Kale is one hot menu item these days. Everyone from A-list celebrities to athletes and politicians are raving about the health benefits of this dark, leafy, “king of the greens.” Kale is one of those vegetables that until recently was considered ‘taboo health food’, but the table is turning as people are including their dense greens in juices, shakes, salads, side dishes, snacks and more.
I must admit, even as a dietician, I had never tried or had much interest in trying kale until my girlfriend practically force fed it to me in all of the forms mentioned above. I fell in love quickly and it has since replaced much of the raw broccoli that I used to eat. That being said, the question of kale for me was whether to cook it or eat it raw. The same goes for other cruciferous vegetables in this category like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. While there is no right or wrong answers, some new health issues pertaining to these vegetables are worth taking note of.
A serving of raw kale contains many nutrients that fuel your body like folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C. However, kale is considered a goitrogenic vegetable which can affect the thyroid gland by interfering with the absorption and incorporation of iodine by your body when it is eaten raw. Also, the high levels of oxalic also bind to minerals like calcium and magnesium causing them to crystallize which can cause kidney stones and inflammation in the body.
No reason to panic; there is a solution for all you the kale lovers out there! Cooking your kale dramatically reduces the harmful properties that it possesses raw. You can boil, sauté or bake your kale in addition to combining it with other foods like eggs and soups. Additionally, supplementing with iodine and selenium can help ensure adequate levels of these essential minerals.
Remember- “Too much of a good thing – is STILL too much.” Moderation is key in all things, so rather than running from any leafy green – including kale – remember its cooked addition to a balanced, healthy diet can be a very good thing.