The Keto diet has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to its endorsement by celebrities and athletes as well as the health benefits it has in terms of weight loss, increased energy and mental clarity. However, Keto is an ultra low carb diet that excludes some foods that are typically thought to be “healthy” which might leave you wondering if Kale, a renowned superfood, is Keto friendly. The good news is that Kale is welcomed on the Keto diet! The following article will explain why Kale fits into Keto so well, its various health benefits and the best ways to add this superfood into your Keto meal plan.
Net carbs on Keto
The Keto diet asks that you keep your net carbs to 20-25g a day or less; but, what are net carbs? Carbohydrates are not created equal and therefore the Keto diet doesn’t treat them the same. When you look at the nutrition information on a piece of food, you’ll see a listing for total carbohydrates as well as one or two subheadings of fibre and sugar alcohols. The reason that the nutrition label breaks up the carbs into these subheadings is because both fibre and sugar alcohols pass though your body undigested and therefore you cannot turn them into glucose. Since they don’t affect your glucose levels there’s no way for calories from fibre to kick your body out of ketosis.
So, the Keto diet takes the total carbohydrates from an item of food an subtracts any grams of fibre or sugar alcohols. This gives you the net digestible carbs and these are the ones that you need to pay attention to because they can affect your body’s ability to produce ketones.
Health Benefits of Kale
Kale is widely considered to be a superfood. What classifies a food as “super” is based more on popular opinion than it is on science; however, there’s no debate that Kale is good for you. Kale belongs to the cruciferous family, which puts it in the same group as cauliflower and broccoli even though it has the leafy green appearance of a type of lettuce.
Nutrients in kale
One of the largest health benefits of Kale comes from its impressive list of nutrients. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods that you’ll ever find. It’s chock full of important vitamins and minerals. When you’re following a Keto diet, it can be difficult to get the nutrients that you need because so many fruits and veggies are too high in carbs to be eaten on Keto. Thankfully, a serving of Kale every day can help you meet those daily recommended nutrient goals.
A serving of Kale is roughly a cup of raw leaves. In this serving you can find 684% of the daily recommended Vitamin K! That’s not a typo, Kale is chock full of this vitamin that helps your blood clot so that wounds can heal. It’s also loaded with 206% of your daily recommended Vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed in the proper maintenance of your immune system, organs and vision.
Other vitamins can be found in smaller quantities in a serving of Kale. In every cup of Kale, you’ll be getting 134% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C as well as 9% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B6. Vitamin C is important for a healthy immune system while vitamin B6 is used in properly turning carbs and protein into energy your body can use.
There’s also plenty of minerals that your body needs including magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium and copper. Altogether, all of these vitamins and minerals make Kale an excellent addition to any diet.
Additional health benefits of kale
In addition to the nutrients that kale contains, there are plenty of other benefits to your health. Kale is a fantastic source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are helpful in reducing the damage done to your cells by free radicals that can cause your cells to break down. Vitamin C is one of these antioxidants as well as polyphenols and flavonoids. In addition to protecting against damage done by free radicals, there are signs that antioxidants have far reaching benefits in protecting against cancer, heart disease and depression.
Kale is great for lowering your cholesterol levels. Studies are being done that show that when kale has been steamed it can offer similar benefits to a drug that’s designed to lower your cholesterol levels. Other studies have shown that kale can lower your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) while raising your good cholesterol levels (HDL).
Kale may also be helpful in preventing cancer because it’s high in a substance that’s known as sulforaphane. Studies have shown that this compound is useful in stopping cancer cells from growing. Kale might also be helpful in losing weight. It’s a low-calorie dense food which means it takes up a lot of room in your stomach, keeping you full, and it does so with very few calories. It also contains both protein and fibre which have been shown to contribute to weight loss.
Is kale Keto?
As you read above, Kale is an extremely healthy food. However, health benefits aren’t the only criteria for fitting into the Keto diet. If you’re seeking to keep your net carbs to 20-25g a day then the largest contributing factor to a food’s suitability on Keto is the carb content.
Kale has 6g of carbohydrates in every single cup serving. That might seem high, but the Keto diet doesn’t count the total carbs a food has, only its net carbs. Since Kale has 2g of fibre per serving, this brings the net carbs down to only 4g a cup. This is a small enough amount that you should be able to fit a serving of Kale into your daily meal plan. If you’re struggling to fit the 4g of net carbs into your day you can always have half a serving for only 2g net carbs. Cutting a serving in half would still provide you with 342% of your daily recommended vitamin K, 103% of your daily recommended vitamin A as well as 67% of your daily recommended vitamin C.
How to add kale into your Keto
Kale is a vegetable that has a green or purple leaf that can be curly or straight. When it comes to flavor, Kale tends to have a strong taste. The younger the leaves are, the milder the flavor; however, mature kale leaves are thick in texture and have an earthy bitter flavor. This can make it difficult for some people to eat this leafy superfood if the taste is too strong for them. The good news is, working Keto into your meals doesn’t have to be difficult and it’s possible to change the flavor to something a little more pleasing.
One of the easiest ways to add kale into your diet is through kale chips. You might find yourself missing the tasty crunch of potato chips and kale chips make for a healthy, low-carb substitution. The key to getting crispy kale chips is by ensuring that the kale leaves are completely dry after you’ve washed them. You then cover them in your favorite oil (avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil make great choices). This allows them to crispen up in the oven as well as providing you with a dose of healthy fats. After they’ve been coated in oil you can add your favorite spices! Chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, paprika and salt are some popular options, but you can choose any spice you want. Place the seasoned chips in the oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes. You want the edges to be brown but not burnt. All that’s left is to enjoy your chips knowing they’re great for your health and your Keto!
The majority of leafy greens are Keto friendly so an easy way to get a serving of kale is to mix it in with lettuce, spring greens and spinach. Toss in some other low carb veggies such as bell peppers, add some nuts or seeds for crunch, top with a meat of your choice and drizzle a vinaigrette made of a heart healthy oil for a healthy, Keto-friendly salad. Salads don’t have to be boring. You can mix the vinaigrette to suit your tastes and the sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings. Mixing kale in with these other ingredients can help dull the flavor of the kale so you can get the vitamins and minerals it provides.
Another great way to add kale into your Keto is by tossing it in your favorite soup. When it’s eaten with a soup you hardly even know that you’re eating it. Chances are, anyone you feed the soup to will probably enjoy it without even noticing the addition of the kale. This can be a great way to get picky eaters to benefit from kale without them putting up a fuss. In order to add kale to your soup recipe all you need to do is wash and chop the kale leaves and toss them in a boiling soup base. You can chop the pieces as fine or as large as you want. They’ll shrink slightly in the water as they soften.
Kale is a healthy food that offers a variety of benefits and a ton of the nutrients that your body needs. It’s also very low in carbs which makes it a great addition to any Keto diet. You don’t have to be put off by the strong taste of kale if you incorporate it into a few of your favorite Keto meals.