Latin name: Brassica oleracea var. Acephala

What is a Kale?
Hailing from the Cruciferae family (also known as the Brassicaceae family), kale is related to broccoli, cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts. Like collard greens, kale does not grow in a head formation like other members of the Cruciferae family, and its cultivar name Acephala literally means “without a head”. Many varieties of kale exist, ranging in color from green to purple, and ranging in taste from very bitter to slightly spicy.

Kale is thought to be the closest relation to the wild cabbage that all crucifers originated from. The curly leafed ancestor of kale was already prevalent in Greece in the fourth century BC. Kale was one of the most common green vegetables eaten until the end of the Middle Ages.

What are the health benefits of Kale?
In traditional Chinese medicine, kale is considered to be warming and its actions are strengthening the stomach, stopping pain, and promoting re-growth of tissue. It has traditionally been used to treat stomach ulcers. In Japan, kale juice (called aojiru) is a popular dietary supplement.

Considered to be antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, kale leaves provide more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food. It is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, dietary fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, and considerably high in calcium.

Like other cruciferous vegetables, kale is a rich source of the phytonutrients that help cleanse the body of cancer-causing substances. Recent studies show that those who eat more cruciferous vegetables have a much lower risk of a number of cancers, especially lung, colon, breast, ovarian and bladder cancer. Kale’s content of calcium helps build bones, and new research reveals that crucifers provide significant cardiovascular benefits, as well. Additionally, the lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids found in kale support vision health. Kale’s vitamin E is thought to play a role in lowering risk of cognitive decline. A little fat, such as olive oil, increases the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin E.

Are there any precautions for Kale?
Just be aware that kale contains high amounts of oxalic acid, which has been implicated in kidney stone formation.

Where can I find Kale?
Kale can be found in most grocery stores and many outdoor markets. Available year round, its peak season is from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring.

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This entry was posted in Foods, Natural Health Dictionary.