Mythbusters: Kale

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Did you know that your favorite leafy green might actually be harmful?

With stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston raving about kale, it is no wonder that this super food has increased in popularity. The low calorie, high-fiber leaf does indeed have many health benefits.

The Benefits

Kale is part of a group of vegetables called cruciferous vegetables. This family includes vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, as well as many others. These greens are unique due to their richness in sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, which may help remove carcinogens (associated with cancer) from your body.

According to some studies, high intakes of cruciferous vegetables have been connected with reducing the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. Kale is also high in nutrients, iron, antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C and contain  anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering abilities. On the surface, Kale consumed in moderation is perfectly healthy.

The Risks

However, there is a dark side to kale that most of us aren’t aware of. Kale, when consumed raw and in large amounts, can actually contribute to hypothyroidism. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, animals which were fed a diet high in cruciferous vegetables ended up with hypothyroidism. Goitrogens, which are natural substances found in Kale, can interfere with iodine uptake leaving the thyroid unable to regulate the body’s metabolism contributing to hypothyroidism. Therefore, if you are one of the many people munching on kale salads, kale chips or sipping kale smoothies multiple times a day, you might want to consider reducing your intake.

Now before you toss out your juicer, remember that life is about balance. Eating raw, cruciferous vegetables a few days a week will not kill you. Scientists recommend eating kale no more than once or twice a day. One option to reduce the risks from eating kale is to lightly steam or cook these cruciferous vegetables lessening their potentially toxic properties. Another alternative is to switch up your greens by substituting spinach for kale in your juices and smoothies.

The truth is that diet should be varied. No single “super-food” produces miracle results, and consuming kale excessively could lead to harmful results. So next time you find yourself reaching for kale the third or fourth time in one day, try switching up the veggies or steaming a variety of vegetable instead for the healthiest option.

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