Health and beauty benefits of kale

Despite being the most common green vegetable in Britain during the middle ages, it’s only relatively recently that the health and beauty benefits of kale have really been appreciated – some could even say that it’s the vegetable that started the now very popular healthy-eating revolution! We’ve always been a fan of this curly green leaf here at Liz Earle Wellbeing, whether adding it to curries or boiling it and then tossing with the best extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and fresh lemon juice. It is one of the healthiest and hardiest vegetables that we Brits can grow.

Health and beauty benefits of kale

Don’t go over the top

Known for being one of the best vegetables for keeping healthy, kale has recently come under fire for apparently causing kidney stones. One thing we need to know here is that kale contains 17mg oxalate acid (the substance that is said to cause stones) per 100g, which means that you would have to eat an enormous amount of the leafy green to suffer from these effects. As with anything, it’s best to have a balanced diet and not stick rigidly to a certain food group as this is likely to cause problems.

Successful steaming

One thing that we must bear in mind is that kale is much better for us when it has been lightly cooked. It’s possible that eating raw kale can cause problems with your thyroid due to the isothiocyanates that it contains; these block the TPO enzyme, which is responsible for attaching iodine to the hormones in the thyroid to make them active, so if these very important enzymes are blocked, the thyroid can’t work at its best. It’s probably safest to avoid regular, large amounts of this delicious green leaf in its raw state, however a couple of handfuls added to your juice or smoothie can be beneficial. Another tasty way to eat this green veg is by making kale crisps: lightly coat the leaves with a dab of rapeseed oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake in the oven until crisp. Yum!

Keep bugs at bay

Containing high levels of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin C, kale is excellent for our immune system. These essential vitamins help us to stay feeling healthy and keep the bugs at bay, as well as keeping the linings and connective tissues of the body healthy and strong. Vitamin C helps our bodies heal when we have a small cut or graze, while beta-carotene helps create healthy skin and a strong immune system, as well as converting into vitamin A for good vision and eye health, helping prevent eye disorders including age-related macular degeneration.

Plump your skin

Kale can also help keep us looking younger thanks to the high level of manganese that it contains. An important nutrient in the production of collagen, manganese can help our skin appear plumper and improve its elasticity. It’s also essential for bone health, and while are bodies do store small amounts of manganese, it’s important to keep these levels topped up by a diet that’s rich in vital minerals in order to keep our bones strong.

Growing kale

Kale is a very hardy veg and is one of the few nutrient-dense, green leafy vegetables to actually survive the British winters. Brits were even encouraged to grow and eat kale as part of the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign during World War II for this very reason. Sown under a cloche or in the greenhouse in the summer, the seedlings will be ready to transplant outdoors later in the season, when they are about 5cm high. Plant them quite deep – so that the soil reaches the bottom leaves of the plant – and water well. When the kale has reached 15cm, you can start harvesting the leaves. Cut them from the bottom of the stem, but only cut as many as you will be cooking – that way you can enjoy harvesting your kale throughout the winter and into spring.

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Wellbeing Wisdom

  • The manganese in kale can help our skin appear plumper and improve its elasticity
  • Containing high levels of vitamins A and C, kale is excellent for our immune system