What's up with kale these days? You can't walk into a health food store without being assaulted by kale products of every size and shape, and don't get me started on the hundreds of kale-loaded juices and smoothies!
Perhaps it's the fact that kale is the healthiest of the already uber-healthy dark leafy greens. Kale belongs to the same category of veggies as spinach, chard, and collard greens, all of which are packed with nutrients. But supposedly kale is the healthiest of all the dark greens. It's certainly not the tastiest, so why the heck should I be adding it to my juices and smoothies?
Here are a few of the reasons that you should be loading up on kale juice:
It's Rich in Vitamins
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- Vitamin A -- A single serving (one cup) of raw kale contains over 200% of the Vitamin A you need on a daily basis. Vitamin A plays a vital role in the health of your skin, nails, hair, and teeth, but it's most important for your eye health. The vitamin reduces macular degeneration or the breakdown of the cells in your eyes. Essentially, it promotes good vision, particularly in dim/low light environments. Night vision, anyone?
- Vitamin C -- In that same cup of kale, you get 134% of the Vitamin C you need every day. Vitamin C is necessary for a healthy immune system, fat burning, healthy skin, and so much more. It's one of the most potent antioxidants, and it will ensure that your body is working well.
- Vitamin K -- That one serving of kale is going to deliver almost 700% the amount of Vitamin K you need every day. Vitamin K plays a vital role in your circulation and blood clotting, preventing excessive bleeding from your injuries. By getting more Vitamin K, your body can respond to trauma more efficiently.
- Vitamin B6 -- A cup of kale packs 9% of your daily Vitamin B6 requirements. Also known as pyridoxine, Vitamin B6 helps your body to produce myelin, the protein that protects your body's cells. It also regulates the production of serotonin, the "feel-good" chemical that controls your mood and emotions, as well as your sleep.
All pretty good reasons to start adding kale juice to your diet, right? All of these vegetables are SUPER important, so I guess it's worth suffering the "iffy" taste of kale juice just to get them.
It's Heart Smart
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Your heart is so much more than just the organ that pumps your blood! Well, I guess not really. Its only function is to pump blood, but this pumping action is what keeps you alive. Why's that?
Simple: oxygen and nutrients, the two things your body can't live without! Oxygen keeps all of the cells alive and working properly, and they need nutrients to do their various tasks. Without these two things, you die. Pretty straightforward.
It's easy to see why you'd want to keep your heart working well. After all, it's keeping you alive, a state of being you no doubt want to continue enjoying for many, many more years to come. To that end, you may want to consider feeding your heart (via your stomach) more kale.
How does kale help your heart?
- Quercetin, an antioxidant in kale (see below), helps to protect your body from high levels of stress, reduce your blood pressure, and lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. It can also help to promote healthy blood flow and reduce the oxidation of cholesterol that weakens the walls of your arteries.
- Bile Acid Sequestrants can help to control your cholesterol levels, particularly the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol that clings to the walls of your arteries, hardens, and reduces blood flow. Kale is rich in these bile acid sequestrants, making it one of the heartiest-smartest foods around!
- Vitamin K helps to promote clotting, preventing excessive bleeding in cases of injuries or trauma. Vitamin K basically activates the proteins in your blood, enabling them to bind with calcium and forming a clot.
- Fiber, something that kale contains A LOT of, helps to eliminate dietary cholesterol from the digestive tract. The fiber binds with the cholesterol molecules, making them too big to be absorbed into your body (via the villi in your intestines). When the cholesterol can't be absorbed, it's sent along down the pipes and out the waste disposal exit (heh heh, your butt!). It stops your body from absorbing too much cholesterol from the food you eat.
To have a healthier heart, eat more veggies. Or, in this case, drink them! Kale juice is a heart-smart food you'll definitely want to add to your diet.
It's a Weight Loss Food
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Obesity is a problem that a startlingly high number of people in the world struggle with! In 2014, close to 2 BILLION adults were overweight, with 600 million of them passing into the "obese" category. More than 1/3rd of all the adults in the world are overweight, and obesity death rates in countries like the U.S., Canada, the UK, and Australia have grown way out of proportion.
Losing weight (the healthy way--not just dropping pounds, but getting rid of body fat) is the key to a long and happy life. Not only will weight loss help to reduce your risk of diseases and disorders (think diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart attack, and the list goes on), but it will also prevent your body from wearing out before its time. The less weight there is on your joints, muscles, and bones to support, the better!
Of course, weight loss is NEVER easy. Your body is designed to store fat, not burn it. It's incredibly easy to gain weight; all you have to do is eat a lot for a few months. To lose weight. However, you have to push your body hard, limit your calorie intake, balance your macronutrients, and the list goes on.
Adding kale juice to your day may just be the "helping hand" your diet needs!
Kale, like all veggies, is an amazing source of dietary fiber. You get both soluble and insoluble fiber in every bite of kale.
Insoluble fiber works like steel wool to scrub your digestive tract, getting rid of any waste clinging to the walls of your intestines.
Soluble fiber binds with the fat, sugar, cholesterol, and antioxidants in your intestines, preventing them from being absorbed.
Soluble fiber, in particular, is a highly diet-friendly nutrient. It soaks up a lot of liquid, expanding in your stomach. This causes you to feel full for longer, preventing you from snacking between meals or cheating on your diet. High-fiber foods are the best for weight loss, which is why leafy greens (all veggies, really) are an important part of any weight loss diet.
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The Big C. A pretty scary word, "cancer". One of the most difficult of diseases to beat, and it's often a losing battle. Totally one of the diseases you want to PREVENT rather than just have to treat!
One of the reasons kale has become so popular in recent years is because it's supposed to help reduce your risk of cancer. How does it do that?
- Vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidants around, and multiple studies and meta-analyses have found that it has powerful anti-cancer benefits. It works with Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and other nutrients to scavenge free radicals, reduce inflammation, and generally block the heck out of carcinogens.
- Quercetin (see below) is another awesome antioxidant in kale, one that can ALSO help to protect your body against cancer. The flavonoid can reduce your risk of prostate, lung, breast, and stomach cancer, as it protects your cells, scavenges free radicals, and promotes the cellular death of cancer cells.
- Kaempferol (also see below) is a flavonoid contained in kale, one that can reduce your risk of developing cancers thanks to its antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-cancer benefits.
- Sulforaphane is another substance contained in kale that may help to protect your body against cancer. It has chemoprotective properties that will prevent the cellular death of your body's healthy cells, and may kill off cancerous cells before they can spread.
Definitely, a good reason to add more kale to your juices!
It's an Amazing Source of Minerals
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Minerals aren't the "glamor nutrients" like vitamins and antioxidants. They don't help to fight cancer or give you gorgeous skin. They're like the "support staff" in your body, quietly going about their business and doing what needs to be done. They are no less important but are often neglected and underappreciated.
Don't let that be you! Drink more kale juice, and get more of these important minerals:
- Calcium -- Calcium keeps your bones and teeth healthy, reduces your risk of osteoporosis as you grow older, promotes fat burning and helps your blood to clot. Each serving of kale contains 9% of the calcium you need every day. Toss back a couple of kale juices, and you're well on your way to healthy bones!
- Magnesium -- Magnesium does a lot of important things: aids in digestion, prevents constipation, regulates calcium, balances electrolytes, calms your mind, increases energy, and even reduces your risk of migraine headaches. Kale contains 6% of your magnesium RDA in every serving!
- Copper -- Few people realize just how important copper really is! It plays a central role in your metabolic processes, and it works with certain proteins to produce the enzymes your body needs to function. It also helps with the production of skin pigment, collagen, and elastin, and helps keep your joints and connective tissue healthy. Kale packs 10% of your daily copper needs in every serving.
- Potassium -- Potassium is the mineral that helps to regulate your body's internal fluid balance, counteracts the effects of sodium, reduces your risk of heart disease, enhances muscular strength, and so much more. In every serving of kale, you get 9% of your daily potassium needs.
It's a mineral feast!
It's an Antioxidant Powerhouse
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The word "antioxidant" is often spoken in the same hushed tone of reverence as "alchemist" was in the Middle Ages. Most people don't understand what antioxidants or do, and thus, end up misunderstanding the purpose of these vital nutrients.
Antioxidants are, simply put, molecules that prevent other molecules from oxidation, or breakdown. Oxidation is a normal part of life, but it can cause the formation of "free radicals", uncharged molecules with only electrons. All antioxidants do is provide the missing atom to prevent the decay of those free radicals. NOT magic!
Antioxidants ARE very important for a healthy body. Kale contains two very important antioxidants (aside from Vitamin A and Vitamin C):
Kaempferol -- Hard to spell but easy to pronounce, Kaempferol is a natural flavonoid found in not just kale, but in many dark leafy greens. The benefits of this antioxidant include:
- Inhibiting cancer cell growth
- Preserving normal cell viability
- Augmenting your body's normal defense against free radicals
- Reducing cellular death (apoptosis)
- Decreasing inflammation
- Protecting your cells from cancer
Pretty awesome little antioxidant, right? Definitely one of the best reasons to add more kale to your diet--or your juices, in this case.
Quercetin -- Quercetin is another awesome antioxidant contained in kale, along with a number of grains and fruits. The benefits of quercetin include:
- Supporting normal respiratory function
- Inhibiting the release of histamines (triggered by allergies)
- Providing relief for allergy symptoms
- Promoting improved cardiovascular health
- Protecting your body against stress
- Reducing your risk of certain types of cancer
Thankfully, quercetin is available from more sources than just kale, but there's no such thing as "too many antioxidants", right? If you want to have a healthy body protected from free radicals, perhaps it's a good idea to hit the kale juice hard to get more quercetin and other antioxidants.
Let's face it - not everyone likes or could get to like kale. But if you take time to get to know more about its overflowing nutrients and the benefits it could give your body, you should find it worth a try. The impact it will have on your health is for the long run and you would thank yourself someday for incorporating it in your diet.