Wearing a shirt with the word kale sprawled across it may not be your idea of high fashion, but consider eating the green veggie as part of your beauty regimen. By now, you may be familiar with its health benefits—high in vitamin K and calcium, it helps to prevent cardiovascular disease, bone fragility, as well as arterial and kidney calcification. It lowers cholesterol, especially when cooked. It’s a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that help to filter high-energy light, shielding eyes from damage and reducing the risk of cataracts. Kale provides B vitamins, notably pantothenic acid, that supports your body in converting carbs to glucose and as a fuel for energy. The list goes on: kale is rich in fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, sulforaphane, omega 3 fatty acids, and glucosinolates.
A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2011 linked a higher intake of kale and other members of the Brassica family (think mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, arugula, watercress and cabbage) with a decreased risk of colon cancer.
So what does kale have to do with beauty—makes it such a star? Credited for keeping us youthful? Plenty, it seems. Skin— our largest organ—requires high quality food, rich in vitamins and minerals for optimal function. Kale is loaded with vitamins A and collagen-producing vitamin C. Retinol, derived from vitamin A, diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Abundant in fiber, and therefore improved digestion, kale helps skin to glow. It also contains chlorophyll, a detoxifying antioxidant which reigns supreme in the anti-aging department by combating the free-radical damage that causes visible (and hidden) signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, dullness, and discoloration. Antioxidants increase the effectiveness of sunscreens in preventing sun damage; they promote cellular repair and healing.
Aside from its benefits for the skin, consuming kale is valued for beautifying hair. Do you have a show stopping mane of hair? Or is it thinning? Bald patches? Hair reflects the state of your overall health. Strong hair relies on the capability of your body to create a proper hair shaft as well as on healthy skin and follicles. If you experience hair breakage, try drinking kale juice or smoothies to increase your hair’s elasticity and strength. Moreover, your hair will grow at a faster rate. But it may require time and patience to repair the damage.
Your age, ethnicity, and genetics all play their part. Kale is not the only food that can restore the luxuriant head of hair that you may recall having as a child. But kale is in the forefront, providing the above mentioned folate, iron, and vitamin C (to assure that there’s enough iron in red blood cells to carry oxygen to hair follicles. Vitamin C also forms collagen, a structural fiber that helps our body to hold everything together. Hair follicles, blood vessels, and skin all require collagen to stay healthy for optimal growth. On the head, even minor vitamin C deficiencies can lead to dry, brittle hair that breaks easily.
Dr. Jessica Wu, a dermatologist and creator of Dr. Jessica Wu Skincare, wrote in Feed Your Face, her guide to eating for beauty:
“I tell my patients that what they put in their mouths is as important as the products they apply on their skin. Foods get digested and broken down into vitamins, minerals and amino acids that your body can use to build healthy skin. If you crash diet or eat highly processed foods, your skin won’t be as strong and supple as it could be.”
Cautionary: if you have a thyroid problem, it’s advisable not to overdue consumption of kale which is a goitrogen and cook it briefly rather than eating it raw. Too much kale can prevent proper absorption of calcium and iodine. So moderation is advisable. And if you’re doing a juice cleanse, be sure to supplement with calcium and iodine-rich foods simultaneously.
If you haven’t yet tried eating kale—most commonly seen are the curly or lacing (Dinosaur) in the supermarket, although there are several other varieties—it can be steamed, sauteed, roasted, eaten raw or turned into a smoothie which can be made from any combination of fruits and vegetables.