Kale has swept the nation as the new “power” food. From Kale bumper stickers, to kale chips, this vegetable is now the icon of the “clean eating” revolution….but is kale all it’s chopped up to be?
Kale comes in different varieties and is related to cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts (the Brassica family). This leafy green is a nutrient dense vegetable, meaning that it contains large amounts of nutrients, phytonutrients, and antioxidants per square inch. Most varieties contain the following in 1 cup chopped, and can be beneficial for your cycling performance, recovery, and health!
One cup of chopped kale contains:
~ 33 Calories (Kcals)
~9% Daily Value (DV) of Calcium
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies and essential for strong bones (to withstand unfortunate crashes), aids in muscle contraction (which allows us to move- pedal, sprint, climb, and eat), nerve impulse transmission, blood clotting (to limit excessive bleeding when injured), and cellular metabolism (cellular life).
~200% DV of Vitamin A
Vitamin A plays many important roles for women including vision, a healthy immune system, fertility, and bone growth.
~130% DV of Vitamin C
Antioxidant vitamin C protects cells from damage, forms collagen (a fibrous protein that helps hold together the bones and tissues in our body) that is found in skin, bone, tendons, cartilage, and teeth. Vitamin C also helps the cells in our immune system to function properly, and enhances iron absorption from plant foods*
~650% DV of Vitamin K
Among many functions of vitamin K, it is essential for normal blood clotting and bone health which is ideal for healing from an injury.
But wait, that’s not all!
Kale contains essential minerals like potassium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and copper. It has carotenoids and flavonoids that are anti-cancer related antioxidants, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin compounds that promote eye-health.
~ Try cooking your kale to get a fiber boost in your diet which helps binds bile acids and assist in lowering blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease!
~ Try 2 kale leaves in your favorite fruit and protein smoothie to get a super-antioxidant recovery snack.
Kale has amazing nutritional benefits, but it also contains naturally occurring oxalates that can interfere with the absorption of Calcium. So make sure to avoid eating calcium-rich foods with/at the same time as kale to get the maximum benefits from your meal.
Variety is the key:
It’s obvious that kale has amazing nutritional properties, containing large amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals perfect for women athletes. However, a diet of only kale can be harmful for you health and performance…..So aim for moderation and variety in your daily/weekly diet. By eating a variety of richly-colored vegetables throughout the day and week you are receiving a larger spectrum of enhancing nutrients and additional nutrient-properties. For example, an alternative to kale can be turnip and/or mustard greens. Although they can taste slightly bitter, these power-foods on average contain lower amounts of oxalates and have higher amounts of absorbable Calcium than kale.
Therefore, aim to choose brightly colored vegetables- from bell peppers to sweet potatoes, variety is the key to winning health and performance.
What are your favorite kale recipes? Tweet us your comments @wca_tweet or post on our Facebook page at Women’s Cycling Association.
Sarah Weber, RD, LD