What is kale good for?

What is kale good for? Just about everything from athlete's foot to alopecia. I am being facetious of course, but this very diverse crucifer is particularly nutritious.

It should be on the table in every home, regardless of the fact that it has little outstanding flavour.

Broad leafed kale.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 3rd May, 2020.

Curly leaf kale.
Dinosaur kale

There are many different varieties and researchers have found that there is considerable variation in their content; what they have in common is about 50 different phytochemicals called flavonoids.

One in particular called glucoraphanin is highly praised for its ability to prevent malignant cells from proliferating.

So our recommendation is a blend of these different varieties. We have at least four, and small variants in our garden; a broad-leafed quite tall plant, the curly kale and another known as the dinosaur.

Looking at these varieties in the garden, you would think they are quite different vegetables, but they are all kale; good stuff.

So what is kale good for?

Top of the list is a substance called lutein; in fact it is the richest source of this very important carotenoid. Along with another called zeaxanthin, they are found in very high concentrations in the retina of the eye where they give protection against high frequency light that damages the rods and cones. A deficiency of them is the chief cause of age onset blindness; a condition called macular degeneration.

Two million Americans are blind because of AMD, and many more are partially sighted. What is of great concern is that the prevalence is growing rapidly; from 2000 to 2010 it grew by 18% and by 2050 is expected to affect five million people; all needlessly have lost their vision.

What is kale good for? It will stop you going blind.

Moreover, researchers have found that those eating just half a cup of kale per week have a lower chance of getting cataracts. It is for these reasons that we enjoy kale almost every day.

Lightly steamed is best, but raw kale in a salad is also excellent.

What is kale good for?

What is kale good for is a good question because it is nearly tasteless; so why should we eat it? For this reason most folk shun it, but we have found some ways to dicky it up and making it most palatable.

But even so, just because of its lutein content, I would eat it even if tasted horrid; needlessly going blind is not something that appeals to me.

The second good reason to eat kale, whether you dislike its lack of taste or not, is its glucoraphanin content; it is complex biochemistry that is only for the boffins, but in case you are interested it is converted to a powerful anti-malignancy compound called sulforaphane.

It inhibits a nasty antibiotic resistant bug called Helicobacter pylori that causes stomach ulcers and tumours too.

Think too of kefir benefits for an unhappy stomach; it is a natural probiotic that is very easy to keep in your own kitchen; it cured my own resistant to medication Heliobacter infection, and dreadful epigastric pain in a week, but that is only an anecdote.

The third good reason to eat kale regularly is that research shows that the fibre binds with bile acids in the colon and thus reduces cholesterol levels in the blood. That fibre also acts as a prebiotic, passing undigested through the small intestine, giving it bulk but then reaching the greedy billions of beneficial bugs in the colon which turn it into vital short chain fatty acids.

Moreover some compound in the juice of the kale further reduces the low density cholesterol whilst raising the friendly HDL.

It also reduces certain markers associated with cardiovascular disease.


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The fourth good reason is that kale is high in fibre and is a natural way of preventing constipation, and all the ills associated with that nasty condition.

In short, what is kale good for? A heap of things, and I am sure there are many other yet unproven reasons why we should be eating this vegetable several times a week; as I said we eat it daily in our eggs Hilton, a crib on that great recipe from Florence.

For example, it has folate that is so important in preventing inflammation in the body, and birth defects. And it is particularly rich in the vitamins A, C and K; they are in fact found in most dark green leafy vegetables.

A fifth reason is that in midsummer many other greens like spinach and spinach are wilting or going mouldy. Kale gives us a fresh vegetable from the garden all year round. Frankly it is pretty ghastly from the greengrocer, if you can get it at all; it so easy to grow, continuing to yield for several years.

We call this bush everlasting kale; we reckon this one single plant has supplied us with  over two thousand rand's worth of greens, not that they all survive indefinitely.

How to cook kale

How to cook kale is a question we have faced because to be honest it is a rather dull vegetable; we eat it not because it tastes like a treat but because it is so important in preventing disease and promoting health; research suggests it is best lightly steamed.

Fry a little of any one of the onion family is some butter. Toss in a slither of any pepper; we like the jalapeno and peppadew, and a clove of chopped garlic.

Often we would drop in a few green legumes. That might be string beans, limas or even favas; peas too when they are in season, are delicious when fresh from the garden. Finely slice the kale, drop it in the pot, add a couple tablespoons of water and steam it with the lid on for a few minutes; do not let it burn.

You could then drop an egg on it and turn into a sort of eggs Florentine, normally reserved for spinach. On a slice of toast it is great for breakfast.

Here are a few more thoughts and recipes for cooking kale.

Lima beans in a pot for another source of the lutein in kale.

Now add your finely sliced kale to the lima beans; it is good.

Let your food be your medicine was Hippocrates' advice.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Organic Food Green
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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa