It's Kale Day, kale lovers! Yep, its a thing, and my business partner Autumn Bear, MS, L.Ac is all about breaking down what is so freaking great about kale. Enjoy!
Kale is a crop that has risen to fame and glory over the past few years. It has risen to prime popularity here in the US and is now regaled in every juice shop from New York to San Fancisco. There is much to appreciate about this mighty fine leafy green but there are some precautions that should be taken too. It is no doubt a super food, but is it super for you?
Kale, Botanically, belongs to the “cabbage” (Brassica) family. Other common vegetables in this family are broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc. Due to it's richness in nutrients, it has a host of medicinal benefits and is an amazing food for the protection from vitamin-A deficiency, osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers (for further details see http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/kale.html)
In Chinese Medicine, nutrient dense vegetables are vital to aid in building blood which is a crucial part of our circulatory, reproductive and cognitive systems. We need rich blood, one of the yin components in our body, to cool excess heat which can get out of control and cause everything from rapid digestion, to skin inflammation, to cancer cell development. Blood is also where we store our emotions and our history so ample blood in the body will keep our emotions even and metered. If we become blood deficient we are more likely to show outward expressions of emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear etc. If we don't have enough blood to house the emotions, they have nowhere to go and then they have to go outward!
There is an important factor in any food appreciation, however, in that not every great food is great for every person. Kale is in the family of goitrogenic foods which are foods that adversely effect our thyroid health. Kale is a thyroid inhibiting food, so people who suffer from any kinds of thyroid issues should consume it cautiously. It is also important to point out that cooking kale can mitigate some of these negative effects that Kale may play on the thyroid, therefore juicing kale is going to be much tougher on a person's system then just having as a sautéed side dish. It is not to say that all goitrogenic foods ( Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Brusssels Sprouts, Mustard greens, Radishes, Spinach, Strawberries, Peaches, Soy-based foods and Peanuts) will cause adverse side effects on a healthy functioning thyroid but rather these foods can cause the thyroid to be dysfunctional in people who already suffer from thyroid issues, especially hypothyroid conditions.
The way goitrogens work are that they inhibit iodine metabolism. Iodine is an important mineral utilized in the formation of the thyroid hormone. If iodine cannot be utilized properly by the thyroid gland then the formation of the thyroid hormone won't take place essentially causing they thyroid to become sluggish and unresponsive to the thyroid stimulating hormone produced by the pituitary. The person will start to suffer from feelings of being cold, extreme fatigue, sluggishness and the immune system will be more challenged and less effective in fighting off viruses and colds.
Chinese medicine evolves very much around health for the individual and looking at all the circumstances in a person's life to determine what is or is not healthy for that person. Kale may be a super food but for some people it could cause them to have chronic fatigue and have an underutilized thyroid. As a person who is looking to improve their health, kale should be rotated into the diet but take note that just like all other things it should be eaten in moderation. There is no need to consume mass amounts of kale to reap the benefits of this fine leafy beauty. Enjoy kale, eat it in a variety of ways and make sure to keep variety as part of a healthy diet. Health benefits come from keeping a varied diet, changing things up a bit on a regular basis and making sure there is a balance of cooked to raw as well as a balance of meat to fish and vegetables. We want to balance our fat and proteins and moderate the sweet flavor to keep our organs functioning at their best.
Let's celebrate Kale Day and enjoy its wonderful benefits! We welcome it into our veggie family and we appreciate all the great things it does for our body!
Here's to our health!