be made on a sugar low. Choose lean proteins, like those listed below, to limit intake of saturated fat.
- Whole Egg
- Turkey Sausage
- Yogurt/Low-fat milk
- Healthy Fats- Healthy Fats provide a great source of Omega-3 Fatty acids which have numerous health benefits for your body including reduced inflammation, decreased depression/anxiety, improved risk factors associated with heart disease and many more! Fat also helps with satiety, helping you to feel more satisfied. And let’s face it, fat makes everything taste better. If food doesn’t taste good then we aren’t eating it! Healthy fats can come from foods included in the list below.
- Nuts/ Nut Butters
- Olive Oil
- Whole Egg
- Flax/Chia Seeds
- Fiber – Fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut. When the good bacteria are fed and functioning at optimal levels this leads to reduced inflammation, improved status of GI disorders like IBS and Crohn’s, and an increased production of nutrients in the body. Foods that have fiber in them tend to be lower on the glycemic index, which helps those nasty hunger “highs and lows”. So, take care of your gut and it will take care of you! Sources of dietary fiber are listed below.
- Whole Grains
- B Vitamins – The eight B vitamins — B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 — aid the processes in which the body makes and uses energy. So, basically they help convert all those healthy proteins, fats, and carbs eaten during breakfast into energy. It’s simple, without B Vitamins, it is more difficult to be energized, regardless of how much coffee you drink with breakfast!
- Fortified Grains
- Antioxidants – Our bodies naturally produce toxins throughout the day. These toxins can damage cells and lead to heart disease, cancer, hearing loss, and even aging but antioxidants can help prevent these side effects. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals (aka toxins) by donating an electron and making them stable. The foods below are rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Flavonoids, etc.
- Citrus Fruits