Do you remember attending a pizza bar or salad bar say 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Remember the green decadent that was used between the pizza trays or different vegetable trays at the salad bar? It turns out that this was kale all along. It was used more than anything as a decorative green as shown above, but things changed once the nutritional value was discovered.
Kale has long been touted as a supreme superfood. There’s no doubt that kale is nutritionally dense as it contains vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. A nice array of nutrients for sure. No doubt about it. While the nutritional quality of kale is high it contains another component that is questionable at best, and is causing issues in a percentage of the population that consumes kale.
The History Of Kale
Believe it or not kale was used as a decorating green more than anything in the early 1990’s and prior to that. Pizza Hut was actually the largest buyer of kale in the entire country. They used kale as a decorative green to surround their pizza’s, not as an edible food. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that kale began to be consumed as a food because of it’s nutritional value.
Kale wasn’t originally a food but it morphed into one because the nutritional value was discovered. But while the nutritional value is there it also has one harmful antinutrient that can cause just as much harm as all the rich nutritional value it does contain.
What are Antinutrients?
Antinutrients are defined as substances that interfere with the body’s absorption of nutrients. In other words, antinutrients work against nutrients. In other words, these antinutrients can be hiding and lurking in seemingly healthy foods. The main antinutrients to watch out for ar protease inhibitors, phytic acid, lectins, gluten, and oxalates or oxalic acid. It turns out that kale is high in oxalates, or oxalic acid. One of the key main antinutrients that hinder the absorption of nutrients.
How The Oxalic Acid in Kale Effects Your Health:
Oxalic acid found in kale and causes specific issues in the body with calcium in particular. Oxalates (oxalic acid) binds to calcium in the blood and this forms small oxalic acid crystals that are small, very tiny, but also very sharp. These acid crystals then lodge themselves in specific parts of the body. This can happen in the kidneys which can lead to kidney stones forming.
Beyond that oxalates also cause a specific condition in women called vulvodynia, which leads to painful sex because of oxalic acid crystals in the labia of a womans body.
Oxalic acid basically causes calcium absorption to be harmed. This leads to excess calcium buildup in the body in areas that it is not supposed to be. This could be the kidneys, a man or woman’s sexual organs leading to sexual dysfunction and more.
Calcium plays a role in the cardiovascular system, heart health, joint and bone health as well as the health of the teeth, muscle contraction, nerve function and more.
Oxalates can effect digestive health as well. My sister recently shared with me that she felt bloated everytime she ate Kale and once she recognized that she stopped eating it all together and the bloating went away. We actually do not digest oxalates so to eat a lot of oxalate rich foods can cause issues as they build up in our system.
Can Kale Still Be Nutritious?
Kale contains both nutrients as well as antinutrients. So it’s not necessarily an all over never thing. If you do have a history of calcium related issues in your family however you may want to pay attention to how much oxalic acid you consume. Oxalates can be reduced in food by cooking them.
Steaming or boiling kale can help to remove oxalates from it, but eating it raw probably isn’t that great of an idea because the antinutrients are fighting the very nutrition you’re consuming. Sprouting these foods can also reduce the oxalate amount also.
Many raw vegans and vegetarians eat a lot of raw foods that are rich in oxalates. This is worth noticing and paying attention to as the oxalates do build up in our system. This is why a combination of cooked food and raw food is the safest bet. Some things are simply better cooked. Foods high in oxalates or other antinutrients can be healthier when cooked.
Similarly, the lycopene absorption rate in tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes does reduce the vitamin C absorption while at the same time improving lycopene absorption, an important antioxidant for heart health and skin health.
The message here is clear. Watch your oxalic acid intake in foods over time as this can build up in yoru system and if you continue to choose to eat Kale at the very least steam or cook it to remove some of that oxalic acid content.
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