Is Kale Killing You?

Kale is everywhere these days, and I make sure to have some just about any place that I am staying at long enough to prepare a meal.

If you cruise health blogs on the inter-webs you have seen the craze for the wild stiff leafy green that has been heralded a superfood. While in LA last month, I noticed nearly every restaurant offered a kale salad, that is new, and not normal in other cities! But truth be told, kale is old news, in case you hadn’t noticed. Google trends shows a world wide spike mid 2014, and since then it’s popularity has fallen back 10% to mid 2013 levels. I suspect it could just be a decline in popularity for kale chips.

But since I eat kale almost daily, and have an addictive personality, if it’s possible to overdue kale, I’m probably on the speedway for kale poisoning. So I figured it was time to look this up and see if the dark days of kale have come.

As an idea of where the world stands with kale, there are presently 7.9 million web pages (according to google) mentioning “kale” and “kale benefits” (in 2012 it was 2.3 million). In 2013 and 2014 farmers and kale seed distributors claimed there would be a kale shortage. But when it comes to the dark side of kale, just 395,000 search results appear related to “Dangers of Kale” appear. While that is no scientific survey, it gives you a glimpse into that state of kale.

Looking into the nay sayers of kale; quite easily I discovered that since the hay day when kale could do no wrong circa December 2013, around January 2014 just in time to catch the wave of kale love, Dr Oz and the New York Times came out with an argument for why too much kale can become a bad thing. Apparently some studies found if you have an iodine deficiency, too much Kale or just about any leafy green and other foods can lead to production of goitrin which blocks thyroid hormone synthesis.

Of course you can find a study to make just about any claim you like. And if Dr Oz or NYT were trying to catch a popular keyword at the right time with some controversial news like “your kale juice is going to kill you” they certainly knew when to strike. But if nothing else it is just a small warning that even kale along with many other veggies can cause issues when you don’t change up your greens from time to time. So, I guess it’s time to learn to like a beet salad occasionally, or some sautéed zucchini. Lesson learned.

If you are worried about too much kale or iodine deficiency, the solutions are simple, though it’s still probably a good idea to mix up your meals from time to time (I can definitely work on that). To counter act the deficiency simply eat some iodine rich foods such as seaweed. Also the selenium in  brazil nuts can support proper iodine levels.

And now that I’ve taken advantage of my own fear mongering, I wanted to just re-earn some kale karma, if you will. During my research of kale I didn’t actually see a complete description of what is so great about kale. So here is my own improvement on that.

So what does kale have? How about protein and omega 3 fatty acids? It contains vitamins A,C, and K, minerals phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc. When consumed raw it’s is considered to be a precursor of glutathione (the mother of antioxidants). It fills you up and is loaded with fiber and iron helping your blood and digestion. It wont hurt your low carb or low fat diet, it certainly isn’t going to add many calories if counting is your game. You can eat it raw, cook it, juice it, chop it up fine and add some sauce. Kale’s health benefits may prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Is that enough?

If you ask me, while there are many foods out there in the veggie family with similar benefits, kale takes first prize for availability, cost, and health benefits. Sure I’ll have to cut down to a few meals a week instead of a salad every day. But kale isn’t going anywhere for me. I’ll just make sure to eat some brazil nuts with it. 😉


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