The New Super Vegetable?

Stepfanie Lam

Junior, Microbiology major

Photography by Lloyd Justo

Kalepicture1

The impact celebrities tend to have seems to have spread from the fashion industry to the food that we consume every day. Take kale for example—a vegetable that has become exceedingly popular even in some college dining halls.. It has become the new “it” vegetable: from kale chips to kale smoothies, individuals are consuming kale by the pound. Moreover, a preference for organic foods has grown drastically in the past century. But does Kale really live up to all the hype?

There is a disagreement as to who were the first cultivators of kale. Some historians claim the ancient Greeks used it as a cure for drunkenness. Others believe that early Roman manuscripts referenced a vegetable that seemed to fit the description of kale, also known as borecole. Kale tends to exhibit either green or purple leaves and the species Brassica oleracea include many other common vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts.

The average American diet has changed drastically over the last 30 years, with“…an astounding 62 percent of adult Americans were overweight in 2000, up from 46 percent in 1980, and that figure is on the rise every year” according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Kale advocates promote the fact that “one cup of chopped kale has only 33 calories and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. It is also a good source of calcium, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.” Kale and its other family members also play a role in disease prevention. For example, kale is a good source of phytochemicals and nutrients that can work together to help prevent cancer by enhancing the elimination of carcinogens before they can damage DNA, or by altering cell-signaling pathways in ways to help prevent normal cells from boing transformed into cancerous cells according to a research paper published in PubMed.

However, studies have shown that there is a dark side to this popular commodity. Because of Kale’s high vitamin K concentration, about 547 micrograms per one cup serving which is over six times more than the daily-recommended intake, it poses a problem for those who are taking anticoagulants, which can interfere with the drugs. Additionally, it was discovered that very high intakes of cruciferous or Brassica vegetables have been found to cause hypothyroidism. There was a reported case of a woman who developed severe hypothyroidism due to her consumption of 1.0 to 1.5kg/day of raw bok choy (another type of Brassica vegetable). It has also become popular among individuals to go detox. Unfortunately, according to an article in “Livestrong,” one cup of kale only contains 34 calories so a deficiency in one’s calorie intake can lead to muscle breakdown, upset the stomach, blood sugar problems, and vitamin deficiencies.

As the old adage goes, anything can become unhealthy if not taken in moderation. Kale is just as healthy as any other leafy green vegetable out there. We should consume a variety of vegetables as opposed to a specific type because take spinach for instance; it boasts more fiber, protein and vitamin A than kale. Spinach is also higher in calcium and iron (health.slevelandclinic.org) but kale contains much more vitamins K and C.

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