I've picked Kale as this month's Runner Superfood, because when I was struck down with the dreaded flu last week I felt compelled to steam up piles of kale and add it to everything I ate. And for good reason too: kale belongs to the nutritionally dense Brassica family, a group of vegetables including cabbage, collards and Brussel sprouts, all rich in health-promoting benefits due to their sulphur-containing phytonutrients. Over 45 different flavonoids have been identified in kale, with kaempferol and quercetin topping the list. These have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, which enables kale to play a key role in the war against chronic inflammation and oxidative stress - a vital consideration for serious runners.
A cup of kale contains a mere 46 calories but is packed with almost double the vitamin K of other cruciferous vegetables (1327% RDA!), which is vital for bone and blood health. A cup also contains 354% vitamin A, great for vision and immunity against infections. It contains 89% vitamin C requirements, which also supports the immune system, and maintains health of connective tissue. 27% manganese requirements are catered for, necessary for manufacture and activation of numerous enzymes.
Kale is well known for being a good 'detox' food, as it supports phases I and II of the detoxification process, which helps consumers deal with toxic exposure from the environment or from food intake.
The type of fibre in kale is able to lower cholesterol - In simple terms, the fibre binds to bile acids, which are formed in the liver from cholesterol and are essential for emulsification of fats. By binding to these bile acids and causing them to be excreted, the liver then uptakes more cholesterol to create further bile acids, thus reducing overall cholesterol levels. A similar effect can be seen with oats (which is one of the reasons why porridge gets such great press).
Cruciferous vegetables should ideally be eaten 2-3 times a week. Personally I prefer to include them 5-6 times, and kale is a versatile vegetable that adds depth, flavour and filling fibre to your meals. It is perfect to add into whatever you're cooking - soup, stir-fry or steamed up as an accompaniment. I like to steam up kale and other greens and then add into whatever soup I eat - this is a great way to 'nutrient boost' your winter lunches.
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