Top 5 Health Benefits of Kale + Nutrition Info and Fun Facts

Written by Natalie Bickford, MScN

Kale can help fight depression, reduce the risk of cancer, detoxify your body, keep your heart healthy, and keep your bones strong.

Kale was one of the most popular vegetables during the middle ages in Europe, and as Kale's health benefits are becoming more known, the vegetable is going through something of a renaissance.

Kale is also an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, Vitamin C, manganese, calcium, and omega 3s. Great in salads, cooked steamed, or added to a smoothie, there is no reason not to add more kale to your diet. Read on below for all the health benefits, nutrition info, and fun facts about kale.

Kale Health Benefits

1. Kale Helps Combat Depression

Kale is a great source of both omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids. One cup of cooked kale provides 8%DV for omega-3 fatty acids and 10624μg of beta-carotene (1). Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their neuroprotective properties. Studies have specifically shown that both omega-3s and carotenoids help to reduce symptoms of depression (2,3). The combination of these two powerful nutrients in kale makes it an excellent food to combat depression.

2. Kale Can Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

Kale contains substances called isothiocyanates, which are sulphur containing compounds that help to prevent the development of cancer. Specifically, studies show that these compounds promote apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells (4). They also prevent the formation of blood supply that feed tumors(5). Isothiocyanates specifically help to prevent lung, liver, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and breast cancer (6).

3. Kale Helps to Detoxify Your Body

The same compounds that help reduce risk of cancer also play a huge role in your liver's detoxification process. Any toxins in the body, whether they be from smoking, pesticides, or pollution, are cleared out by your liver through a two-phase process. Kale benefits both phases through its high sulphur and isothiocyanate content. These compounds remove toxins in the liver by inducing specific detoxification enzymes (7).

4. Kale Keeps Your Heart Healthy

Kale contains several nutrients that promote heart health. It is very high in vitamin K, with 1 cup cooked providing 1327% DV (1). Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting and the prevention of calcium deposits in your arteries (8). Kale is also a good source of dietary fiber, with 1 cup of cooked kale providing 10% DV for fiber (1). The fiber content helps to bind to bile acids and reduce bad cholesterol (9).

5. Kale Keeps Your Bones Strong

Vitamin K and calcium both play a huge role in bone health. As mentioned previously, kale is an excellent source of vitamin K. It is also a good source of calcium, with 9%DV in 1 cup cooked (1). Vitamin K increases bone mineral density and reduces risk of fracture in people with osteoporosis (10). Calcium is needed for muscle, heart, and nerve function and when we are not taking in enough calcium, our bodies pull it from our bones (11).

Nutrient Info For Kale

Serving size: 1 cup cooked

Top 10 Nutrients by %DV
  • Vitamin K1328% DV
  • Vitamin A354% DV
  • Vitamin C89% DV
  • Manganese27% DV
  • Fiber10% DV
  • Copper10% DV
  • Calcium9% DV
  • Vitamin B69% DV
  • Potassium8% DV
  • Omega 3s8% AI
Table for Common Nutrients
Nutrient%DV
Calories 36 2%
Fat 0.5g 1%
Protein 2.5g 5%
Carbohydrate 7.3g 2%
Sugars 1.6g ~
Fiber 2.6g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Saturated Fats 0.068g 0%
Calcium, Ca 93.6mg 9%
Iron, Fe 1.2mg 7%
Potassium, K 296.4mg 8%
Magnesium, Mg 23.4mg 6%
Vitamin A, IU 17707.3IU 354%
Vitamin C 53.3mg 89%
Vitamin B-12 0μg 0%

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database - Release 28.
See the complete nutrition facts with over 150 nutrients, or the nutrition facts comparison of Kale vs other foods.

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Kale Fun Facts

  1. Kale is a kind of primitive cabbage that is thought to have originated in Asia Minor. A hearty vegetable, Kale can survive in very cold temperatures to sub-tropical climates (zones 3-9 in the U.S.)
  2. Scotch Kale has more curly leaves than other varieties and also provides more calcium and niacin.
  3. In Ireland, kale is mixed with mashed potatoes to make a traditional dish called colcannon.
  4. Gram per gram, kale provides about 50% more protein than spinach, and is a high protein vegetable, providing 5% of the daily value (DV) for protein per cup cooked.
  5. Kale has a strong cultural influence in northern Germany where towns will have yearly Kale festivals and name a Kale King (or Queen) or Kohlkonigin.
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Data Sources and References

  1. Nutrition Facts for Raw Kale
  2. Su KP, Huang SY, Chiu CC, Shen WW. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2003;13(4):267-71.
  3. Hu J, Straub J, Xiao D, et al. Phenethyl isothiocyanate, a cancer chemopreventive constituent of cruciferous vegetables, inhibits cap-dependent translation by regulating the level and phosphorylation of 4E-BP1. Cancer Res. 2007;67(8):3569-73.
  4. The relationship between plasma carotenoids and depressive symptoms in older persons.
  5. Cavell BE, Syed alwi SS, Donlevy A, Packham G. Anti-angiogenic effects of dietary isothiocyanates: mechanisms of action and implications for human health. Biochem Pharmacol. 2011;81(3):327-36.
  6. Floras JS, Sinkey CA, Aylward PE, Seals DR, Thoren PN, Mark AL. Postexercise hypotension and sympathoinhibition in borderline hypertensive men. Hypertension. 1989;14(1):28-35.
  7. Hu R, Xu C, Shen G, et al. Gene expression profiles induced by cancer chemopreventive isothiocyanate sulforaphane in the liver of C57BL/6J mice and C57BL/6J/Nrf2 (-/-) mice. Cancer Lett. 2006;243(2):170-92.
  8. Maresz K. Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015;14(1):34-9.
  9. Narayan S, Lakshmipriya N, Vaidya R, et al. Association of dietary fiber intake with serum total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in Urban Asian-Indian adults with type 2 diabetes. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2014;18(5):624-30.
  10. Weber P. Vitamin K and bone health. Nutrition. 2001;17(10):880-7.