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Going Green with Kale - Medically Speaking, Volume One, Number Twelve, 6/12/14

5 years ago the general population would not be able to identify kale. Today the leafy green is used for much more than decorating salad bars to make them look pretty. Kale (along with spinach) has seen an increase in popularity over the last few years. There are now pins telling you how to make your own kale chips, and recipes for "green smoothies" are all over the internet.

Kale is a leafy green vegetable that is loaded with antioxidant Vitamins A, C, and K, and it is a good source of essential minerals like copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. A cup of this vegetable, which can be found in the produce department, is only about 40 calories. Kale also contains fiber and carotenoids, and flavonoids, a whopping 45 of them. Each flavonoid has their own health benefits, most with anti-cancer properties.

Kale has the broadest range of antioxidants and highest levels of Vitamin k and a type of Vitamin E that seems to be heart healthy. Although genetics play a role, it has been shown to lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of certain kind of cancers. The fiber in kale helps bind cholesterol in the body and excrete it, which improves heart health. All of those antioxidants and flavonoids give your body fighting power against various cancers. In fact, one study suggests that kale extract may inhibit the production of existing colon cancer cells.

There are a few things to be aware of with Kale. Because of its high Vitamin K levels, it can be a problem for people taking blood thinners and other medications because it promotes clotting. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about increasing the Kale in your diet if you take any of these medications of have had issues with blood clots, heart attacks, or strokes in the past.

Kale also contains oxalates. These are commonly one of the main component to kidney stones. Eating a diet high in oxalates may increase your risk of developing kidney stones and some gallstones. The best way to combat this is to drink plenty of water, about 3 liters per day.

Raw kale can also cause bloating, gas and other abdominal issues. It also contains a compound that can suppress thyroid function in certain people. You may want to consider eating the uncooked version of this vegetable only 1-2 times per week if you have these problems. Although you can eat as much of the cooked veggie as you like.

Kale is a great food to add into your diet. Despite the concerns listed above, it has extreme health benefits for most of the population. If you are dying to see what all of the hype is about, try this cool green smoothie on a hot summer day.

Kale Smoothie with Pineapple and Banana

Serves 2, Calories 253

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups stemmed and chopped kale or spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pineapple (about 1/4 medium pineapple)
  • 1 ripe banana, chopped

Directions

  1. Combine the coconut milk, ½ cup water, the kale, pineapple, and banana in a blender and puree until smooth, about 1 minute, adding more water to reach the desired consistency.

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