This superfood is so amazing, Beyoncé wore a sweater with its name across the front. If that isn’t enough to make you want to eat kale, there’s more. Kale is packed with protein, vitamins, potassium, and healthy carbs. It contributes to promoting the function of every bodily system, including your vision. Our eyes depend on two specific nutrients to work: lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale contains high concentrations of both these nutrients.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
There are 20 different carotenoids the body needs for optimal functioning. Our bodies can’t produce them on their own, so we must get them from our diet. You can find carotenoids in the pigment of fruits and vegetables. We often associate orange and yellow colored produce with eye health. However, dark leafy greens have more beneficial carotenoids for our eyes than orange and yellow. Kale has intense concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin, making it a vision-boosting superfood.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are vital to a healthy retina. These carotenoids act as a sunscreen for the eyes. By absorbing the incoming blue light rays from electronic devices, they protect your retinas from blue light damage. They contribute to a higher pigmented macula which further protects the retina. Eating kale is like putting sunglasses on your lenses.
AMD and Angiogenesis
These two carotenoids act like antioxidants in the eyes. We live in an age where more and more Americans are discovering early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Because of this, it’s crucial we get enough antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin protect the retina from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Our bodies create and need free radicals, but the production of too many can cause damage. Lutein and zeaxanthin neutralize the free radicals in the eyes preventing damage. You can maintain safe levels of free radicals by eating lots of lutein and zeaxanthin-rich foods, like kale.
Kale is also known for having anti-angiogenic properties. This means it prevents the creation of new blood vessels in the body. Excessive blood vessels are often fragile and leaky. Having too many of these can lead to cancer, blindness, and multiple sclerosis. In fact, wet macular degeneration is caused by an overgrowth of leaky blood vessels in the eyes. We need anti-angiogenic foods to prevent the overgrowth of blood vessels. Kale is an excellent source of anti-angiogenic properties.
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Kale: Cooked or Raw?
There’s some controversy over eating raw kale because of its effect on the thyroid. Kale and other cruciferous vegetables can block your thyroid from using the iodine it needs to function. Without using its iodine, the thyroid swells and restricts its hormone production. While this is all true, it doesn’t mean you can’t eat raw kale ever. One to two servings of raw cruciferous vegetables each day will not affect the thyroid. Too much of anything is bad for you, so use moderation.
In terms of nutrition, one cup of raw kale is the same as two cups of cooked kale. Cooking the kale allows its leaves to wilt and become easier to digest. Nutrients are more easily absorbed into the body through soft, cooked kale than raw. Again, you don’t need to avoid eating raw kale. But your body is better able to reap its nutritional benefits when it’s cooked.
How Much Kale Should I Eat?
It’s usually recommended that we eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This will generally provide 5-6 mg of carotenoids to the body per day. However, for vision health and to protect your eyes from AMD you need over 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin per day. So, only five servings of fruits and vegetables are not enough.
Luckily, one serving of kale has over 20 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin. This means you could have one serving of kale per day and get more than enough vision-protecting carotenoids.
Recipe of the Month: Kale, Ricotta, and Squash Omelette
Kale is an incredibly versatile vegetable. You can prepare it in many ways; so, it won’t be hard to find a version you like. Some people like to eat it raw after massaging it with their hands for a few minutes. This relieves some of the bitterness and makes it softer to digest. Others prefer to add it to smoothies. You can eat kale in hot and cold salads, sautéed as a side dish, and even baked to make kale chips. In this Jamie Oliver recipe, you’ll experience kale cooked in an omelette. The bitterness is diminished through cooking, and it adds a fresh flavor to the hearty eggs and cheese.
- 2 eggs
- 1 handful of kale
- 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese
- 150 g of butternut squash
- Parmesan cheese (as much as you like)
- Olive oil (for frying)
In a large bowl, crack both eggs and whisk them together. Place the fresh kale in a blender to tear apart. The kale needs to be finely torn; you can use your hands but that will result in larger pieces of kale in your omelette. Add the blitzed kale to the bowl with the eggs. Pour in the ricotta cheese and whisk all together. On the side, peel the butternut squash. Then begin mashing the squash with a fork until it’s smooth. Add the mashed squash to the bowl.
Turn on one of the stove burners to medium-high heat. Add a little bit of the olive oil to a frying pan to prevent sticking. Pour the mixture from the bowl into the pan and ensure it covers the base evenly. Allow it to cook for one to two minutes or until the sides turn golden in color. Then, grate some fresh parmesan cheese onto one half of the omelette. Fold the other half onto the side with the parmesan. Allow it to keep cooking, flipping it once or twice.
When it’s fully cooked through, slide the omelette off the frying pan and onto a cutting board. For serving, cut the omelette up into wedges. Or, enjoy it yourself for a delectable, vision-boosting brunch.