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Could kale, a less domesticated, disheveled form of cabbage, really be one of the most potent healing foods in existence today?
Few foods commonly available at the produce stand are as beneficial to your health as kale. And yet, sadly, it is more commonly found dressing up something not as healthy in a display case as a decoration than on someone's plate where it belongs.
Kale is actually a form of cabbage that evaded domestication, sharing many of the same traits as wilder plant relatives unafraid of holding on to their bitter principle, and relatively unruly appearance.
Kale is perfectly content letting its luscious green leafy hair down, being the 'hippie' member of a family that includes the more tightly wound broccoli, cauliflower and the Brussel sprout, whose greater respectability as far as most restaurant menus go means kale is more likely to be found forgotten, shriveling up somewhere on the bottom shelf of someone's refrigerator, no doubt possessed by someone with every intention (but not the time and appetite enough) to eat it.
But please do not underestimate this formidable plant, which grows as high as six to seven feet in the right conditions, casting a shadow as long as the impressive list of beneficial nutritional components it contains. Its nutritional density, in fact, is virtually unparalleled among green leafy vegetables. Consider too that during World War II, with rationing in full effect, the U.K. encouraged the backyard cultivation of this hearty, easy to grow plant for the Dig for Victory campaign that likely saved many from sickness and starvation. Over a half century later, kale's status as a former cultural nutritional hero has faded into near oblivion ... until now, we hope!
So, let's get a better sense of all that kale has to offer by looking at the nutrition facts basics of only one cup of raw kale.
You will notice that it contains less than 1 gram of fat (.3 grams to be exact), 2 grams of protein, and subtracting the 1 gram of fiber from the total carbohydrate content (7), an effective carb content of 6 grams per serving, which is almost entirely complex carbohydrate, i.e. "starch." This means it has a 3:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio – an exceptionally high amount of protein for any vegetable, and one reason why it has recently been acclaimed as the "new beef."
Kale Contains ALL The Essential Amino Acids and 9 Non-Essential Ones
Indeed, like meat, kale contains all 9 essential amino acids needed to form the proteins within the human body: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine – plus, 9 other non-essential ones for a total of 18:
Consider too that compared to meat, the amino acids in kale are easier to extract. When consuming a steak, for instance, the body has to expend great metabolic resources to break down the massive, highly complex, and intricately folded protein structures within mammalian flesh back down into their constituent amino acids; and then, later, these extracted amino acids must be reassembled back into the same, highly complex, intricately folded and refolded human proteins from which our body is made. This is a time-consuming, energy-intensive process, with many metabolic waste products released in the process.
For the same reason that massive mammalian herbivores like cows, for instance, eat grass -- not other animals -- kale can be considered anabolic, "meaty," and worthy of being considered as a main course in any meal. The nice thing, too, is that less is needed to fulfill the body's protein requirements. Also, kale is so much lower on the food chain than beef, that it doesn't bio-accumulate as many, and as much, of the toxins in our increasingly polluted environment. And this, of course, doesn't even touch on the great "moral debate" concerning avoiding unnecessary harm to sentient beings, i.e. eating kale is morally superior than eating/killing animals.
Kale is an Omega-3 Diamond In the Rough
While it is considered a "fat free" vegetable, it does contain biologically significant quantities of essential fatty acids – you know, the one's your body is not designed to create and must get from the things we eat or suffer dire consequences.
In fact, you will notice it contains more omega-3 than omega-6, which is almost unheard of in nature. It is a general rule that you will find a 40:1 or higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 found in most grains, seeds, nuts and beans. Peanuts, for instance, have 1,800 times higher omega-6 fat levels than omega-3, which (taken in isolation) is a pro-inflammatory and unhealthy ratio. Kale, therefore, is a superstar as far as essential fatty acids go, and especially considering that all of its naturally occurring fat-soluble antioxidants protect these fragile unsaturated fats from oxidizing.
Kale's Vitamin Content More Pays For Itself Many Times Over
Now to the vitamins. Kale is a king of carotenoids. Its vitamin A activity is astounding. One cup contains over 10,000 IU's, or the equivalent of over 200% the daily value. Also, consider that most of this vitamin A (retinol) is delivered the form of beta-carotene, which in its natural form is the perfect delivery system for retinol (two retinol molecules attached to one another), as it is exceedingly difficult to get too much. If you compare it to the synthetic vitamin A used in many mass market foods and vitamins, it is an order of magnitude or higher safer.
Kale Is An Eye-Saving Super Food Rich In Vitamins
Kale has a few more surprises left in the "vitamin" department. It turns out that it is loaded with both lutein and zeaxanthin at over 26 mg combined, per serving.
Lutein comes from the Latin word luteus meaning "yellow," and is one of the best known carotenoids in a family containing at least 600. In the human eye it is concentrated in the retina in an oval-shaped yellow spot near its center known as the macula (from Latin macula, "spot" + lutea, "yellow"). This "yellow spot" acts as a natural sunblock, which is why adequate consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin may prevent macular degeneration and other retinal diseases associated with ultraviolet light-induced oxidative stress.