Kale is appearing everywhere as 'the next best thing'. But then, just when it was looking flawless, reports started flooding in about kale being bad for us! As it is so confusing, I want to shed a little light on as much of the story as I can. I also had my own over-eating kale experience to share as well. After having eaten too much of it and with subsequent vomiting to correct my mistake, I needed to dig a little and see what was up, just for my own peace of mind.
You may be happy to hear that the solution is not to stop eating kale or its long list of sister veggies. It's all in how we are eating these green wonders of nature that counts.
My research helps us understand why these vegetables are best consumed as our Complex Green formula and as part of your salad or stir-fry rather than as a kale juice or smoothie. I will come to that at the end.
So let's get the full story from all angles.
Starting with the basics….
The best rules are:
- Too much of a good thing: Like everything, don't over do one thing in isolation.
- Go for balance: Some vegetables need to be eaten with a broader nutrient intake at the same time.
- Cooked or raw?: this can make all the difference for you depending on your thyroid function. (Even if you don't have a thyroid condition, eating too much can create a thyroid problem if you are not careful).
Now a let's go a little deeper…
THE CONCENTRATION OF A SINGLE SERVE OF KALE
This is where I came face to face with too much of a good thing as I attempted to make a kale soup. Sound delicious?
Grabbing a huge bunch of organic kale, I set about making my warm soup in my new Vitamix. (If you don't know it, the Vitamix can be left on for a little longer and this creates heat in the process, and a soup is ready in about 10 minutes without using your stove). The first trouble was that kale 'cooked' this way is 'kind of' heated but not cooked. It is of course pulverized whole (stalks and all) and heated.
It was an experiment with my new toy so I persisted.
So, I made it and now to the eating bit. Unfortunately, it was disgusting, but I ate it courageously because I thought it was a healthy dinner and my expectations were high. I got only half way through before feeling totally sick, and within 10 minutes I was onto vomiting. Not only did it taste terrible, the trouble was that the kale was essentially raw, and it was liquid-y (no chewing required), concentrated and bowl-sized. It was also too dense with cellulose fibre.
I was curious as to what was up.
The answer is in the thyroid and if it is not organic, it could possibly be in heavy metals.
THE KALE/THYROID BALANCING ACT
Kale is both a problem for people with thyroid conditions or taking too much can create a thyroid problem.
This is where I think that the drinking of kale juice/smoothies is a problem. Usually there is a limit to how many vegetables (like kale) we can take in when we eat them, due to the fact that it is a mustard vegetable--in other words, the kind of bitter/spicy taste does not have us wanting loads of it like sugary foods. It needs to be masked with clever cooking to make it taste good enough to eat. Nature helps us to not over consume it, but when we mask it in a drink with sweet juice and think it is healthy there can be no stopping us! Side note: Drinking fruit juice without the fibre goes rushing to the blood system and can cause a spike in blood sugar, and fructose (sugar) damage--for another conversation, but this is not the way to take in your kale!
Raw kale tips the balance at the thyroid. It is the rawness, the lack of balance of nutrients and the way it is metabolized by the body that is the problem for some people.
THIS GOOD STUFF IS ALSO A GOITROGEN, WHICH SPELLS TROUBLE FOR THE THYROID
You will more than likely know if raw veggies upset your body. You will feel slightly-to-quite sick afterwards—a pretty good alarm bell for most people. (My daughter with PCOS can eat a small portion short cooked). The cancer-proofing part of the plant is that it features glucosinolates. The trouble with the glucosinolates is that they are precursors to the activated goitrogens.
This can inhibit the function of the thyroid gland. The goitrogenic effect is released when consumed raw, and is greatly reduced when cooked. Therefore, the more hydrolysis of glucosinolates the more goitrogenic.
The condition of Hypothyroidism, (insufficient thyroid hormone), common in women over 40, gets kicked in at this tipping point of eating/drinking too much of this good thing. Drinking raw kale by the bucket load can take you over this tipping point, and if you are not making it yourself, you won't know how much you are eating.
KALE IS NOT ALONE.
The problem with kale is that it is a cruciferous vegetable.
There are others in the cruciferous group from the larger Brassica (Brassicaceae) family that are similar in their effect, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage, garden cress, and bok choy. So, eating too much of all of these raw can cause the Hypothyroidism. Of course what is 'too much' is different for everyone.
The focus on kale is because it is being thrown into juices and smoothies as the base green with fruit. (Whereas the other vegetables are eaten differently—usually cooked, whole and in smaller serves. You tend to have a stopping mechanism when you eat any vegetable or and fruit whole. Most juices feature more pieces of vegetable or fruit than you would eat whole.
AS THESE VEGETABLES ARE SO GOOD FOR US, HOW THEN DO WE GET AROUND THIS?
Firstly, without the Hypothyroidism being an issue, it is perfectly safe to eat these vegetables as part of a balanced diet, in moderation—say 3-4 serves a week. It is the juicing of them that takes the control out of the volume that you are taking in.
But we still need to establish if we have them raw or cooked?
THE STALKS CAN CONTAIN HEAVY METALS
It has been found that in some parts of the world, the kale stalk can take up a heavy metal in the soil known as thallium--a result of pollution, from mining, cement plants, coal-burning ash.
When you eat vegetables like those in the Brassica family, you are eating the part of the plant that is growing straight out of the ground, rather than eating the part that is picked off a tree.
When you cook the kale you should remove the stalk. Juices tend to take the full plant. Organic produce should be safe from containing thallium in the soil, so try to eat organic kale. Most juices and meals that are available in store are not organic.
(COOKING TIP: When you cook your kale, remove your stalks (they are too chewy anyway) by easily pulling or stripping the leaf by pulling them away from the stalk in the direction of stalk to tip).
RAW KALE CAN BE PROBLEMATIC
Raw kale and the other veggies in the family can be difficult to chew and digest. The chewing is actually necessary to break up the cells of the plant to release the sulphur containing compound, glucosinolates, and make them bioactive. You need the chopping, bruising, or chewing for the hydrolysis, (meaning breakdown) by the inbuilt enzyme called myrosinase to activate the real stars of the plants, that is, the cancer eating phytonutrients, indoles and isothiocyanates. It is a chemical chain reaction that needs to take place, and it works 100% if eaten fresh, organic, raw and chewed (or chopped) really well.
The benefit of eating food raw is the retention of these important digestive enzymes, aiding in the delivery of the best nutrients. Once you cook these vegetables, the glucosinolates are reduced, or at least the enzyme, myrosinase, required to activate it, is reduced or damaged by the heat.
Really short or quick cooking can be a good way to get a middle ground, with good chewing of course.
TRY SOAKING THEM BEFORE EATING RAW
This is another way to eat your veggies raw and retain the enzymes--you can soak them to pre-digest them. The best thing to use is Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar, or lemon juice or even Himalayan salt/a little water.
This is how you do it: Finely chop the leaves then scrunch the liquid into the veggie with your hands. This is a little bit like a pre-chewing action and it gets it into the veggie. Leave it for 5-10 minutes to get it to do its magic. It will activate and break up the compounds, so you get the cancer proofing and it will aid digestion along the way. This can make a huge difference, and the vegetable tastes better as well. This is good to do if you are cooking them too. If you pre-soak them this way, you can apply less heat to the cooking, and really short cook them.
TRY FERMENTING YOUR VEGGIES
The aim is to eat your Brassica family vegetables the closest to raw as you can. This process takes a bit of work, however making a sauerkraut with these veggies is a great way to retain the enzymes and increase digestability. The only trouble with sauerkraut is that the fermenting process actually increases the toxicity of the goitrogens, so it is not advisable to eat too much of this good thing either. It is fine as a condiment. The good bacteria in the sauerkraut is important for good gut health.
EAT SEAWEED WITH YOUR GREENS
The pre-soaking and the fermenting is still thyroid compromising. So let's go a little further.
The goitrogen inhibits the iodine uptake in the thyroid hormone, so taking iodine (for instance, seaweed), can help with this effect. Only once again the idea is to not overdo these vegetables. Iodine supplementation has its limits, as it does not work if the concentration of goitrogens is excessive. The Westin Price Foundation* says "an increased dietary intake of iodine compensates for the consumption of moderate amounts of crucifers but cannot reverse the effects of large amounts of crucifers".
It is likely that your kale juice does not have iodine or seaweed in it. *link > http://bit.ly/1LPik3N
COMPLEX GREEN IS A GREAT ALTERNATIVE
So if we look at our Complex Green Superfood powder you will find a great solution to your kale drinking problem. Taking Complex Green means that you will be able to get your raw organic cruciferous vegetables—broccoli sprouts, kale sprouts, cabbage and spinach, with iodine from the sea vegetables—Spirulina, Chlorella and Dunaliella Salina Algae. These are freeze-dried and broken down to activate the enzymes required to release the cancer protecting compounds at the same time as you are taking your thyroid protecting iodine. This means you are getting a controlled dose of these important phytonutrients.
Juicing is more concentrated than you think, as the kale is not juicy so a lot is used for the desired result. Kale without iodine is not a good choice. (Note: if kale is being taken without iodine during lactation, there will not be any iodine being passed on in the mother's milk).
With smoothie blending, because it doesn't require chewing, you can skip a step in the digestive process. Chewing releases digestive enzymes in the mouth required for better digestion. Without this, the veggie smoothie can tend to putrefy in the gut, causing digestive problems, including bloating and constipation. In a juice or smoothie format, you will get the masticated/chopped effect, but you may be taking too much raw at one time and with less nutrients required to help the digestive process, and too much sugar in the fruit to mask it.
The best approach is moderation. If you are worried about over – doing it, then it's best to take your cruciferous veggies as a powdered superfood supplement and eat the veggies as food in a combination of raw, fermented and slightly cooked, chewing the vegetables well. It is best to start with a small serve to see how you go.
If you are going to eat kale, you will more than likely eat it with a selection of vegetables with lots of different nutrients to aid the process of digestion.
If you follow this eating regime, you can have your greens and eat it too!!