From her sick bed at Duro Soleye Hospital in Lagos more than one decade ago, Mrs. Semowo telephoned me to ask: Have you heard about Kale?

“Yes, madam, I have,” I replied. “But it isn’t readily available here.”

She wanted kale urgently. For she’d heard it was a wonderful herb which could help the condition for which she was in hospital. I didn’t know she was in hospital, having not heard from her in a long, long while. I met her through her husband in Iju Hills, near Lagos, in the 1970s and then at her shop at the Tafawa Balewa Square shopping Center, also in Lagos, when, in 1983, my wife and I went shopping for her wedding gown.Mrs. Semowo was motherly and warm, knew about herbs and, if my memory serves me right, helped Mrs. Elizabeth Kafaru for a while to bring herbs into Nigeria from Austria and the United Kingdom.

In hospital, she had a sensing that she may soon be called away. But, like all of us, she didn’t stop fighting for her life, just in case she may still have a little time, or more time left, and didn’t wish to carelessly bow out. I do not think Kale was well known in Nigeria at that time. For even Mrs. Semowo thought it was a rapidly growing weed which, in South-west Nigeria, the Yoruba have nicknamed Ewe Akintola(Akintola’s leaf) or Ewe Awolowo(Awolowo leaf). Now we know kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family which includes cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower e.t.c. The interesting thing or good news today is that KALE has made an appearance in Nigeria and is one of the promising herbs for the 2016 neutriceutical market in Nigeria.

King or queen?

Many writers describe Kale as either the “King” or the “queen” of greens. Listen to Kris Gunnars, B.Sc in Authority Nutrition: “of all the super healthy greens, Kale is the 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.”

I went in search of kale last year for it lutein and Zeazanthin, two great antioxidant which powerfully protect the lens of the eyes against Cataracts and the retina against oxidative stress and damage. About 20 years ago, I sold an eye defense food supplement called LUTEIN EYES. It improved day and night vision, and was good for my eyes for the stress my work as editor of a national newspaper subjected them to. One day, out of curiosity to confirm that I could read fine prints on the product label, I checked the nutritional facts and discovered that the product was extracted from Marigold flowers. Marigold flowers, I wondered. I was to discover that Marigold flowers was the commercial source of Lutein and Zeazanthin extracts for the health care industry. Since then, I have advocated that Nigeria agriculturalists encourage plantation cultivation of Marigold, which can be produced in capsules, fluid extracts, tinctures, bulk herbs or tea sachets like Lipton tea. There is no doubt that, added to food, this will help to improve the vision of many Nigerians who would then be able to consume Marigold as a part of the daily diet. I do not wish to digress into the many benefits of Marigold, either as a remedy against ulcer, promotion of menstrual health or even as an anti-cancer agents lest I digress from Kale. But I believe I can quickly say that, from my base in Lagos, I purchased fresh Marigold flowers from the farm of A. Air Vice Marshall Shekari (rtd) in Jos, dry it and take as tea or a spread on my rice or beans dish.

If you cannot get Marigold, because it is expensive as it is used more in Nigeria for ornamental purposes, you can still obtain Lutein and Zeazanthin from deep green vegetables such as spinach. But do not overdo Spinach because, like pumpkin leaves (Ugu vegetable), it has a high content of oxalic acid. If you do not have enough Magnesium in your system, and this leads to a high amount of free calcium, the free calcium and the oxalic acid may crystalise into calcium oxalate salts which may course those familiar calcium oxalate kidney stones. Kale would, therefore, appear to be a better way of sourcing Lutein and Zeazanthin on a prolonged basis because it has less oxalic acid than Spinach.

Kale nutrients

Kris Gunnars advise that Kale is one of the herbs mostpacked with nutrients. He says: “A single cup of raw Kale (about 67 grammes or 2.4 ounces) contains Vitamin A: 206% of the RDA (Recommendation Daily Allowance)   (from beta carotene 2 / “Vitamin K: 684% of the RDA 3/ “Vitamin C: 134% of the RDA 4/ “Vitamin B6: .Nine percent of the RDA” 5/Manganese: 26% of the RDA 6/” Calcium: nine percent of the RDA 7/ “Copper: 10% of the RDA 8/ “Potassium: nine percent of the RDA 10/ “Magnesium: six percent of the RDA.

“Then it contains three percent or more of the RDA for Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavine) Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Iron and Phosphorus.

“This is coming with a total of 33 calories, six grammes of Carbs, (two of which are fiber) and three grammes of protein. Kale contains very little fat, but a large portion of the fat in it is the Omega 3 Fatty Acid Called Alpha Alph Linoleic Acid.Given the incredible low calori content, Kale is among the most nutrient dense food in existence.

In the Antioxidant category, Kale is loaded with Quecetin, an anti-inflammatory, and Kaempferol, flavonoids and polyphenols. We know antioxidants protect the body against the oxidative damage of free radicals which promote aging and degenerative diseases. Quecetin and kaempferol appear in large quantum in Kales. They are believed to protect the heart and the circulatory system, fight viruses, reduce inflammation and pain, lower high blood pressure depression and fight even cancer.

When it comes to Vitamin C, Kale is reported to be loaded four and a half times more than Spinach. Vitamin C is beneficial for a healthy immune system, well-being of the cells, and the formation of collagen. Many people look up to orange for their daily Vitamin C uptake. I, too, rely on the juice of two oranges into which I dissolve a quarter or half teaspoonful of Kale. I eat the fluid sack of the orange for bioflavonoids and eat the peel of the orange as well for all the benefits it offers (read last weeks column…14th January, 2016… on the health benefits of eating orange peel).

Gunnar says that “as simple cup of raw kale actually contains more Vitamin C than in orange” what about cholesterol? Kale has a solution for high cholesterol levels, says Gunnars. Cholesterol isn’t a terrible bad thing as many people erroneously think. If we avoid it in the diet because we fear and hate it, the body will produce it because it needs it. All the cells of the body need it as a component of their cell walls. When they have taken what they need of it from the blood stream, they return the remainder to the liver which safely converts it to bile salts using minerals and Vitamins to achieve this. Where minerals and Vitamins are in short supply, cholesterol levels may, therefore, rise. Gannars says:

“Kale may help lower cholesterol which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol has many important functions in the body. One of them is being used to make bile acids, which are substances that help us digest fat. The liver turns cholesterol into bile acids, which are then released into the digestive system when we eat a fatty meal. When all the fat has been absorbed, and the bile acids have served their purpose, they are re-absorbed into the bloodstream and used again. Substances called bile acid sequestrates can bind bile acids in the digestive system and prevent them from being re-absorbed. This reduces the total amount of cholesterol in the body. Guess what… Kale actually contains Bile acid sequestrates which can lower cholesterol level. This should lead to reduced risk of heart diseases over time.”

“One study found that daily consumption of juice for 12 weeks increased LDL (the good) cholesterol by 27% and lowered LDL levels by 10%, which also increases antioxidant status.” Steaming Kale is reported to dramatically increase its capacity to bind to bile acids. It is reported by Gunnars to be 43 percent as “potent as CHOLESTYRA MINE, a cholesterol-lowering drug that functions in this way.”

Kale and Vision

In the websitewww.sightmatters.com, we learn: “there are 20 carotenoids found in the human body, but only Lutein and Zeazanthin are found in the visual system. They are known to reduce disability from glare, enhance contrast and reduce photostress recovery times.”

In Langlight,we hear a similar story: Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are rich in two antioxidant stored in the macular… Lutein and Zeazanthin. The macular is a part of the retina that acts as a natural sun block, shielding the eye from damaging light. Lutein and Zeazanthin absorb blue light which is especially harmfull to the retina. This nutrient can also help the eye detect contract better, so eating foods rich in these antioxidants not only improves vision, but they help maintain your vision long-term. Since lutein and Zeazanthin are fat soluble, eating your greens with olive oil will help ensure that you absorb more of them.”

General health

There are no fewer than 17 reasons we should add Kale to the diet, according to Bembu it says:

“Brain food. The manganese in Kale helps your brain function at its best and that can help you focus on your daily tasks at work, as well as help you feel better in general. A healthy brain is responsible for how happy we fed, how active we are, and how well we are able to cope with the challenges life brings us. There are also amino acids in Kale that specifically help the brain give us a pick-up. That’s why you often feel lighter and brighter after a meal containing Kale, instead of being worn down and groggy like you can after eating other foods or drinking every drinks.

“Protects against heart disease. After your brain, your heart is the most important organ. Anti-Cancer Benefits. The phytonutrients in Kale help to battle free radical damage if you have cancer, you can use Kale as part of your plan to fight back and become cancer free again.”

“Every-one thinks that beef is a rich source of iron, so let’s use that as a comparison. 100 grams of beef has 1.6mg of iron, while 100 grams of Kale has 1.5 mg. That’s why you will hear people say kale is the new beef since it does good job of contributing to your daily iron needs without the added calories and fat that come with beef.

dd“High in Potassium Kale has a very respectable amount of Potassium, putting it on par with some of the biggest potassium wielding fruits and vegetables out there. Let’s start with the banana, which we all know is high in potassium at 358mg in a 100grm serving. The same serving of kale will net you 228mg. one better source than both is Avocado, which gets you 485mg. the key takeaway here is that Kale boats a rather high level of potassium for being a vegetable, and is only outdone by Spinach and Swiss chard in the   leafy greens department.

Helps you loose weight eating more Kale means you are getting full without adding much in the way of calories or fat. No matter which diet you are on, Kale should definitely be allowed, and is recommended as an aid for weight lose. It contains fiber to help kick your digestive system into gear and keep you regular. It also contains a bit of vegetable protein to help you with any strength training goals.

Anti-inflammatory benefits kale is listed as an anti-inflammatory food, which means that it should help cure rampart inflammation in the body which can lead to certain diseases and conditions. Proponents of anti-inflammatory diet say that it can help you present things like heart disease as well as cancer.

“There are many other benefit of Kale. It promotes heart and blood vessel health, has large amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, has more calcium than milk, cleans upthe liver, is present in many detoxification formulas designed to rid the liver of toxins and supply it with nutrients for optimal performance.

Now, I have a faint, if not clear sensing, of why someone on a sick bed who has heard of the amazing health-supporting work of Kale would wish to have it as an ally on the journey of recovery.

Naturopathic physician Deirdre orceyre of the center for integrative Medicine of the Gerge WashingtonUniversity Medical Center says:

“Any vegetable that has a very deep colour the way kale does that means there is a high concentration of nutrients, and that translates into a range of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the body.”

He is quoted by Carolyn Butler in Health.com. Says Carolyn Butler. “This wide array of vitamins, nutrients and minerals result is several documented, distinct health advantages. Brassica vegetables are known to help with general health as well as heart disease and cancer, but even among this group kale stands out.”… A new laboratory study also found that kale extracts inhibits the production of existing colon cancer cells. Orceyre highlights the fact that the green contains indole-3- carbinol, a nutrient that seems to play a role in how estrogen is metabolized in the body and may play a protective role against breast cancer. We sometimes use it as a supplement in patients with breast cancer. Any-one who has a reason to be concerned about developing breast cancer and for those with estrogen-dominant illness like fibroids, fibrocytic breast disease or endometriosis, to try to help modulate negative estrogenic effects in the body, taking kale is a natural way to do that.”

Caution!

Like all herbs, Kale is not to be overdone. It has large amounts of vitamin K which promotes blood clotting. For this reason, it may be taken with blood thinners such as garlic, onion and cayenne. That’s why I’d rather add it to soups and stews. Besides vitamin K, there is some oxalate in Kale, though not as much as in Spinach, which, enlarge doses, has been linked to kidney stones and gall bladder stones. It has gostrogens which can suppress thyroid function in some people, although people with over-active thyroid glands (hyperthyroidism) will like this. Finally it may cause gas formation and bloating. But this may be overcome easily when kale is eaten with gas-absorbing foods.

picture credit from: www.elephantjournal.com

 

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