No one knows when kale turned from an obscure food into a nutrition powerhouse, but nowadays nutritionists, music and TV stars, restaurants, journalists and even fast-food chains make kale the epitome of healthy, nutritional diets. But kale has been around for a long time.
Historical Intro to Kale
The Greeks and the Romans grew this spinach-like vegetable; thus kale’s been a part of people’s nutrition since thousands of years ago. Varieties of kale, believed to be the ancestors of the modern vegetable, were mentioned in various botanical papers from as early as 371 BC.
Cato the Elder acknowledged kale’s health benefits and Pliny the Elder recognized the vegetable’s medicinal properties. However, somewhere along the line kale was either forgotten or replaced with more attractive and tasty green-leafy vegetables because after the end of the Middle Ages, it stopped being as popular.
Countries, where kale had been grown extensively, are Scotland, Denmark, and Germany where the cooler weather conditions allowed more plentiful resources. In America, it was the Russian traders who introduced red Russian kale to consumers back in the 19th century. But until the 2000s, kale was an unheard vegetable to many people. However, who seemed to have recognized the vegetable’s benefits ahead were the animals that were consuming kale at the end of the 20th century more than people.
Kale is now, however, present everywhere and most people know of it while many people consume it regularly.
Benefits of Kale Consumption
Pliny the Elder was a Roman naturalist, among the first experts to recognize kale’s multiple benefits. In his work Historia Naturalis, he lists 87 medicines derived partially or entirely from modern kale’s ancestors.
Ever since it regained its long-forgotten popularity in the early 2000s, kale has been the topic of many nutritional discussions and cookbooks. Some of the specialists engaged in popularizing it as a powerful whole food are Wahida Karmally – director of nutrition at Columbia University’s Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Alicia Romano – dietitian at Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center and Marion Nestle – professor of food studies and nutrition at New York University.
If no one can pinpoint exactly when and how kale became so popular, what everyone seems to agree on is that kale is one of the most nutritional foods, presenting numerous benefits for the human body as well as for animals. A cup of raw kale (approximately 67g) is known to contain:
- Vitamin A, RAE – 335 mcg.
- Vitamin K – 472.2 mcg.
- Vitamin C – 80.4 mg.
- Vitamin B6 – 0.182 mg.
- Vitamin E – 1.03 mg.
- Vitamin B1, Thiamin – 0.074 mg.
- Vitamin B2, Riboflavin – 0.087mg.
- Vitamin B3, Niacin – 0.670 mg.
- Folate – 94 mcg.
Moreover, a cup of raw kale also contains minerals:
- Magnesium – 31 mg.
- Potassium – 329 mg.
- Phosphorus – 62 mg.
- Iron – 0.98 mg.
- Zinc – 0.38 mg.
- Calcium – 100 mg.
- Sodium – 25 mg, all at a total of 33 calories.
Given the numerous vitamins and minerals contained in a single cup of kale at such low-calorie content, it’s no wonder the praise this vegetable has received in recent years. During World War II, soldiers were fed kale because of the nutrient density the vegetable possesses, which represented a significant supplement to the food rationing.
The vitamins and minerals in kale, along with the powerful antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol protect against various diseases such as cancer and heart diseases. Kale is a powerful immune system booster and helps maintain normal blood pressure too.
Kale can be consumed as juice to treat various stomach issues; it can also be steamed and used in salads, soups, appetizers, and snacks or dehydrated. It’s a very versatile vegetable, but one thing to take into consideration is that some of the nutrients it contains are more difficult to absorb, which is why kale should always be cooked or paired with fat to help the body assimilate nutrients more effortlessly.