Can Eating or Drinking Kale Help You Lose Weight

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on June 9, 2021
Last updated on June 6, 2021

Kale, or Brassica oleracea L. (Acephala group), is a leafy green vegetable similar to cabbages and broccoli. You can eat kale raw or cooked, and it is a source of many essential nutrients.

Can Eating or Drinking Kale Help You Lose Weight

When it comes to being healthy, one of the first things that anyone should consider is upping leafy green intake like kale! A lot of people, despite trying to be healthy, tend to ignore these otherwise healthy vegetables.

Experts believe you can eat kale raw or cooked, and the vegetable can be good for weight loss if you remember to include it as part of a calorie-controlled diet which consists primarily of moderate portions of nutrient-dense foods.

This can be particularly true of people who are overweight. Evidence shows not only do people with higher body mass indexes (BMI) often lack certain nutrients, frequently because of their dining habits, but the lack of those nutrients might actually contribute to obesity (1).

How Can Kale Help With Weight Loss?

1. It’s Fully Loaded!

Vitamin A, the paper notes, is linked to regulation of fat cells and the hormones they release and could play a role in maintaining healthy body weight. So, eating your kale, not only because it’s dense with nutrients, but because some of those nutrients may regulate fat in the body, can be extremely beneficial when it comes to health, as well as weight loss.

Kale is full of vitamins and very low in calories. It offers your body fiber along with high levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, calcium and manganese. So getting a daily serving of kale may help with weight loss and overall health.

Flavanoids get a lot of credit for weight loss as well. According to experts, the flavonols, one type of flavonoid, in kale may contribute to weight loss (2).

2. Calorie Control

To lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. Eating foods with low calorie density can help you lose weight because they help you feel full before you have eaten too many calories. Most vegetables are good for weight loss because they are low in calories, and 1 cup of raw kale contains only 33 calories. For a low-calorie lunch, make vegetable soup with low-sodium chicken broth, tomato paste, onions, carrots, celery, chicken breast and kale.

3. A Healthy Substitution

Kale can help you lose weight if you eat it and dishes with kale instead of higher-calorie options. Instead of potato chips or another fried, crunchy snack, try kale chips baked with garlic and black pepper. For a low-calorie side dish, eat kale cooked with mushrooms, garlic, red wine vinegar, diced onion and sliced mushrooms instead of higher-calorie choices, such as buttered vegetables or mashed potatoes and gravy. Add kale to soups, stews and spaghetti sauce to make them more satisfying, but not much higher in calories, so that you eat smaller portions of higher-calorie foods.

4. Hunger Suppression

Each cup of raw kale contains 2.4 grams of dietary fiber, or 10 percent of the daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Dietary fiber is a nutrient that helps reduce hunger and aids in weight control. Protein is another filling nutrient, according to Harvard University, and a cup of kale contains only 3 grams, or 6 percent of the daily value. Some high-fiber, high-protein dishes with kale are stewed chicken with kale, tomatoes and Italian seasoning, and a salad with cooked kale, kidney and garbanzo beans, cumin and garlic.

5. It Lowers Glucose Levels

On study showed that powdered kale was shown to lower plasma glucose levels as well, which have been linked with weight loss and diabetes prevention (3).

Other Health Benefits of Kale

1. Rich in Antioxidants

Kale, like other leafy greens, is very high in antioxidants. These include beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols.

Antioxidants are substances that help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body.

Oxidative damage is believed to be among the leading drivers of aging and many diseases, including cancer (4).

But many substances that happen to be antioxidants also have other important functions.

This includes the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which are found in relatively large amounts in kale. These substances have been studied thoroughly in test tubes and animals.

They have powerful heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-depressant and anti-cancer effects, to name a few (5 , 67).

2. A Good Vitamin C Source

Vitamin C is an important water-soluble antioxidant that serves many vital functions in the body’s cells.

For example, it is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, the most abundant structural protein in the body.

Kale is much higher in vitamin C than most other vegetables, containing about 4.5 times much as spinach (8).

The truth is, kale is actually one of the world’s best sources of vitamin C. A cup of raw kale contains even more vitamin C than a whole orange (9).

3. Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol has many important functions in the body.

For instance, it is used to make bile acids, which are substances that help the body digest fats.

The liver turns cholesterol into bile acids, which are then released into the digestive system whenever you eat a fatty meal.

When all the fat has been absorbed and the bile acids have served their purpose, they are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used again.

Substances called bile acid sequestrants can bind bile acids in the digestive system and prevent them from being reabsorbed. This reduces the total amount of cholesterol in the body.

Kale actually contains bile acid sequestrants, which can lower cholesterol levels. This might lead to a reduced risk of heart disease over time (10).

One study found that drinking kale juice every day for 12 weeks increased HDL (the “good”) cholesterol by 27% and lowered LDL levels by 10%, while also improving antioxidant status (11).

According to one study, steaming kale dramatically increases the bile acid binding effect. Steamed kale is actually 43% as potent as cholestyramine, a cholesterol-lowering drug that functions in a similar way (12).

4. Contains High Amounts of Vitamin K and Beta-Carotene

Vitamin K is an important nutrient.

It is absolutely critical for blood clotting, and does this by “activating” certain proteins and giving them the ability to bind calcium.

The well-known anticoagulant drug Warfarin actually works by blocking the function of this vitamin.

Kale is one of the world’s best sources of vitamin K, with a single raw cup containing almost 7 times the recommended daily amount.

The form of vitamin K in kale is K1, which is different than vitamin K2. K2 is found in fermented soy foods and certain animal products. It helps prevent heart disease and osteoporosis (13).

Kale is often claimed to be high in vitamin A, but this is not entirely accurate.

It is actually high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A (14).

For this reason, kale can be an effective way to increase your body’s levels of this very important vitamin (15).

5. It Is Good for the Eyes

One of the most common consequences of aging is that eyesight gets worse.

Fortunately, there are several nutrients in the diet that can help prevent this from happening.

Two of the main ones are lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid antioxidants that are found in large amounts in kale and some other foods.

Many studies have shown that people who eat enough lutein and zeaxanthin have a much lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two very common eye disorders (1617).

6. Good for Digestion

Kale is high in fiber and water, both of which help prevent constipation and promote regularity and a healthy digestive tract.

7. Perfect for the Skin and Hair

Kale is a good source of beta-carotene, the carotenoid that the body converts into vitamin A as it needs it.

Beta-carotene and vitamin A are necessary for the growth and maintenance of all body tissues, including the skin and hair.

The body uses vitamin C to build and maintain collagen, a protein that provides structure for skin, hair, and bones. Vitamin C is also present in kale.

A cup of cooked kale provides at least 20% of a person’s daily need for vitamin A and over 23% of the daily requirement for vitamin C.

Are There Any Risks Involved?

The Environmental Working Group, which assesses a range of products every year, put kale third on their 2019 list of fruits and vegetables most at risk of contamination with pesticides (18). People should wash kale thoroughly before using it.

Some people should avoid eating too much kale for the following reasons:

  • Beta-blockers: Doctors often prescribe this type of medication for heart disease. It can increase potassium levels in the blood. People who use beta-blockers should consume high potassium foods, such as kale, in moderation.
  • Kidney disease: Consuming too much potassium can be harmful to people whose kidneys are not fully functional. If the kidneys cannot remove excess potassium from the blood, consuming additional potassium could be fatal.
  • Blood thinners: Kale is a rich source of vitamin K, which contributes to blood clotting. This could interfere with the activity of blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Anyone who is taking any of these medications should speak to their doctor about foods to avoid.

5 Creative Kale Recipes

These yummy snack and meal ideas make it easy to reap Kale’s weight loss benefits!

1. Vegan Kale Caesar Salad

A flavorful mix of hearty kale, red onion, avocado, and spiced pepitas, drizzled with a vegan Caesar salad dressing!

Avocado Caesar Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 medium Avocado (pitted)
  • 3 large cloves Garlic (peeled)
  • 1/2 medium Lemon (juiced)
  • 1 teaspoon Apple cider vinegar
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (to taste)

Salad Ingredients:

  • 6 cups Kale (chopped finely)
  • 1/4 medium Red onion (minced)
  • 1/2 medium Jalapeños (minced; adjust amount to taste)
  • 1 medium Avocado (sliced)

Spiced Pepitas Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Raw pepitas
  • 1/2 teaspoon Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic powder

Instructions:

1. Make the Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. I added about 2-3 tablespoons.

2. Toast the Pepitas: Drizzle the pepitas with olive oil and toss with the spices. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add the seeds to the pan. Toast for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and golden.

3. Assemble: Toss the kale with the dressing, onions, and jalapeños. Season with additional salt and pepper to your tastes and top with the toasted pepitas and sliced avocado.

2. Kale, Cannellini, and Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces dried white beans, such as Great Northern, Cannellini, or Navy beans
  • 8 ounces hot Italian chicken sausage, about 2 links, casings removed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 6 cups chopped kale, stems removed (about 1 bunch)
  • Optional: the rind from a Parmesan cheese wedge
  • Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste

Instructions:

1. Place the dried beans in a bowl. Cover with cold water to two inches above the beans. Let sit for 6-8 hours.

2. Drain the beans through a strainer, and discard any broken beans.

3. Heat a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and the Italian sausage. Cook the sausage until browned, being sure to break up chunks with a wooden spoon.

4. Add the tomatoes and break them apart into pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the soaked beans, 8 cups of chicken stock, and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Increase heat to high to bring a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 1 hour with a lid on top and slightly ajar. Stir occasionally.

5. After an hour of simmering, add the chopped kale and Parmesan rind, if using. Add water as needed to thin the soup.  Continue simmering until the kale and beans reach desired level of tenderness, about an additional 30-45 minutes.

6. Season the finished soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot and enjoy!

3. Kale Pesto Naan Pizza

This naan pizza gets a double dose of kale, walnuts, and parmesan for a garlicky, nutty meal that takes just 10 minutes to prep!

Ingredients:

Kale Walnut Pesto (recipe makes extra)
  • 4 cups baby kale
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup toasted chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste
For the Naan Pizzas
  • 2 whole grain naan
  • ¼ cup kale pesto
  • 2 cups baby kale
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Make the Kale Pesto: Add the kale, walnuts, and garlic to a food processor (or blender). Pulse to break down the ingredients. With the processor on low, add the olive oil. Blend until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides. Add the parmesan and salt to taste. Blend until smooth. Store leftover pesto in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

3. Make the Naan Pizza: Spread 2 tablespoons of kale pesto onto each piece of naan. Top with 1 cup kale each, then evenly with the parmesan, chopped walnuts, and red pepper flakes.

4. Place the naan pizza directly on the oven rack or a sheet pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.

5. Carefully remove from the oven. Slice and enjoy!

4. Kale and Sausage Stir-Fry

Traditional stir-fry recipes generally include a variety of vegetables, such as peppers and mushrooms, but this sausage stir-fry from Beautiful Eats and Things features plenty of kale for a pop of color and flavor. Not only is it a foolproof one-pot meal that’s ready in under 30 minutes (and serves six!) but it contains 11 g protein per serving. Each serving also contains 221 calories, 15 g fat, and 11 g carbohydrates.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 lb turkey smoked sausage cut into pieces
  • 1 bunch of kale stems removed
  • 1 green bell pepper sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper sliced
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp creole seasoning
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add oil. Add in bell peppers, onions, and garlic to skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add smoked sausage to the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Add kale and seasonings, and cook until kale has wilted.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

5. Kale Smoothie

A kale smoothie recipe generally consists of 1 to 2 cups chopped kale leaves (ribs and thick stems removed), ½ to 1 cup of almond milk or Greek yogurt, fruit, and ice cubes. 1-2 teaspoons of honey is sometimes added as an optional sweetener.

For every kale smoothie recipe below, the preparation steps are pretty much the same:

  • Clean and remove thick stems from kale leaves.
  • Place chopped ingredients into a smoothie blender.
  • Blend until smooth. Add a liquid like almond milk or ice to thin out if needed.
  • Pour into two medium size glasses.

Kale Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups chopped kale leaves, ribs and thick stems removed
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 8 ice cubes (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons honey (optional)

Kale Spinach Smoothie

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup chopped kale leaves, (ribs and thick stems removed)
  • 1 banana, cut into chunks
  • 8-10 fresh or frozen strawberries or mixed berries
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 8 ice cubes (optional)

Key Takeaway

Kale is a green, leafy vegetable that provides a wide range of nutrients. It is a healthful addition to a varied diet, and people can use it in numerous ways, even for weight loss!

References

  1. https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a20434698/vitamin-deficiency-and-obesity/
  2. https://www.centerformedicalweightloss.com/fitnessexerice_article.aspx?url=Eat%20Your%20Flavonoids!
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103670/
  4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0009898114002629
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24470791
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22332099
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21428901
  8. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2461/2
  9. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2
  10. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814605011076
  11. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0895398808600124
  12. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027153170800064X
  13. http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/75344
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17368314
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15897604
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16723441
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12766044
  18. https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/full-list.php

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *