The pros and cons of kale

Jane Murphy / 27 June 2016 ( 19 April 2021 )

It's been labelled a superfood and has rarely been out of the health headlines over recent years, but does kale really deserve its glowing reputation?



Is kale really a superfood?

Most dietitians and nutrition experts dislike the term superfood but kale certainly has a lot going for it. 

A member of the cabbage family, kale has dark green curled leaves and a fairly bitter taste – so may not be everyone's obvious first-choice vegetable. However, there are countless reasons to add it to your shopping trolley.

What are the health benefits of kale?

Kale is rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. It contains more iron than the equivalent weight of steak and more bone-building calcium than milk. It's also a great source of anti-inflammatory vitamins A, C and K in just one serving

Kale is also rich in sulphur compounds, which are thought to be the reason that kale and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts are linked with a lower risk of certain cancer.

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A few recent studies that have highlighted more of kale's benefits. Adding more green leafy vegetables, such as kale, to your diet is linked with a lower level of cognitive decline according to some studies. The reason? Kale (and other green leafy veg) are packed with vitamin K (phylloquinone), and biologically active plant chemicals including lutein, β-carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol, and α-tocopherol (vitamin E).

Studies also reveal a lower glaucoma risk in women who consumed fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A and carotenes, such as kale (as well a spring greens, carrots, and peaches)

Even ducks love it! In fact, we should be feeding them nutrient-rich kale instead of breadcrumbs, the Canal & Rivers Trust advises.

So is kale a super-healthy choice for everyone?

Actually, there is an exceptions – which is down to that high vitamin K content. Because vitamin K encourages the blood to clot, people who are taking anticoagulant medication to thin the blood are generally advised to steer clear of kale and other green, leafy vegetables.

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You may also have heard that kale is best avoided by anyone who suffers from hypothyroidism. However there's no sound scientific evidence to support this.

Can you eat kale raw?

Kale can be difficult to digest when eaten raw, which may occasionally lead to bloating and stomach upsets. There's also that bitter taste to contend with, of course.

The solution? Try lightly steaming it, and to enhance phytonutrient content, sprinkle lemon juice over chopped kale and allow it to sit for five minutes before steaming.

How to cook kale

Alternatives to kale

Yes, there are plenty! Kale is a member of the wider cruciferous family, which also includes cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and pak choy, as well as spring greens and other cabbages, all of which have similar health benefits.

Don't like any of these veggies? Kale can also be taken in powder form, or as part of a supergreens capsule, available from health food stores and pharmacies nationwide. But it's always a good idea to check with your GP before taking any supplements.

Try one of these low-cost superfoods or find out about home-grown superfoods

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