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The wonderful thing about walking

What’s great about walking is that most everyone can do it. You don’t need special equipment, skills or a designated space to walk and you can do it whether you’re in excellent or declining health.

Although you could literally just step outside and walk, it is recommended that you wear a good pair of walking shoes with appropriate arch support if you’re going to be walking regularly.

Walking with improper footwear can actually cause more harm than good including conditions such as shin splints, cramps and even plantar fasciitis (intense heel pain). If you live in a crowded city or in a harsh climate, a treadmill may be a good investment.

Before buying equipment, consider trying one out at a local gym or at a friend’s house. Walking on a machine is not for everyone so do put one to the test before you spend money on one.

Warm up and cool down

If you’re doing more than a leisurely stroll, consider stretching before and after you get moving. Stretching before you walk can help prevent injury, improve performance and reduce muscle pain after the fact.

Cooling down and stretching after physical activity is also important to repair muscle and bring your heart rate down progressively.

Types of stretches do do before and after walking

HAMSTRING AND ANKLE

Sit on the edge of a chair with your right leg extended, right heel on floor. Flex right foot and keep toes pointed up. Lean forward gently from your hips to feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Repeat with left leg.

CALF STRETCH

Stand up straight, holding on to a chair. Put left leg behind you, keeping left heel on the floor. Bend right knee and lean toward the chair. You should feel the stretch in the calf of the left leg. Repeat with right leg.

GROIN STRETCH

Stand with legs slightly wider than shoulder width and hold on to a chair. With left foot facing forward, point right foot to right 45 degrees then lunge in that direction without letting knee go past toes. Repeat move on left side.

LEG SWINGS

Stand up straight, holding on to a chair with your left hand for support. Standing to the side of the chair on your left leg, move your right leg to the front, side and back, tapping your toe at each point. Repeat with left leg.

The social and psychological benefits of walking

Have you ever walked a dog? Seeing their joy and amazement at everything they see, and smell is enough to get you hooked on walking. Similarly, walking with a human friend may be exactly what you need to get your mind off of problems and worries.

Many mental health professionals will actually encourage their patients to walk with them during a therapy session. Why you might ask? The reason is simple. Walking activates critical hormones in the brain that stimulate clearer thinking and problem solving.

Walking for weight management and toning muscles

Contrary to some misconceptions, you don’t have to suffer to lose weight. Many believe that the saying “No pain, no gain” is the only truth, but that is in fact not the case.

Walking, which is relatively painless to most, may be enough to control your weight, firm and tone your muscles and even lose several pounds.

The key is not to walk long distances but rather to adopt a regular walking habit. A brisk 30 to 45 minutes walk five to six times a week will be sufficient for most.

Set objectives

Setting objectives will force you to focus and strive to achieve them. Make your goals realistic and push yourself to attain them over time. For example, if your usual distance is 2 miles a day, try to reduce the time it takes you to complete your course.

Or if you’re already walking at a fast pace, gradually increase your distance to 2.5 miles. Aim to go from walking on a flat route to one with more hills or change the terrain from asphalt to trail walking.

Tips to ensure a fun walk

Dress in layers and preferably in clothes made from breathable fabric.

Even if the temperature is cool, walking will cause your internal engine to warm you considerably. If you’re overdressed, you may feel too hot midway through your route.

Bring a water bottle.

It may seem unnecessary, but water will significantly cool you down if you become too heated. Don’t drink excessively or you may feel bloated and uncomfortable during your stride.

Switch up the scenery

Walking in your neighborhood is probably the easiest, fastest and most cost-effective route you could take, but sometimes, driving to and walking in a different community will keep you motivated. You’ll see new houses, scenery and people.

Listen to music or podcasts while you walk

Bring a listening device and learn while you walk! There are literally hundreds of thousands of podcasts you can find for free online.

Plug in your ear phones and be inspired. Upbeat music is also a good motivator. You might find yourself walking to the beat with an extra bop in your step.

Walking may be the best activity for overall wellness.

By setting their own pace and distance, people of all ages and abilities can adopt a walking routine that suits them. But did you know that the health benefits of walking go beyond physical health?

Walking may actually re-wire your brain to think more positively, feel more energetic and confident. Walking has been proven to improve depression, memory, posture, insomnia, metabolism and many other conditions.

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Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health.

Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.

Studies show that dark chocolate (not the sugary crap) can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease.

This article reviews 7 health benefits of dark chocolate or cocoa that are supported by science.

1. Very Nutritious

If you buy quality dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, then it is actually quite nutritious.

It contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals.

A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains:

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 67% of the RDI for iron
  • 58% of the RDI for magnesium
  • 89% of the RDI for copper
  • 98% of the RDI for manganese
  • It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium

Of course, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily. All these nutrients also come with 600 calories and moderate amounts of sugar.

For this reason, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation.

The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is also excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturated fat.

It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine, but is unlikely to keep you awake at night as the amount of caffeine is very small compared to coffee.

SUMMARY Quality dark chocolate is rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and a few other minerals.

2. Powerful Source of Antioxidants

ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity.” It is a measure of the antioxidant activity of foods.

Basically, researchers set a bunch of free radicals (bad) against a sample of a food and see how well the antioxidants in the food can “disarm” the radicals.

The biological relevance of ORAC values is questioned, because it’s measured in a test tube and may not have the same effect in the body.

However, it is worth mentioning that raw, unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest-scoring foods that have been tested.

Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others.

One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries.

SUMMARY Cocoa and dark chocolate have a wide variety of powerful antioxidants. In fact, they have way more than most other foods.

3. May Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure

The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide (NO).

One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure.

Many controlled studies show that cocoa and dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, though the effects are usually mild.

However, one study in people with high blood pressure showed no effect, so take all this with a grain of salt.

SUMMARY The bioactive compounds in cocoa may improve blood flow in the arteries and cause a small but statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.

4. Raises HDL and Protects LDL From Oxidation

Consuming dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease.

In a controlled study, cocoa powder was found to significantly decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol in men. It also increased HDL and lowered total LDL for those with high cholesterol.

Oxidized LDL means that the LDL (“bad” cholesterol) has reacted with free radicals.

This makes the LDL particle itself reactive and capable of damaging other tissues, such as the lining of the arteries in your heart.

It makes perfect sense that cocoa lowers oxidized LDL. It contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants that do make it into the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage.

Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

SUMMARY Dark chocolate improves several important risk factors for disease. It lowers the susceptibility of LDL to oxidative damage while increasing HDL and improving insulin sensitivity.

5. May Reduce Heart Disease Risk

The compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL.

In the long term, this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries, resulting in a lower risk of heart disease

In fact, several long-term observational studies show a fairly drastic improvement.

In a study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 50% over a 15 year period.

Another study revealed that eating chocolate two or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect.

Yet another study showed that eating dark chocolate more than 5 times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57%.

Of course, these three studies are observational studies, so can’t prove that it was the chocolate that reduced the risk.

However, since the biological process is known (lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL), it is plausible that regularly eating dark chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease.

SUMMARY Observational studies show a drastic reduction in heart disease risk among those who consume the most chocolate.

6. May Protect Your Skin From the Sun

The bioactive compounds in dark chocolate may also be great for your skin.

The flavonols can protect against sun damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.

The minimal erythemal dose (MED) is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin 24 hours after exposure.

In one study of 30 people, the MED more than doubled after consuming dark chocolate high in flavanols for 12 weeks.

If you’re planning a beach vacation, consider loading up on dark chocolate in the prior weeks and months.

SUMMARY Studies show that the flavanols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and protect it from sun damage.

7. Could Improve Brain Function

The good news isn’t over yet. Dark chocolate may also improve the function of your brain.

One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain.

Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It may improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease, as well.

Additionally, cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, which may be a key reason why it can improve brain function in the short term.

SUMMARY Cocoa or dark chocolate may improve brain function by increasing blood flow. It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine.

The Bottom Line

There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against heart disease.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat.

Maybe have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them. If you want the benefits of cocoa without the calories in chocolate, consider making a hot cocoa without any cream or sugar.

Also be aware that a lot of the chocolate on the market is not healthy.

Choose quality stuff — dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content. You might want to check out this guide on how to find the best dark chocolate.

Dark chocolates typically contain some sugar, but the amounts are usually small and the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain.

Chocolate is one of the few foods that taste awesome while providing significant health benefits.

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Why Good Sleep Is Important

A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health.

In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising.

Unfortunately, the Western environment is interfering with natural sleep patterns.

People are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased as well.

Here are 10 reasons why good sleep is important.

1. Poor Sleep Can Make You Fat

Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain.

People with short sleep duration tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep.

In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity.

In one extensive review study, children and adults with short sleep duration were 89% and 55% more likely to become obese, respectively.

The effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be mediated by numerous factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise.

If you’re trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is absolutely crucial.

SUMMARY
Short sleep duration is associated with a drastically increased risk of weight gain and obesity, in both children and adults.

2. Good Sleepers Tend to Eat Fewer Calories

Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories.

Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation.

This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.

SUMMARY
Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don’t.

3. Good Sleep Can Improve Concentration and Productivity

Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function.

This includes cognition, concentration, productivity and performance.

All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.

A study on medical interns provides a good example.

Interns on a traditional schedule with extended work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep.

Another study found that short sleep can negatively impact some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication.

On the other hand, good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults.

SUMMARY
Good sleep can maximize problem-solving skills and enhance memory. Poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function.

4. Good Sleep Can Maximize Athletic Performance

Sleep has been shown to enhance athletic performance.

In a study on basketball players, longer sleep was shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times and mental wellbeing.

Less sleep duration has also been associated with poor exercise performance and functional limitation in elderly women.

A study in over 2,800 women found that poor sleep was linked to slower walking, lower grip strength and greater difficulty performing independent activities.

SUMMARY
Longer sleep has been shown to improve many aspects of athletic and physical performance.

5. Poor Sleepers Have a Greater Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

It’s known that sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors.

These are the factors believed to drive chronic diseases, including heart disease.

A review of 15 studies found that people who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke than those who sleep 7–8 hours per night.

SUMMARY
Sleeping less than 7–8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

6. Sleep Affects Glucose Metabolism and Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Experimental sleep restriction affects blood sugar and reduces insulin sensitivity.

In a study in healthy young men, restricting sleep to four hours per night for six nights in a row caused symptoms of pre-diabetes.

These symptoms resolved after one week of increased sleep duration.

Poor sleep habits are also strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population.

Those sleeping less than six hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

SUMMARY
Sleep deprivation can cause pre-diabetes in healthy adults in as little as six days. Many studies show a strong link between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes.

7. Poor Sleep Is Linked to Depression

Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders.

It has been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality.

Poor sleep is even associated with an increased risk of death by suicide.

Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.

SUMMARY
Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.

8. Sleep Improves Your Immune Function

Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function.

One large two-week study monitored the development of the common cold after giving people nasal drops with the cold virus.

They found that those who slept less than seven hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept eight hours or more.

If you often get colds, ensuring that you get at least eight hours of sleep per night could be very helpful. Eating more garlic can help as well.

SUMMARY
Getting at least eight hours of sleep can improve your immune function and help fight the common cold.

9. Poor Sleep Is Linked to Increased Inflammation

Sleep can have a major effect on inflammation in your body.

In fact, sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage.

Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases.

One study observed that sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse as patients who slept well.

Researchers are even recommending sleep evaluation to help predict outcomes in individuals with long-term inflammatory issues.

SUMMARY
Sleep affects your body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase your risk of disease recurrence.

10. Sleep Affects Emotions and Social Interactions

Sleep loss reduces your ability to interact socially.

Several studies confirmed this using emotional facial recognition tests.

One study found that people who had not slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness.

Researchers believe that poor sleep affects your ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.

SUMMARY
Sleep deprivation may reduce your social skills and ability to recognize people’s emotional expressions.

The Bottom Line

Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health.

You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.

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Tips for healthy eating

These 8 practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating and can help you make healthier choices.

The key to a healthy diet is to eat the right amount of calories for how active you are so you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use.

If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you’ll put on weight because the energy you do not use is stored as fat. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight.

You should also eat a wide range of foods to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.

It’s recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules).

Most adults are eating more calories than they need and should eat fewer calories.

1. Base your meals on higher fibre starchy carbohydrates

Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over a third of the food you eat. They include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals.

Choose higher fibre or wholegrain varieties, such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice or potatoes with their skins on.

They contain more fibre than white or refined starchy carbohydrates and can help you feel full for longer.

Try to include at least 1 starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the calories of fat.

Keep an eye on the fats you add when you’re cooking or serving these types of foods because that’s what increases the calorie content – for example, oil on chips, butter on bread and creamy sauces on pasta.

2. Eat lots of fruit and veg

It’s recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.

Getting your 5 A Day is easier than it sounds. Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit?

A portion of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables is 80g. A portion of dried fruit (which should be kept to mealtimes) is 30g.

A 150ml glass of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie also counts as 1 portion, but limit the amount you have to no more than 1 glass a day as these drinks are sugary and can damage your teeth.

3. Eat more fish, including a portion of oily fish

Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals.

Aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including at least 1 portion of oily fish.

Oily fish are high in omega-3 fats, which may help prevent heart disease. 

Oily fish include:

  • salmon
  • trout
  • herring
  • sardines
  • pilchards
  • mackerel

Non-oily fish include:

  • haddock
  • plaice
  • coley
  • cod
  • tuna
  • skate
  • hake

You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt.

Most people should be eating more fish, but there are recommended limits for some types of fish.

Find out more about fish and shellfish

4. Cut down on saturated fat and sugar

Saturated fat

You need some fat in your diet, but it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat you’re eating.

There are 2 main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

On average, men should have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day. On average, women should have no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.

Children under the age of 11 should have less saturated fat than adults, but a low-fat diet is not suitable for children under 5.

Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as:

  • fatty cuts of meat
  • sausages
  • butter
  • hard cheese
  • cream
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • lard
  • pies

Try to cut down on your saturated fat intake and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils and spreads, oily fish and avocados.

For a healthier choice, use a small amount of vegetable or olive oil, or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee.

When you’re having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat.

All types of fat are high in energy, so they should only be eaten in small amounts.

Sugar

Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay.

Sugary foods and drinks are often high in energy (measured in kilojoules or calories), and if consumed too often can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.

Free sugars are any sugars added to foods or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies.

This is the type of sugar you should be cutting down on, rather than the sugar found in fruit and milk.

Many packaged foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of free sugars.

Free sugars are found in many foods, such as:

  • sugary fizzy drinks
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • pastries and puddings
  • sweets and chocolate
  • alcoholic drinks

Food labels can help. Use them to check how much sugar foods contain.

More than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g means the food is high in sugar, while 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means the food is low in sugar.

Get tips on cutting down on sugar in your diet

5. Eat less salt: no more than 6g a day for adults

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke.

Even if you do not add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much.

About three-quarters of the salt you eat is already in the food when you buy it, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces.

Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt.

Adults and children aged 11 and over should eat no more than 6g of salt (about a teaspoonful) a day. Younger children should have even less.

Get tips on cutting down on salt in your diet

6. Get active and be a healthy weight

As well as eating healthily, regular exercise may help reduce your risk of getting serious health conditions. It’s also important for your overall health and wellbeing.

Read more about the benefits of exercise and physical activity guidelines for adults.

Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health.

Most adults need to lose weight by eating fewer calories.

If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to eat less and be more active. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Check whether you’re a healthy weight by using the BMI healthy weight calculator.

Start the NHS weight loss plan, a 12-week weight loss guide that combines advice on healthier eating and physical activity.

If you’re underweight, see underweight adults. If you’re worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice.

7. Do not get thirsty

You need to drink plenty of fluids to stop you getting dehydrated. The government recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluid you get from the food you eat. 

All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, lower fat milk and lower sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices. 

Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks, as they’re high in calories. They’re also bad for your teeth. 

Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar.

Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day, which is a small glass.

Remember to drink more fluids during hot weather or while exercising.

8. Do not skip breakfast

Some people skip breakfast because they think it’ll help them lose weight.

But a healthy breakfast high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt can form part of a balanced diet, and can help you get the nutrients you need for good health.

wholegrain lower sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and healthier breakfast.

Further information

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Health Benefits of Kale

Of all the super healthy greens, kale is king.

It is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious plant foods in existence.

Kale is loaded with all sorts of beneficial compounds, some of which have powerful medicinal properties.

Here are 10 health benefits of kale that are supported by science.

1. Kale Is Among The Most Nutrient-Dense Foods on The Planet

10 Health Benefits of Kale

Kale is a popular vegetable and a member of the cabbage family.

It is a cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and Brussels sprouts.

There are many different types of kale. The leaves can be green or purple, and have either a smooth or curly shape.

The most common type of kale is called curly kale or Scots kale, which has green and curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem.

A single cup of raw kale (about 67 grams or 2.4 ounces) contains (1):

  • Vitamin A: 206% of the DV (from beta-carotene)
  • Vitamin K: 684% 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
  • It also contains 3% or more of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), iron and phosphorus

This is coming with a total of 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber) and 3 grams of protein.

Kale contains very little fat, but a large portion of the fat in it is an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic-acid.

Given its incredibly low calorie content, kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods in existence. Eating more kale is a great way to dramatically increase the total nutrient content of your diet.

SUMMARY Kale is very high in nutrients and very low in calories, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

2. Kale Is Loaded With Powerful Antioxidants Like Quercetin and Kaempferol

Kale, like other leafy greens, is very high in antioxidants.

These include beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols.

Antioxidants are substances that help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body.

Oxidative damage is believed to be among the leading drivers of aging and many diseases, including cancer.

But many substances that happen to be antioxidants also have other important functions.

This includes the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which are found in relatively large amounts in kale.

These substances have been studied thoroughly in test tubes and animals.

They have powerful heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects, to name a few.

SUMMARY Many powerful antioxidants are found in kale, including quercetin and kaempferol, which have numerous beneficial effects on health.

3. It Is an Excellent Source of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important water-soluble antioxidant that serves many vital functions in the body’s cells.

For example, it is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, the most abundant structural protein in the body.

Kale is much higher in vitamin C than most other vegetables, containing about 4.5 times much as spinach.

The truth is, kale is actually one of the world’s best sources of vitamin C. A cup of raw kale contains even more vitamin C than a whole orange.

SUMMARY Kale is extremely high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that has many important roles in the body. A single cup of raw kale actually contains more vitamin C than an orange.

4. Kale Can Help Lower Cholesterol, Which May Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease

Cholesterol has many important functions in the body.

For instance, it is used to make bile acids, which is are substances that help the body digest fats.

The liver turns cholesterol into bile acids, which are then released into the digestive system whenever you eat a fatty meal.

When all the fat has been absorbed and the bile acids have served their purpose, they are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used again.

Substances called bile acid sequestrants can bind bile acids in the digestive system and prevent them from being reabsorbed. This reduces the total amount of cholesterol in the body.

Kale actually contains bile acid sequestrants, which can lower cholesterol levels. This might lead to a reduced risk of heart disease over time.

One study found that drinking kale juice every day for 12 weeks increased HDL (the “good”) cholesterol by 27% and lowered LDL levels by 10%, while also improving antioxidant status.

According to one study, steaming kale dramatically increases the bile acid binding effect. Steamed kale is actually 43% as potent as cholestyramine, a cholesterol-lowering drug that functions in a similar way.

SUMMARY Kale contains substances that bind bile acids and lower cholesterol levels in the body. Steamed kale is particularly effective.

5. Kale Is One of The World’s Best Sources of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is an important nutrient.

It is absolutely critical for blood clotting, and does this by “activating” certain proteins and giving them the ability to bind calcium.

The well-known anticoagulant drug Warfarin actually works by blocking the function of this vitamin.

Kale is one of the world’s best sources of vitamin K, with a single raw cup containing almost 7 times the recommended daily amount.

The form of vitamin K in kale is K1, which is different than vitamin K2. K2 is found in fermented soy foods and certain animal products. It helps prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

SUMMARY Vitamin K is an important nutrient that is involved in blood clotting. A single cup of kale contains 7 times the RDA for vitamin K.

6. There Are Numerous Cancer-Fighting Substances in Kale

Cancer is a terrible disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells.

Kale is actually loaded with compounds that are believed to have protective effects against cancer.

One of these is sulforaphane, a substance that has been shown to help fight the formation of cancer at the molecular level.

It also contains a indole-3-carbinol, another substance that is believed to help prevent cancer.

Studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables (including kale) may significantly lower the risk of several cancers, although the evidence in humans is mixed.

SUMMARY Kale contains substances that have been shown to help fight cancer in test-tube and animal studies, but the human evidence is mixed.

7. Kale Is Very High in Beta-Carotene

Kale is often claimed to be high in vitamin A, but this is not entirely accurate.

It is actually high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.

For this reason, kale can be an effective way to increase your body’s levels of this very important vitamin.

SUMMARY Kale is very high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.

8. Kale Is a Good Source of Minerals That Most People Don’t Get Enough Of

Kale is high in minerals, some of which many people are deficient in.

It is a good plant-based source of calcium, a nutrient that is very important for bone health and plays a role in all sorts of cellular functions.

It is also a decent source of magnesium, an incredibly important mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Eating plenty of magnesium may be protective against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Kale also contains quite a bit of potassium, a mineral that helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells. Adequate potassium intake has been linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.

One advantage that kale has over leafy greens like spinach is that it is low in oxalate, a substance found in some plants that can prevent minerals from being absorbed.

SUMMARY Many important minerals are found in kale, some of which are generally lacking in the modern diet. These include calcium, potassium and magnesium.

9. Kale Is High in Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Powerful Nutrients That Protect the Eyes

One of the most common consequences of aging is that eyesight gets worse.

Fortunately, there are several nutrients in the diet that can help prevent this from happening.

Two of the main ones are lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid antioxidants that are found in large amounts in kale and some other foods.

Many studies have shown that people who eat enough lutein and zeaxanthin have a much lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two very common eye disorders.

SUMMARY Kale is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that have been linked to a drastically reduced risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

10. Kale Should Be Able to Help You Lose Weight

Kale has several properties that make it a weight loss friendly food.

It is very low in calories but still provides significant bulk that should help you feel full.

Because of the low calorie and high water content, kale has a low energy density. Eating plenty of foods with a low energy density has been shown to aid weight loss in numerous studies.

Kale also contains small amounts of protein and fiber. These are two of the most important nutrients when it comes to losing weight.

Although there is no study directly testing the effects of kale on weight loss, it makes sense that it could be a useful addition to a weight loss diet.

SUMMARY As a nutrient-dense, low-calorie food, kale makes an excellent addition to a weight loss diet.

The Bottom Line

Fortunately, adding kale to your diet is relatively simple. You can simply add it to your salads or use it in recipes.

A popular snack is kale chips, where you drizzle some extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil on your kale, add some salt and then bake in it an oven until dry.

It tastes absolutely delicious and makes a great crunchy, super healthy snack.

A lot of people also add kale to their smoothies in order to boost the nutritional value.

At the end of the day, kale is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet.

If you want to dramatically boost the amount of nutrients you take in, consider loading up on kale.