Kale: Good nutrition for you, just don't overdo

"Any vegetable that has a very deep color the way kale does, that means there is a high concentration of nutrients, and that translates into a range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body," says Deirdre Orceyre, a naturopathic physician at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center.

This wide array of vitamins, nutrients and minerals results in several documented, distinct health advantages.

"Brassica vegetables are known to help with general health as well as heart disease and cancer, but even among this group kale stands out" because it has the broadest range of antioxidants and also the highest levels of several specific ones, along with Vitamin K and a type of Vitamin E that seems to be heart-healthy, Harris says. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, although there is evidence that a person's specific genetic makeup also comes into play. A new laboratory study also found that kale extract inhibits the production of existing colon cancer cells.

Orceyre highlights the fact that the green contains indole-3- carbinol, a nutrient that seems to play a role in how estrogen is metabolized in the body and may play a protective role against breast cancer. "We sometimes use it as a supplement in patients with breast cancer, anyone who has a reason to be concerned about developing breast cancer and for those with estrogen-dominant illnesses like fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease or endometriosis, to try to help modulate negative estrogenic effects in the body," she says. "Eating kale is a natural way to do that."

Meanwhile, the fiber in kale can aid digestion in general, says Baltimore dietitian Angela Ginn, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eating kale, she says, "revs up your body's natural detoxification ability."

Still, it's probably best not to go overboard with kale and to simply integrate it into an overall healthful diet full of other fruits and vegetables.

"There are a couple of controversial things about kale that are worth mentioning," says Orceyre, who explains that its large concentration of Vitamin K can be a problem for people taking blood thinners and other medications because it promotes clotting; the green also contains oxalates, which in lab tests have been associated with kidney stones and some gallstones.

Raw kale in particular "can be hard on the digestive system" — meaning it can cause bloating, gas and other abdominal issues — "and also contains a compound that can suppress thyroid function in certain people," she adds. That's why she doesn't recommend eating the vegetable uncooked or juicing it more than once or twice a week, though she says you can eat as much of the cooked veggie as you like.

Finally, Orceyre cautions that kale crops are often sprayed with pesticides, so buy organic if you can manage it, and in all cases be sure to clean vegetables well to wash away any surface chemicals.

Indeed, good overall preparation is essential if you want to enjoy that giant bag of kale, which has a well-deserved reputation for being tough and bitter.

"One mistake people make is that they don't cut the center stem out: That's what makes it really tough," says Ginn, who suggests cutting out the larger stems and slicing the leaves into strips, then washing them thoroughly and sprinkling with baking soda or baking powder to tenderize.

As for the healthiest method for cooking kale, the research is mixed.

"Cancer studies seem to show that raw kale is more beneficial than cooked, while cholesterol studies seem to show that steamed kale is more beneficial than raw," says Harris, who recommends a bit of both in your diet.

But whatever you do, don't boil, saute or stir-fry the veggie too long or with too much added liquid.

"When you cook it all the way down or with extra water or broth, you're losing a lot of the nutrients and enzymes in the actual green," Ginn says. "If you do, the key is to make sure you enjoy the leftover kale broth, too, because it has a lot of the antioxidants, nutrients and benefits that leak out and will be lost otherwise."

What about those of us who are trying to work more kale into our diets but are still struggling with its sometimes harsh flavor?

The coming cold weather will help some: "Once the frost hits, greens get milder and sweeter," says Harris, who counsels clients trying the veggie for the first time to start out using baby kale, which is less bitter and more tender and can be easier and quicker to work with. "There are so many options and different preparations," she says.

So kale chips and raw kale slaw just don't do it for you? Well, I'm hoping to eventually make my way through an entire bag of the veggie, one green smoothie and baby kale stir-fry at a time.

I have recently discovered the power of coconut products....Coconut oil being one of my favorites, besides the amazing coconut water (natures natural hydrator)

Coconut oil can be used in cooking, on skin and nails (great on bottom of feet at night) and as a hair rejuvenator mask. I'm sure there are more uses im yet to find out. 

I encourage you all to go and buy a lilttle tub and discover for yourselves the power of the coconut.

Here is an article I enjoyed reading from body and soul...

10 facts about coconut oil

BYMichele Chevalley Hedgebody+soul

 

This tropical trooper comes with a host of health benefits. Here's 10 reasons to pick up some coconut oil today.From beating sugar cravings to aiding weight loss, there are more benefits of coconut oil than most of us may realise.

1

All fats are not created equal

Coconut oil contains short term medium-chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs), which is a "healthy" form saturated fat compared to trans fat. Trans fatty acid consumption is linked with heart problems, depression and increased cholesterol levels. What does consuming MCFA fats in coconut oil mean for your body? Our body metabolises these fats in the liver, immediately coverting this into energy (fuel for the brain and muscle function) rather than it being stored as fat.

2

Controls weight

One 2009 study looked at the weight loss link between women's consumption of coconut oil and found that it reduces abdominal obesity. Researchers discovered coconut oil is easy to digest and also protects the body from insulin resistance. To try coconut oil for weight loss start by adding one teaspoon to your diet and gradually work your way up to four teaspoons per day.

3

Eases digestion

If you suffer from poor digestion or tummy bloating try adding coconut oil to your diet. Coconut oil has been found to benefit digestive disorders including irritable bowel syndrome and microbial related tummy bugs. Fatty acids in coconut oil contain anti microbial properties, which have a soothing affect on bacteria, candida, or parasites that cause poor digestion.

4

Manage type 2 diabetes

A recent study by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research found that coconut oil protects against insulin resistance, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. MCFA fats are small enough to be absorbed into the cells where they're quickly converted to energy. It is this process that not only reduces the amount of fat we pack into storage, but improves insulin sensitivity.

5

Supports immunity

Coconut oil is made up of healthy fats lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid which contain antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral prosperities to boost the immune system. Lauric acid contains the highest concentration of MCFA fatty acids, approximately 75 per cent. The body turn this fat into monolaurin which is claimed to help heal viruses such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, helicobacter pylori and candida.

6

Boost metabolism

A study reported in the Journal of Nutrition found that coconut oil boosts metabolism. Researchers found that participants who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil per day burned more kilojoules than those who consumed less. A speedy metabolism helps boost the body's immune system and keep weight off. 

7

Slows fine lines

Coconut is not just for your cooking – it's a wonderfully hydrating treat for skin too. It keeps the skin's connective tissues strong, which prevents sagging and wrinkles. Apply coconut oil directly to your skin to soften the appearance of fine lines or use it daily on your face and body for a healthy glow. Be sure you use virgin coconut oil with no additives.

8

Cooks in high temperatures

Because coconut oil is a medium-chain saturated fatty acid, it gives it a higher smoking temperature than most polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils. If you're preparing recipes that require high temperatures you should consider coconut oil for this type of cooking. Unlike olive oil which will oxidise at high temperatures, creating free radicals.

9

Stops sugar cravings

Instead of reaching for the lollie jar for an afternoon sweet hit, try eating a teaspoon of virgin coconut oil to beat sugar cravings. This is because good quality fat is more satiating than carbs, so if you cut down on sugar you will feel less 'ravenous'. Most of us do not realize but constant hunger is a major clue that your body is not being fed correctly.  With the proper amounts of fats and protein, you can fuel your energy reserves properly, and come off the sugar roller coaster that many of us are on.

10

Coconut oil is simple to cook with

Try this recipe for a nutritious high protein, gluten and dairy free coconut treat.

 

1 teaspoon of Niugini Organics Coconut Oil (available from health food stores)

1 cup of almonds or walnuts

1 cup of organic dates

3-4 tablespoons of raw cocoa powder

Shredded coconut (check it contains no preservatives)

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Roll into small bite size balls and roll into shredded coconut. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set. 

 

Michele Chevalley Hedge is an accredited nutritionist, author and presenter. Visit her

Why is coconut good for you?

Coconut is full of diverse health benefits from protecting against heart diseases to preventing tooth decay!

 

Some experts believe coconut can do the following for our health:

  • Protect against heart disease by increasing good cholesterol and lowering the ratio of bad and good cholesterol.
  • Helps treat malnutrition because it is easy to digest and absorb.
  • Kills disease-causing bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses because of the
    antimicrobial effects of its fatty acids.
  • Helps diabetics by slowing sugar release into the bloodstream.
  • Prevents strokes and brain disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
  • Boosts metabolism and increases energy because it is more likely to be burned as fuel than stored as body fat.
  • Prevent tooth decay - coconut oil fights bacteria responsible for tooth decay and could be a healthy, non-chemical additive in toothpaste and mouthwash, Irish research suggests. Scientists found that when the oil was treated with digestive enzymes it became a powerful killer of mouth bugs that can lead to dental caries.


The cons:

While protection against heart disease is one of the claimed benefits of coconut oil, the Heart Foundation strongly recommends avoiding it. "Coconut oil, milk and cream are all high in unhealthy saturated fat, which raises bad cholesterol levels, clogs the arteries and increases the risk of heart disease," says Barbara Eden, the Heart Foundation's senior manager of food supply. "Our recommendations are based on good-quality scientific evidence and don't recommend eating foods high in saturated fat. There are many healthier oils that don't raise cholesterol levels or increase the risk of heart disease." DAA spokeswoman Tania Ferraretto agrees and says the evidence of any health benefits from coconut oil is inconclusive.

How much coconut oil?

The Coconut Research Center's Dr Bruce Fife recommends one to three tablespoons of coconut oil a day for health maintenance. It can be used for frying and baking or it can be added to foods such as popcorn instead of butter.

At a glance

Coconut meat (raw): The super high-fibre content acts like a probiotic, feeding the good bacteria in the intestines and keeping you regular.

  • Fresh coconut juice: Rich in electrolytes, it aids in hydration, providing minerals essential for bodily functions such as movement and brain function.
  • Coconut oil (from the meat): Said to have numerous benefi ts, from protecting against heart disease to helping with weight management.
  • Coconut cream/milk: High in lauric acid, it may boost your immune system and protect against viral and bacterial infections.

 

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