This column was written by Giovanni Campanile, MD, Integrative Medicine and Nutrition, and Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Morristown Medical Center/ Atlantic Health System. He also has an office in Caldwell. To contact Campanile, call (862) 260-3188.
Kale is one of nature’s true gifts.
We have evolved alongside our plants and animals in a coexistence that is mutually beneficial. In fact, plants have an “intelligence” and they have altered their structure and nutritional content to have been befriended by humans in a mutual symbiosis.
Kale, a cruciferous vegetable also known as borecole, is a great example of one of these intelligent plants and has been known to be used by man for over 2,000 years.
A serving of kale has more calcium than a glass of milk and more fiber than 3 servings of whole wheat bread.
Unfortunately, at the turn of the century there were over 20 varietals of kale which have not all made it to modern times. Today there are less than 10 varieties.
The most common varietals of kale available commonly are Tuscan, Red Russian and Redbor. The red-leaved varieties have the highest antioxidant and anti-cancer concentrations. The high concentration of glucosinolates also have remarkable protective effects on the heart. These glucosinolates are what give kale and other cruciferous vegetables their bitter taste.
Studies have shown that kale can modify our genes to enhance our body’s ability to detoxify harmful toxins.
Kale has a high concentration of carotenoids and flavanoids which give kale its cancer fighting attributes to prevent problems such as bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.
Kale has over 50 different flavanoids and carotenoids, and this wide variety of these beneficial substances is what makes kale a true superfood, both for the prevention and improvement of serious medical conditions such as cancer.
Kale truly embodies the notion of food as medicine.
We are discovering that inflammation is at the base of many degenerative disease that are at epidemic levels in America: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer.
Kale has powerful anti-inflammatory ingredients such as quercitin, and vitamin K. It also contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Kale is also an important component of a Mediterranean style anti-inflammatory diet.
Kale will naturally lower your cholesterol. Raw kale will do this well, however, a recent study showed that steamed kale will be even more effective in naturally lowering your cholesterol.
This study showed that kale was 42 percent as effective as the prescription drug cholestyramine in binding and reducing cholesterol. Only collard greens (another superfood in the cruciferous vegetable family) was able to bind more cholesterol - 46 percent!
Kale also has a high concentration of copper, manganese, vitamins A and C — containing more vitamin C than an orange! In addition it contains lutein and zeaxanthinin which are essential for eye health.
So, besides protecting you from cancer, improving your digestion, protecting your heart and lowering your cholesterol, protecting your vision, reducing inflammation, and helping your body to detoxify, kale is delicious and can be prepared in many different ways. I frequently recommend to my patients to make kale chips, kale smoothies, kale salad and steamed kale as a side dish.
Kale is a member of the “dirty dozen,” and tends to have higher concentrations of pesticides and chemicals, So, this is a vegetable that should be organic or grown yourself.
Also, because of its high vitamin K content, people who are taking drugs such as warfarin or coumadin should be cautious when ingesting green leafy vegetables like kale because the high vitamin K content (which normally is very beneficial) can interfere with the efficacy of this drug class.