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Sizing Up The Super-Foods: Broccoli and Kale

​Broccoli and kale are often hailed as “super-foods.” And, yes, they really are amazingly healthy for you.

But, if you’ve ever wondered what exactly makes these green powerhouses so “super,” you’ll be glad to know I’ve worked the research to provide you with all the nerdy answers to make these green gods a worthy addition to your diet.

To start, they are cruciferous cousins related to each other in the Brassica family. This dynasty of super plants also includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts.

Not only do these plants pack a ton of nutritional value, and health-promoting compounds, but they are also some of the least expensive, highly filling, and easy to cook too!

Super Nutrition

Broccoli and kale are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. and are thus noted as nutrient dense foods. Nutrient density is a measure of nutrients per calorie - and these both have a lot! For example…

100 grams of broccoli (about 1 cup, chopped) contains:

  • 34 calories

  • 2.8 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 6.6 g carbohydrates, and 2.6 g fiber.

  • Good source of B vitamins (when eaten raw)

  • >100% of your daily vitamin C

  • Almost 100% of your vitamin K

  • Good source of manganese

  • Traces of all the other vitamins and minerals

One cup of loosely packed kale contains:

  • 8 calories

  • 0.7 g protein, 0.2 g fat (including omega-3), 1.4 g carbohydrates, and 0.6 g fiber.

  • Contains pre-vitamin A (beta-carotene).

  • Several B vitamins, including B1, B3, B5, B6, and folate (B9)

  • Rich in vitamins C and K

  • Lots of minerals including manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, copper, phosphorus, and calcium.

So, unquestionably, these two foods contain a lot of nutrients.

MED-NOTE: Just so you know, too much vitamin K may interact with certain blood-thinning medications. If you're taking one of these medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before incorporating too much of these super-foods into your diet.

Moving on, broccoli and kale also contain other super health-promoting compounds. This is why broccoli and kale can often taste a bit bitter – however, that bitterness equals healthfulness!

The bitterness comes from the health-promoting compounds like glucosinolates (e.g., sulforaphane and isothiocyanates) and polyphenol flavonols contained within these super plant foods.

And, if you like variety, you’ll be happy to know that there are a few different types of kale - from curly kale, to dinosaur kale, to red/purple kale. The different colors result from slight differences in the amounts of the compounds these plants contain.

One of the main active ingredients in cruciferous vegetables are glucosinolates. These are antioxidant compounds that help detoxify, and help protect against cancer.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT: It's the precursors to glucosinolates that are in cruciferous vegetables, not the compounds themselves and provide the protective effect. When fresh broccoli and kale are eaten (or even chopped/blended) raw these active compounds are produced. *This fact is incorporated into a trick I use in this deliciously simple soup recipe*

MED-NOTE: Glucosinolates may affect iodine absorption and thyroid health, particularly in people prone to thyroid disease. In this case, you may not have to ditch these super-foods altogether - just cook them first.

These super-foods also contain flavonols like kaempferol and quercetin.

Flavonols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and research suggests they can help decrease your risk of cancer.

Kale also contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are known for promoting eye health and are protective against many cancers.

When cooked, kale contains another anti-cancer compound called indole.

To The Point:

These cruciferous super-foods; broccoli and kale, are super-packed with nutrition and possess a wide array of health-defending compounds.

Therefore, everyone --or almost everyone-- should be eating these foods regularly. I say “almost” because you should be cautious if you're taking blood-thinning medications; and, if you have thyroid issues, you should keep in mind cooking them first.

So, do you, or anyone you know, absolutely love (or hate) these super-foods? Or, maybe you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, #KeepovingTowardaBetterYou

Want to dive deeper? Check Out My Informative References:

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