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Kale Nutrition and Health Benefits
When you mention kale, the majority will look up with raised eyebrows and mumble, "What?" "What's that?" An old, hardly spoken of and powerful green food. Kale is a leafy green vegetable with a mild earthy flavor. The season for kale is between mid-winter and early spring where it can be found in abundance in most produce sections of the local grocery store. However, one can find kale year round. Thankfully, kale is starting to garner well-deserved attention due to its nutrient rich phytochemical content, which provides unparalleled health promoting benefits.
Kale is absolutely rich and abundant in calcium, lutein, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in vitamin C, not to mention the much-needed fiber so lacking in the daily diet of processed food eating Americans. The "Icing on the Kale" are the natural occurring all-important phytochemicals sulforaphane and indoles which research suggests may protect against cancer. Let's not forget the all-important antioxidant vitamin E. Rest assured, kale spares nothing in providing one with much needed nutrients and associated health benefits.
The naturally rich sulfur content of kale deserves a bit more discussion. Science has discovered that sulforaphane helps boost the body's detoxification enzymes, possibly by altering gene expression. This in turn is purported to help clear carcinogenic substances in a timely manner. Sulforaphane is formed when cruciferous vegetables like kale are chopped or chewed. This somehow triggers the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing chemicals, to which we all are exposed on a daily basis. A recent new study in the Journal of Nutrition (2004) demonstrates that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer cell proliferation.
Kale descends from the wild cabbage, which originated in Asia and is thought to have been brought to Europe by the Celts. Kale was an important food item in early European history and a crop staple in ancient Rome. Kale was brought to the USA during the 17th century by English settlers.
A leafy green vegetable starting to gain widespread attention, kale belongs to the Brassica family, a group that also includes cabbage, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. Choose kale with small leaves as they will be tenderer and offer a sweeter taste. Make kale leaves a regular addition to your salads. A sautéed side dish of kale, onions, and garlic drizzled in olive oil is second to none. Enjoy your kale. You'll be glad you did.
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