Kale definitely deserves to be called a ‘superfood,’ as it’s one of the healthiest foods you can eat. During pregnancy it’s even better to consume, because all of these great nutritional benefits get shared with your baby
What is kale?
Kale is a curly-leafed relative of wild cabbage. It’s usually dark green in color, but kale can be purple, red, or even white. Unlike most other plants, kale thrives in colder weather and can be grown year round. When uncooked, it has an earthy taste, and its leaves are tough to chew.
What makes kale healthy?
Kale is very low in calories, contains about 2.6 grams of fiber per cup, and has an extremely healthy carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of 3 to 1. Kale contains lots of healthy vitamins and fatty acids, as well as antioxidants and minerals that have short and long-term benefits.
Vitamins in kale
Just one cup of kale contains a lot of vitamins. In 1 cup, you can get 206% of your daily vitamin A (beta-carotene, not the retinol found from animal sources) recommendation, 134% of your daily vitamin C recommendation, and 684% of your daily vitamin K recommendation. These vitamins help your body maintain bones and skin, heal wounds, strengthen hair and nails, fight infection, and build blood clots.
Kale also has folate, which helps create new cells in your body – this is especially important for women who are pregnant, as folate is needed for proper fetal brain development.
Minerals in kale
Kale has an abundance of minerals too. It contains iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, copper, and phosphorous. These minerals carry oxygen throughout our bodies, keep our water content balanced, help with nerve and muscle function, as well as help build the bones in our bodies.
Fatty acids in kale
Our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids, which is why we need to get them from our diets. The best source of omega-3s is oily fish, but kale is a good source too – one cup provides a healthy 121 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in our cell membranes, and help create hormones in our body that perform essential tasks.
Our bodies can’t make omega-6 fatty acids on their own, either, though they’re more present in most diets already through the corn and soybean oil in processed foods. A cup of kale provides 92.5 mg of omega-6 fatty acids.
Because of the large amounts of vitamin K in kale, people who are on anticoagulants like warfarin might be advised not to consume kale. For the most part, though, kale is one of the best choices when deciding how to fill your plate. It can be used as a substitute in a variety of recipes – really anything you use leafy greens like lettuce or spinach in – and it can be incorporated into any meal of the day. Since your body is sharing its nutrients, for the time being, eating this superfood will make sure that your baby gets the right nutrients for their growth, too.
Try these great kale recipes
- “Try Kale for Vitamin K and Cancer Protection.” NutritionLetter. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Jul 2013. Web.
- “Ch. 17: Nutrition During Pregnancy.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Apr 2015. Web.