Kale, a member of the Brassica family, is an annually growing plant that thrives excellently in fertile organic soil and has a preference for light frost and cool climatic conditions. The leaves of kale are luscious and curved and look like a 'rosette' and are likely to possess a hue that may vary from deep green to blue-green conditional on the type of cultivar. Kale is primarily cultivated for harvesting during autumn and winter, since the cool weather conditions facilitates in additionally augmenting the quality of its sweet flavour. While kale is available in the markets all over the year, basically this plant is in season during the period from the middle of winter to the onset of spring. It is during spring that kale has an augment sweetened taste and available more widely.
The Brassica family to which kale belongs also includes several other vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, collards, cauliflower as well as Brussels sprouts. Acephala, the cultivar group, also comprise collard greens and spring greens - both closely related from the genetic point of view.
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Till the closing of the Middle Ages, kale was among the most widespread green vegetable available throughout Europe. In Greece, this form of cabbage having curved leaves existed together with the flat leafed varieties of cabbage prior to the 4th century BC. The Romans denoted these types of flat leafed cabbages as Sabellian kale and they are deemed to be the forerunners of the contemporary kale. Presently, it is possible to distinguish between the different varieties of kale on the basis of the low, average or tall length of the plants' stems that have an assortment of leaf forms. The color of the kale leaves vary from pale green to green, deep green as well as violet-green and violet-brown. In the 19th century, Russian traders introduced the Russian kale into Canada, and later on into the United States.
A different cultivar of Brassica oleracea known as Kai-lan is extensively used in Chinese cooking. Appearance-wise, Kai-lan is identical to kale and is sometimes referred to as 'kale' in English.
Kale offers a number of health benefits, for instance one cup (250 ml) of kale contains just 36 calories and not fat whatsoever, making this green vegetable an excellent diet aid. In addition, one cup of this vegetable encloses about 20 per cent of the RDA or recommended daily allowance of dietary fiber, which is known to improve digestion, avoid constipation, lower blood sugar levels and restrain one from consuming excessive food. Last, but not the least important, kale also encloses the glucosinolate isothiocyanate (ITC), which combats the development of H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) - a bacterial development in the lining of the stomach wall, which may result in gastric cancer.
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Kale has a high reputation in the domain of flavonoids and carotenoids - two potent antioxidants that shield our cells from the harmful free radicals that result in oxidative pressure. The two major flavonoids - quercitin and kaempferol (not to ignore the additional 45 unique flavonoids present in kale) have also proved to especially combat against the development of cancerous cells within the body. Combined with high doses of other familiar antioxidants, such as vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese, kale definitely forms superior choice in the fight against oxidation of the cells.
It may be noted that one cup of kale offers approximately 10 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of omega-3 fatty acids, which facilitate in regulating the inflammatory process of the body. Taking a very large dose of vitamin K additionally helps in combating extreme problems associated with inflammation, for instance asthma, arthritis and autoimmune disorders.
The antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory attributes collaborate not only to avoid, but also fight against caner. In effect, a vigorous diet comprising kale also offers glucosinolates that have already proved to be effective in averting breast, colon, and bladder, ovarian and prostate cancers. In addition, the glucosinolates are also helpful in preventing as well as combating gastric cancer.
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Kale has rich fiber content and this facilitates in lowering the blood cholesterol levels by means of binding with bile acids, which the liver makes using cholesterol with a view to digest fat. As several of these bile acids are paired with fiber, the liver is stimulated to produce additional bile acid to absorb fat, and, hence, needs additional cholesterol for this function. As a result, this action helps to lower the cholesterol level in our body.
In addition, ingestion of kale also supplies the body with a massive dose of vitamin K (precisely speaking, one cup of kale providing 1327 per cent of the RDA), which is essential for synthesizing osteocalcin - a protein that fortifies the constitution of our bones. In addition, vitamin K also helps us to avoid excessive accumulation of calcium in the tissues, as this may result in atherosclerosis, stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Lastly, vitamin K is also necessary for the synthesis of sphingolipid - the fat necessary to sustain the myelin covering in the region of the nerves and, hence, our nervous system all together. Sufficient levels of vitamin K in our diet facilitates in restricting the neuronal damages within the brain. Therefore, kale has a recognized function in treating patients who have been enduring Alzheimer's disease.
Kale also encloses and readily supplies vitamins C and one cup of this vegetable provides more than 88 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the nutrient. In effect, vitamin C is not only a potent antioxidant, but it also helps in lowering blood pressure, guarantees a vigorous immune system and, at the same time, combats ocular ailments related to old age, for instance, macular degeneration and cataracts.
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Similar to the other plants belonging to the Brassica family, kale also encloses phytochemicals, indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane - all these compounds play a major role in promoting our health. In fact, these constituents of kale seem to shield us against colon and prostate cancers.
It has been found that a metabolite (a substance produced by metabolism) of indole-3-carbinol, called Di-indolyl- methane (DIM), is an useful immune modulator, anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent by means of its action of intensifying 'interferon-gamma' receptors. Kale is an extremely loaded natural resource of flavonoids, such as carotene, zeaxanthin as well as lutein. These flavonoids possess potent antioxidant as well as anti-cancer actions.
In fact zeaxanthin is selectively soaked up into the retinal macula lutea within the eyes where this flavonoid is believed to have protective actions, such as filtering harmful lights. Thereby, zeaxanthin aids in avoiding retinal detachment and provides fortification from the age-related macular degeneration disease (ARMD) amongst the aged people. In addition, kale also has high vitamin A content, for instance 100 grams of kale leaves offers 512 per cent of RDA. It may be noted that vitamin A is essential for sustaining vigorous mucus membranes and skin. It is also necessary for good eye sight. Foods that have high amounts of vitamin A provides safety against a few types of cancer, for instance oral and lung.
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Kale is a leafy vegetable that contains remarkably high levels of several vitamins of B-complex group, for instance, thiamin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), niacin, pantothenic acid and others that are necessary for substrate metabolism within our body. Kale also contains high amounts of minerals, such as calcium, copper, iron, potassium, phosphorus and manganese. In fact, potassium is a vital element of the cell and the body fluids that facilitates in regulating the heart rate and blood pressure by means of neutralizing consequences of sodium. On the other hand, our body uses manganese in the form of a co-factor for superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme. In effect, iron is essential for the body for cellular oxidation as well as the formation of red blood cells.
Kale offers high nourishing elements that protect us from dearth of vitamin A, anemia caused by deficiency of iron, osteoporosis and is thought to protect us from developing cardiovascular disease as well as cancers of the prostate and colon.
Although kale is available in the market for most part of the year, the best quality of this leafy vegetable is available during the winter, between the periods from November to March. In fact, when the crop is exposed to light frost, its edible quality improves. Harvesting of this leafy vegetable may be done in two ways - collecting the lower leaves individually as the plant grows and the major stem gets longer, or the entire plant is cut at the stem and made into bundles. While purchasing kale from the stores, opt for fresh and green leaves that are crusty, crispy having a bright deep blue-green hue. In addition, it is advisable to buy kale that has small leaves, since they are sweeter when younger.
Similar to chard, kale is also a highly delicate leafy vegetable, which perishes easily. Hence, they ought to be used soon after they are harvested. In case you need to store kale in the fridge, you need to set the temperature of the refrigerator lower than 35°F and in an elevated humidity level with a view to conserve the vivacity of the vegetable.