Kale is a supergreen with dense nutrition. When it comes to vitamins and minerals, kale packs a punch especially for the mitochondria, the energy centers of cells. The mitochondria are at the heart of energy production for nearly all cells in the body. This is important for cell metabolism and growth. Kale offers many nutritional benefits but Vitamin A and K are at the top of the list. Take a look at a basic nutrition profile for kale.
Nutrients in 1 cup of kale:
Vitamin A: 206% of the DV (from beta-carotene)
Vitamin K: 684%o of the DV
Vitamin C: 134% of the DV
Vitamin B6: 9% of the DV
Manganese: 26% of the DV
Calcium: 9% of the DV
Copper: 10% of the DV
Potassium: 9% of the DV
Magnesium: 6% of the DV
Vitamin A in kale comes from the beta carotene and it plays a role in eyesight. It also helps maintain the health of the skin, teeth, bones and respiratory tract. Vitamin A defends the body against infection and assists in the growth and the repair of muscle and bone tissue. Osteoblasts (bone building cells) and osteoclasts (cells responsible for breaking down bone) are both influenced by vitamin A. It is a fat soluble vitamin that helps to improve energy function in the body specifically in the mitochondria in cells. Newer research from the Institute for Cancer Research shows that vitamin A is critical for energy production. Researchers found that when vitamin A levels were deficient, the amount of ATP produced by the mitochondria was significantly impacted. Without proper amounts of vitamin A, the body cannot convert the direct burning of fat which affects the body's resilience to disease. Because vitamin A can be stored in fat cells but if too much Vitamin A is available, it can be toxic to the body. The beta-carotene in kale therefore bodes well as an alternative instead of straight vitamin A. Beta-carotene is essentially two vitamin A molecules attached end-to-end, which renders the vitamin A inactive and make beta-carotene a nontoxic source of vitamin A. When the body needs more of the vitamin, beta-carotene is cleaved in half and then converted into active vitamin A. As you can see from the profile, a serving of kale has almost double the daily recommendation. So if you are looking to motivate your mitochondria, improve bone, skin, and immune health, kale a great option.
Vitamin K found in kale plays a role in bone formation and it comes in 2 forms. Phylloquinone is the type in kale and other green leafy vegetables. Menoquinones are the other type produced by animal and fermented foods as well as by bacteria in the gut. Antibiotic medications which affect gut bacteria have been associated with destruction of Vitamin K producing gut bacteria potentially decreasing Vitamin K levels. This is something to consider when long term use of antibiotics has occurred. Vitamin K helps various proteins needed for blood clotting and the building of bones. Proteins in the body like prothrombin depends on Vitamin K for the clotting function. Osteocalcin is a protein that requires Vitamin K to produce healthy bone tissue. Vitamin K is also a fat soluble vitamin so it's best to eat it with fat to improve absorption. It is found in the liver, brain, heart, pancreas as well as bone. However, it is broken down quickly in the body and excreted. Because of this, it doesn't reach toxic levels as easily but it's best to eat it with fat to improve absorption.
Here's a simple recipe for kale and then one that's a little more detailed. This way you have two options to incorporate kale into your food plan. Adding a low scorch point oil like avocado oil for cooking kale is a great way to incorporate the healthy fat for better absorption as mentioned above.
Simple Kale Salad Recipe
Add a tbsp of avocado oil (low scortch point) to your stove top pan. Add garlic to taste and salt and pepper over medium heat. Add kale for 1-2 minutes until it starts to turn a deeper green color tossing often. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the pan and serve warm.
Kale and Quinoa Cakes
16 ounces bag of kale greens
8 ounces (1 cup) total of combined carrots, celery, and onion
1 boiled and peeled potato
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of cooked quinoa
2-3 tsp of tuscan spine
6 eggs or flax eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook quinoa in the vegetable broth until done
2. Blanch kale for 3-4 minutes
3. Blend kale, celery, onion and carrots in food processor
4. Add potato, eggs, spices, salt and pepper
5. Add mix and quinoa together mixing by hand or with a spoon
6. Shape into patties in cupcake or muffin tins (recommend lining or greasing the bottom)
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes. (makes about 2 dozen)
8. Save in fridge or freeze until ready to eat.
basil (6 tbsp)
salt (3 tbsp)
rosemary (2 tbsp)
oregano (2 tbsp)
thyme (2 tbsp)
garlic powder (1 tbsp)
fennel seed (2 tbsp)
pepper (2 tbsp)
Gunners, K. (2018, June). The Health Benefits of Kale. Healthline.
West, H. (2018, June). Six Benefits of Vitamin A Backed by Science. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-a-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6
Muscle and Performance. June, 2013
Five Reasons You Need Vitamin A for Energy. Vitagene. September, 2022. https://vitagene.com/blog/vitamin-a-for-energy/
The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.