Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Recipes and nutrition articles everywhere are promoting kale, a vegetable I never even heard of until recently. Is it really that great?
A: Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and more. It has become more popular as people try it in restaurants and hear about its nutritional qualities from the media. Just like other healthful vegetables, it’s simply a great way to add variety to a healthy eating pattern. Like spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens and broccoli, kale’s dark green color signals that it’s very high in beta-carotene (which forms vitamin A and seems to offer cancer protective benefits of its own) and lutein and zeaxanthin (two other carotenoids, linked with eye health). It’s loaded with vitamin C and the calcium it contains is well absorbed. Compared to other dark green vegetables, kale does not contain as much folate, magnesium and iron. But like other cruciferous vegetables, kale contains compounds that break down into isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that show cancer-fighting properties in lab studies. What’s more, isothiocyanates seem to turn on tumor suppressor genes. These genes slow cell growth so that cell damage can be repaired, and they also stimulate self-destruction of damaged cells..
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.