Vitality

Kale Health Benefits That Will Surprise You

Vegetables in general are good for your health. However, some veggie types are healthier than others. In this case, these are in the form of leafy, cruciferous vegetables, of which kale is among them. Increased intake of these vegetables can not only curb your cravings, but also boost your immunity and support your overall health. 

A leafy vegetable that is commonly considered a "superfood," kale boasts a wide array of essential nutrients, which all deliver a various health benefits that will surprise you. Here are its top benefits:

Fights Inflammation 

Kale is arguably known for relieving inflammation, largely due to its antioxidant compounds that help fight damage from free radicals, reduce oxidative stress and decrease inflammation.

As alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are present in each serving. Omega-3s are involved in several health processes and are especially important for regulating inflammation in your body.

Antioxidant-Rich

Kale is not only known for its anti-inflammatory properties; it is a top antioxidant food, being rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A. 

Aside from protecting from cell damage caused by free radicals, antioxidants also contribute to overall health. Research has shown that antioxidants could be beneficial against heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

Aids In Detoxification

One of kale's top health benefits is its ability to naturally detoxify your body as well. This cruciferous vegetable not only removes toxins, but also kills them completely. 

That is because of the presence of isothiocyanates, which have been shown to help detox your body at the cellular level, instantly killing toxins and free radicals. Isothiocyanates also stimulate the production of phase II enzymes, which detoxify your body by promoting the excretion of harmful substances.

Supports Heart Health 

Loaded with nutrients that are crucial to heart health such as vitamin K, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids, kale is a perfect heart-healthy food because of its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Several studies have confirmed kale's heart-boosting benefits; one study found that kale juice increased HDL ("good") cholesterol levels while reducing those of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Other studies have found that the leafy green decreases blood pressure and stabilizes blood sugar levels, both of which are major heart disease risk factors.

Promotes Healthy Fetal Development 

Kale promotes healthy fetal development, being a valuable source of folate that is essential for preventing birth defects and promoting healthy neural tube formation. Getting enough folate may reduce risk of other pregnancy-linked complications, including anemia and pre-term birth. 

Kale is also loaded with vitamin K, copper and calcium, which are all necessary for bone health and formation during pregnancy. It is advised to get enough of these nutrients during breastfeeding because studies have shown that women can lose 3 to 5 percent of bone mass while breastfeeding due to the baby's increased need for calcium.

Decreases Cancer Cell Growth 

Kale and other cruciferous vegetables have been extensively studied for their ability to inhibit cancer cell growth in vitro. According to the National Cancer Institute, their cancer-killing properties are tied to their abundance of glucosinolates, which are a large group of sulfur-rich compounds. 

These extremely beneficial chemicals break down in the digestive tract, forming biologically active compounds that include indoles, thiocynates and isothiocyanates. Though more studies on humans are needed, indoles and iosthiocyanates have been shown to protect vital organs from cancer in animals and in vitro studies.

Enhances Eye Health 

Kale also improves your eyesight, owing to the presence of lutein and zeaxanthin, which give the leafy green its hue. Both of these compounds have been shown to prevent macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye health issues. 

Lutein and zeaxanthin also serve as eye antioxidants, filtering out harmful blue light, and, according to the American Optometric Association, protect and maintain healthy cells that may help prevent retinal damage while preserving vision.

Kale Pictured: Baby kale is grown at AeroFarms on February 19, 2019, in Newark, New Jersey. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

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