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What are the health benefits of kale?

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What are the health benefits of kale?

Kale is a green, leafy, cruciferous vegetable that is rich in nutrients. It may offer a range of health benefits for the whole body.

It is a member of the mustard, or Brassicaceae, family, as are cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

Possible benefits include helping manage blood pressure, boosting digestive health, and protecting against cancer and type 2 diabetes.

This article looks at the nutritional content and health benefits of kale, how to include it in the diet, and reasons why some people should not eat too much of it.

Benefits

Kale contains fiber, antioxidants, calcium, vitamins C and K, iron, and a wide range of other nutrients that can help prevent various health problems.

Antioxidants help the body remove unwanted toxins that result from natural processes and environmental pressures.

These toxins, known as free radicalsTrusted Source, are unstable molecules. If too many build up in the body, they can lead to cell damage. This may result in health problems such as inflammation and diseases. Experts believe that free radicals may play a role in the development of cancer, for example.

Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommend consuming foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. There is evidence that some of these may offer protection against diabetes.

Fiber: A 2018 studyTrusted Source concluded that people who consume the highest amounts of dietary fiber appear to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Consuming dietary fiber might also lower blood glucose levels, the authors note.

Antioxidants: Authors of a 2012 articleTrusted Source note that high blood sugar levels can trigger the production of free radicals. They note that antioxidants, such as vitamin C and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can help reduce complications that may occur with diabetes. Both of these antioxidants are present in kale.

Heart disease

Various nutrients in kale may support heart health.

Potassium: The American Heart AssociationTrusted Source (AHA) recommend increasing the intake of potassium while reducing the consumption of added salt, or sodium. This, say the AHA, can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. A cup of cooked kale provides 3.6% of an adult’s daily needs for potassium.

Fiber: A Cochrane review from 2016 found a link between consuming fiber and a lower blood lipid (fat) levels and blood pressure. People who consumed more fiber were more likely to have lower levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol.

People need both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Cancer

Chlorophyll: Kale and other green vegetables that contain chlorophyll can help prevent the body from absorbing heterocyclic amines. These chemicals occur when people grill animal-derived foods at a high temperature. Experts have linked them with cancer.

The human body cannot absorb much chlorophyll, but chlorophyll binds to these carcinogens and prevents the body from absorbing them. In this way, kale may limit the risk of cancer, and pairing a chargrilled steak with green vegetables may help reduce the negative impact.

Antioxidants: The vitamin C, beta carotene, selenium, and other antioxidants in kale may help prevent cancer. Studies have not found that supplements have the same effect, but people who have a high intake of fruits and vegetables appear to have a lower risk of developing various cancers. This may be due to the antioxidants these foods contain.

Fiber: A high consumption of fiber may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a studyTrusted Source from 2015.

Bone health

Calcium and phosphorus are crucial for healthy bone formation.

Some researchTrusted Source has suggested that a high intake of vitamin K may help reduce the risk of bone fractures.

A cup of cooked kale provides almost five times an adult’s daily need for vitamin K, around 15–18% of their calcium need, and about 7% of the daily phosphorus requirement.

Get some more tips on increasing bone density.

Digestion

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

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.

Which other foods can boost hair growth?

Eye health

Kale contains lutein and zeaxanthin, an antioxidant combination that may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc also play a role in eye health. All of these are present in kaleTrusted Source.

Nutrition

The table below shows the amount of each nutrient in a cup of boiled kale, weighing around 118 gramsTrusted Source (g), without added salt.

It also shows how much an adult needs of each nutrient, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for AmericansTrusted Source. Requirements vary according to the individual’s sex and age.

NutrientAmount in 1 cupDaily adult requirement
Energy (calories)42.51,800–3,000
Carbohydrate in grams (g)6.3, including 1.4 g of sugar130
Fiber (g)4.722.4–33.6
Protein (g)3.546–56
Calcium in milligrams (mg)1771,000–1,200
Iron (mg)1.08–18
Magnesium (mg)29.5320–420
Phosphorus (mg)49.6700
Potassium (mg)1704,700
Sodium (mg)18.92,300
Zinc (mg)0.38–11
Copper (mg)0.8900
Manganese (mg)0.61.8–2.3
Selenium in micrograms (mcg)1.155
Vitamin C (mg)2175–90
Folate (mcg DFE)76.7400
Betaine (mg)0.4No data
Beta carotene (mcg)2,040No data
Lutein + zeaxanthin (mcg)5,880No data
Vitamin E (mg)1.915
Vitamin K (mcg)49490–120
Vitamin A (mcg RAE)172700–900

Kale also provides a range of antioxidants and B vitamins.

Find out more about the importance of spinach, which is another green, leafy vegetable.

Dietary tips

Kale is a crisp and hearty vegetable, with a hint of earthiness. The flavors and nutritional content can vary between types. Younger leaves and summer leaves tend to be less bitter and fibrous.

Curly kale: This is the most commonly available type. It is usually bright green, dark green, or purple, with tight, ruffled leaves that are easy to tear. To remove the leaves from the fibrous stalk, run your hand down the stalk in the direction of growth.

Lacinato or dinosaur kale: This dark blue-green variety is firmer and more robust than curly kale. It is known as dinosaur kale because of its scaly texture. The leaves tend to be longer and flatter and maintain their texture after cooking. Less bitter than curly kale, dinosaur kale is ideal for making kale chips.

Red Russian kale: This is a flat-leaf variety that looks a little like oak leaves. The stalks are slightly purple, and the leaves have a reddish tinge. People may find the stalks too fibrous to eat, but the leaves are sweet and delicate, with a hint of pepper and lemon, almost like sorrel. People can add them raw to salads, sandwiches, and juices, or as a garnish.

Kale grows well in the colder winter months, making a good addition when other fruits and vegetables are less readily available. It is best to cook winter kale, as colder weather can turn the sugars in kale into starch, increasing the bitterness and fiber content.

Serving suggestions

People can eat kale raw, or steam, braise, boil, or sautée it, or add it to soups and casseroles.

Raw: Scrunching the leaves briefly in the hands can make them easier to digest. Add to salads, sandwiches, wraps, or smoothies.

As a side dish: Sauté fresh garlic and onions in olive oil until soft. Add kale and continue to sauté until desired tenderness. Alternatively, steam for 5 minutes, then drain and stir in a dash of soy sauce and tahini.

Kale chips: Remove the ribs from the kale and toss in olive oil or lightly spray and sprinkle with a combination of cumin, curry powder, chili powder, roasted red pepper flakes or garlic powder. Bake at 275°F for 15–30 minutes to desired crispness.

Smoothies: Add a handful of kale to any favorite smoothie. It will add nutrients without changing the flavor very much.

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.

 

Q:

Are foods like kale safe for people with a risk of a blood clot, since it contains so much vitamin K?

 

A:

Those who are at risk of a blood clot should speak to their doctors about how much vitamin K is appropriate for them.

Those who use blood clotting medications, such as warfarin, should eat similar amounts of vitamin K daily to keep levels consistent, as extra vitamin K will affect the amount of medication they need.

Giving up vitamin K-rich foods is not necessary; it is more about keeping the amounts you consume daily consistent.

How can these popular foods benefit our health?

Though the field of medicine continues to advance and branch out in many ways, nutritionists and health experts continue to praise the benefits of certain foods. In fact, eating healthfully has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, cardiovascular illnesses, and even certain types of cancer.

However, understanding which foods to eat for specific benefits can sometimes be difficult, which is why Medical News Today previously supplied a list of the top 10 healthy foods.

popular healthy foods laid out on white background

Now, MNT specifies the health benefits of a much wider range of foods.

We provide a cornucopia of delicious and nutritious options for individuals who wish to boost their health by eating healthfully.

Below is a list of foods along with information regarding their potential health benefits.

Note that this article contains summaries and you should click through to read individual articles containing the full list of possible health benefits.

Almonds

Almonds

Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, good quality protein, and healthy unsaturated fatty acids.

Studies have revealed that almonds can potentially help prevent cardiovascular diseasesTrusted Source, cut the risk of cancer, and help prolong life.

Apples

Apples are sometimes called “nutritional powerhouses” because of their impressive nutritional profile.

Apples contain about 14 percent of our daily needs of Vitamin C (a powerful natural antioxidant), B-complex vitamins, dietary fiber, phytonutrients (which help protect the body from the detrimental effects of free radicals), and minerals such as calcium and potassium.

Studies have revealed that eating apples can potentially help prevent dementiaTrusted Source and reduce the risk of strokeTrusted Source and diabetes.

Arugula

Along with other leafy greens, arugula contains very high nitrate levels (more than 250 milligrams per 100 grams). High intakes of dietary nitrate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise, and enhance athletic performance.

The potential health benefits of arugula include lowering the risk of cancer, preventing osteoporosis, and improving muscle oxygenation during exercise.

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Asparagus

Asparagus

Asparagus is very rich in dietary fiber and contains high levels of vitamin B6, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.

The potential health benefits of asparagus include: reducing the risk of diabetes, preventing kidney stones, and lowering the risk of neural tube defects in babies.

Asparagus is also a natural diuretic, which can help with fluid balance in the body and influence blood pressure and edema.

Bananas

Bananas

Bananas are naturally free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and very rich in potassium.

The potential health benefits of bananas include: lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of developing childhood leukemia, and supporting heart health.

Basil

Basil leaves

Basil is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.

Studies have revealed that basil can potentially reduce inflammation and swelling, prevent the harmful effects of aging, and may be useful in treating arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Beetroot

Beetroot

Beetroot, also known simply as the beet, has been gaining in popularity as a new super food due to recent studies claiming that beets and beetroot juice can improve athletic performance, lower blood pressure and increase blood flow.

This is partly due to its high content of nitrates, which increase nitric oxide in the body and play a substantial role in heart and vascular health.

Beetroot is a rich source of folate and manganese, and also contains thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and selenium.

Bok choy

bok choy

Bok choy belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, rutabaga, and turnips.

These nutrition powerhouses supply loads of nutrients for little calories. If you are trying to eat healthier, cruciferous vegetables like bok choy should be at the very top of your grocery list.

Broccoli

Ripe broccoli

Broccoli contains high levels of fiber (both soluble and insoluble) and is a rich source of vitamin C.

In addition, broccoli is rich in vitamin A, iron, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, and phytonutrients.

Studies have found that broccoli can potentially help prevent osteoarthritisTrusted Source, protect skin against the effects of UV light, reverse diabetes heart damage, and reduce bladder cancer riskTrusted Source.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupes are also commonly known as muskmelons, mush melons, rockmelons, and Persian melons. They are a member of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae, along with honeydew and watermelons.

Cantaloupe contains an abundance of antioxidants, including choline, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, all of which protect against a range of diseases and conditions from the common cold to cancer.

Potential health benefits of cantaloupe include lowering risk of developing asthma, managing blood pressure, aiding digestion, keeping hydrated, and reducing inflammation.

Carrots

Carrots

Carrots are a great source of vitamin A. They provide 210 percent of an average adult’s needs for the day.

The potential health benefits of carrots include: preventing lung cancerTrusted Source, destroying leukemia cells and inhibiting their progression, and helping to restore vision.

Cauliflower

cauliflower

Cauliflowers are a member of the brassica family, more commonly known as cruciferous vegetables.

They contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that can protect against cancer.

They also contain fiber that helps with satiety, weight loss, and a healthy digestive tract, choline that is essential for learning and memory, as well as many other important nutrients.

The potential health benefits of cauliflower include preventing mutations and reducing stress from free radicals, preventing constipation, and helping memory.

Celery

Celery

Celery is a very rich source of antioxidants, electrolytes, and vitamin K. Also, thanks to its high water content, it can help rehydrate.

The potential health benefits of celery include: lowering blood pressure, preventing cancer, and soothing joint pain.

Chickpeas

chickpeas

Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have spread their culinary influence throughout the world.

The potential health benefits of chickpeas include improved glucose levels, lipids, and insulin levels for diabetes, maintaining bone strength and heart health.

Chives

Bunch of chives

Chives are a nutrient-dense food, meaning that while they are low in calories, they are high in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

The potential health benefits of chives include potential beneficial and preventative effects against cancer, prostate cancer, esophageal and stomach cancer, and positive effects on sleep and mood.

Chocolate

Chocolate

Chocolate is rich in antioxidants. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, there are a number of health benefits associated with its consumption (particularly dark chocolate).

The potential benefits of eating chocolate include: lowering cholesterol levels, preventing cognitive decline, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular problem


Cilantro

Known as coriander in the United Kingdom, cilantro comes from the plant Coriandrum sativum. In the United States, the leaves of the plant are referred to as cilantro (the Spanish translation), and the seeds are referred to as coriander.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like cilantro decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease while promoting a healthy skin and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Read more about cilantro.


Cinnamon

Studies have found that cinnamon can potentially be effective against HIV, improve glucose and lipid levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, help prevent Alzheimer’s diseaseTrusted Source, and stop the destructive process of multiple sclerosisTrusted Source (MS).

In addition, researchers at Penn State found that consuming cinnamon can help reduce the body’s negative responses to eating high-fat meals.

Read more about cinnamon.


Coffee

Coffee is one of the main sources of antioxidants in the U.S. population.

The potential health benefits of drinking coffee in moderation include: protecting against type 2 diabetes, preventing Parkinson’s diseaseTrusted Source, lowering the risk of liver cancer, preventing liver disease, and promoting good heart healthTrusted Source.

Read more about coffee.


Collard greens

Collard greens are part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, rutabaga, and turnips.

Collard greens are an extremely rich source of vitamin K and also contain folate, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, phosphorus, and potassium.

Health benefits of collard greens may include assisting with bone health, reducing cancer risk, helping lower glucose levels in those with diabetes, and improving sleep and mood.

Read more about collard greens.


Cranberries

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin E.

Studies have found that cranberries can potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), slow tumor progression, prevent urinary tract infections, and benefit oral health by preventing bacteria from binding to teeth.

Read more about cranberries.


Edamame

Edamame is a young soybean that has been harvested before the beans have had a chance to harden. They can be bought shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen.

The potential health benefits of edamame include maintaining a healthy blood pressure, helping with depression, promoting fertility, and decreasing bone loss.

Read more about edamame.


Eggplant

The eggplant, also known as aubergine, garden egg, guinea squash, melongene, and brinjal, is usually distinguishable by its signature egg-like shape and vibrant purple color.

The potential health benefits of eggplant include supporting heart health, maintaining weight and blood cholesterol levels, and anti-cancer effects.

Read more about eggplant.


Flaxseed

Flaxseed is not only “an excellent source of two fatty acids that are essential for human health – linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid,” but also “an excellent source of fiber and a good source of minerals and vitamins,” according to the American Nutrition Association.

The potential health benefits associated with flaxseed include: lowering cholesterol, protecting against cancer, preventing hot flashes, and improving blood sugar levels.

Read more about flaxseed.


Garlic

Garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart.

Studies have found that garlic can potentially be a very powerful antibiotic, help protect the heart during cardiac surgery and after a heart attack, lower the risk of developing lung cancer, and reduce high cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Read more about garlic.


Ginger

Ginger contains a chemical that is used as an ingredient in antacid, laxative, and anti-gas medications.

Studies have found that ginger can potentially prevent inflammation of the colon, reduce exercise-induced muscle pain, help alleviate nausea caused by chemotherapy, and reduce the severity of period pains.

Read more about ginger.


Grapes

The portability, texture, flavor, and variety of grapes have made them a popular finger food in countries all over the world.

Studies have associated grapes with the prevention of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and constipation as well as decreasing the risk of obesity and overall mortality.

Read more about grapes.


Grapefruit

Grapefruits are low in calories but full of nutrients. They support clear, healthy skin, help to lower the risk of many diseases and conditions and may even help with weight loss as part of an overall healthy and varied diet.

The potential health benefits of grapefruit include boosting weight loss, maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart health, and combating free radicals.

Read more about grapefruit.


Green Tea

Green tea may well be one of the world’s healthiest drinks and contains the highest amount of antioxidants of any tea.

Studies have found that drinking green tea is associated with a reduced risk of strokeTrusted Source, and may help fight prostate cancer.

Read more about green tea.


Honey

Honey possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

Studies have found that honey can potentially help prevent GERDTrusted Source (gastroesophageal reflux), shorten the duration of bacterial diarrheaTrusted Source, help heal burnsTrusted Source, minimize seasonal allergies, and fight off infections.

Read more about honey.


Kale

Kale is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin A, beta-carotene, calcium, and vitamin C.

The potential health benefits of kale include: reducing the risk of certain cancers, lowering the risk of coronary artery disease, and lowering levels of bad cholesterol.

Read more about kale.


Kiwifruit

Kiwis are a nutrient dense food, meaning they are high in nutrients and low in calories. The kiwifruit is higher in vitamin C per ounce than most other fruits.

The potential health benefits of eating kiwis include: maintaining healthy skin tone and texture, reducing blood pressure, and preventing heart disease and stroke.

Read more about kiwifruit.


Mango

The mango is a member of the drupe family, a type of plant food in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell (what we sometimes call a pit) with a seed inside. Olives, dates, and coconuts are also types of drupes.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like mangoes decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease, and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight.

Read more about mango.


Milk

Dairy products, like milk, are a great dietary source of calcium. Calcium has many functions in the body, but its primary job is the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.

Calcium is also important for blood-clotting and wound-healing, maintaining normal blood pressure, and muscle contractions, including heartbeat.

Milk also provides magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamins B-6 and B-12.

The potential health benefits of milk include: maintaining bone, blood pressure, and heart health, and providing an increase in vitamin D. Deficiency in vitamin D has been associated with depression, chronic fatigue, and PMS.

Read more about milk.


Milk alternatives

There are many reasons you might search for an alternative for dairy, the most common being allergies and lactose intolerance.

Some people choose to not consume dairy to follow a vegan diet, which avoids any foods that come from an animal, including milk, cheese, eggs, and honey.

Others may cut dairy out of their diet to avoid hormones and antibiotics in conventional milk, as an acne treatment, or when following the popular “Paleo” diet.

Soy isoflavones have been shown to be beneficial in preventing heart disease, and at least 10 milligrams per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25 percent. Increased soy consumption may be beneficial for menopausal women.

Read more about alternatives to milk.


Mint

Mint, also known as mentha, is actually a genus of around 15-20 types of plants including peppermint and spearmint. Mint oil is often used in toothpaste, gum, candy, and beauty products while the leaves are used either fresh or dried for teas and food.

Mint has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. Mint has possible positive effects on allergies, common cold, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and skin.

Read more about mint.


Mushrooms

Mushrooms, though classified as vegetables in the food world, are not technically plants. They belong to the fungi kingdom and provide several important nutrients.

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The potential health benefits of mushrooms include helping to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, regulating blood pressure, and improving immune responses to infection.

Read more about mushrooms.


Oats

Oats contain high levels of a type of fiber known as beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is known to help lower levels of bad cholesterol.

The potential health benefits of oats include: reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, lowering the risk of colorectal cancer, and lowering blood pressure.

Read more about oats.


Oily fish

Oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel, is an excellent source of omega-3 oils and lean protein.

Potential health benefits of eating oily fish include: preventing cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, boosting infant sensory, cognitive, and motor development, improving memoryTrusted Source, protecting vision, and preventing oral and skin cancers.

Read more about oily fish.


Olive oil

People who regularly consume olive oil are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and hyperlipidemia (high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels).

In addition, olive oil intake may help treat inflammation, endothelial dysfunction (problems with the inner linings of blood vessels), thrombosis and carbohydrate metabolism.

Read more about olive oil.


Onions

Onions can vary in size, shape, color, and flavor. The most common types are red, yellow, and white onion.

Flavors can vary from sweet and juicy with a mild flavor to sharp, spicy, and pungent, often depending on the season in which they are grown and consumed. An estimated 105 billion pounds of onions are harvested each year worldwide.

The possible health benefits of consuming onions include lowering the risk of several types of cancer, improving mood, and maintaining the health of skin and hair

Read more about onions.


Oranges

An orange has over 170 different phytochemicals and more than 60 flavonoids, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and strong antioxidant effects.

Oranges also contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and copper. Because of their high vitamin C content (over twice the daily need), oranges are associated with boosting the immune system.

Read more about oranges.


Oregano

Oregano is a rich source of vitamin K and dietary antioxidants.

Studies have found that oregano has antimicrobial activity, anti-inflammatory properties, and components in oregano may help slow down or prevent the progression of disease in patients with breast cancerTrusted Source.

Read more about oregano.


 

Papaya

Papayas grow in tropical climates and are also known as papaws or pawpaws.

The possible health benefits of consuming papaya include a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, aiding in digestion, improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and improving wound healing.

Read more about papaya.


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Peaches

Peaches are a characteristically fuzzy fruit native to northwest China. They are a member of the stone fruit family, meaning that they have one large middle seed, along with cherries, apricots, plums, and nectarines.

One medium peach contains 2 percent or more daily value of vitamins E and K, niacin, folate, iron, choline, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and copper. They have been shown to ward off obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

Read more about peaches.


Peppermint

Peppermint is used as a traditional or folk remedy for several conditions and illnesses because of its calming effects.

The potential health benefits of peppermint include: treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), calming skin irritation and itchiness, and preventing the onset of headaches and associated symptomsTrusted Source.

Read more about peppermint.


Pineapple

Pineapple is a source of important vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. It also contains antioxidants and polyphenols, such as beta-carotene.

Fresh pineapple is the only known source of an enzyme called bromelain, which may help reduce joint pain and the symptoms of arthritis, reduce inflammation, inhibit tumor growth, and shorten recovery time following plastic surgery.

Read more about pineapple.


Potatoes

Along with the tomato and eggplant, the potato plant belongs to the nightshade family, of which some species are truly poisonous. Today, potatoes are one of the cheapest universal crops to produce and are available year-round.

The health benefits of consuming potatoes include maintaining bone structure, supporting heart health, reducing chronic inflammation, and preventing constipation.

Read more about potatoes.


Pumpkin

Pumpkin is an extremely nutrient dense food, meaning it is chock-full of vitamins and minerals but low in calories. There are many creative ways pumpkin can be incorporated into your diet, including desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter.

The potential health benefits of pumpkin including supporting heart health, eye health, promoting fertility, and giving immunity a boost.

Read more about pumpkin.


Quinoa

Nutritionally, quinoa is considered a whole grain. Whole grains include the entire intact grain seed without removing any of its parts.

In contrast, when grains are milled or refined like white breads, white rice, and white pasta, they have been processed to create a finer, lighter texture, and are not as nutrient dense. Quinoa is also a great source of protein.

Consuming 2-3 servings of whole grain foods per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and obesity. Many studies have shown that as whole grain intake increases, the risk for all five of these lifestyle-related conditions decreases.

Read more about quinoa.


Rosemary

Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Studies have found that rosemary may potentially help treat indigestion, enhance memory and concentration, provide neurological protectionTrusted Source, and provide protection against macular degeneration.

Read more about rosemary.


Sage

Sage is rich in antioxidants (apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin) and important nutrients, such as vitamin K.

Studies have found that sage may potentially improve memory and information processing among people who have mild Alzheimer’s diseaseTrusted Source and help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Read more about sage.


Spearmint

Spearmint contains high amounts of vitamins, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients.

Studies have found that spearmint may potentially have antioxidant and antifungal properties, reduce symptoms of nausea and other digestive problems, and treat hirsutism (abnormal hair growth).

Read more about spearmint.


Spinach

Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary magnesium and calcium.

The potential health benefits of spinach include: helping manage diabetes, helping preventing cancer, reducing the risk of asthma, lowering the risk of blood pressure, and improving bone health.

Read more about spinach.


Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the most popular, refreshing, and healthy treats on the planet; they contain many vitamins and antioxidants that can be beneficial for your health.

The potential health benefits of strawberries include: reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, blood pressure, constipation, allergies, diabetes, and depression.

Read more about strawberries.


Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes pack a powerful nutritional punch. They have over 400 percent of your daily needs for vitamin A in one medium potato, plus high levels of fiber and potassium.

The potential health benefits of sweet potatoes include a protective role against prostate cancer, promoting fertility, boosting immunity, and supporting vision.

Read more about sweet potatoes.


Thyme

Thyme preparations may be more effective than acne prescription creams, according to scientists at Leeds Metropolitan University in England.

Studies have found that thyme may potentially protect against hypertension, help fight off foodborne bacterial infections, and induce cell death in breast cancer cells.

Read more about thyme.


Tofu

Tofu, made from soybean curds, is naturally gluten-free and low calorie, contains no cholesterol, and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium.

The isoflavones (a type of compound called phytoestrogens) in soy foods have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS symptoms, regulate blood sugar, and prevent migraine headaches.

Read more about tofu.


Tomatoes

The tomato has been referred to as a “functional food,” a food that goes beyond providing just basic nutrition, additionally preventing chronic disease and delivering other health benefits, due to beneficial phytochemicals such as lycopene.

Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. Tomatoes contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene, and lutein.

The benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds, including tomatoes, are infinite. As plant food consumption goes up, the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer goes down.

Read more about tomatoes.


Watermelon

Watermelon contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, choline, lycopene, and betaine. Watermelon is a good source of lycopene.

The possible health benefits of watermelon include asthma prevention, reduction of high blood pressure, regulation of digestion, inflammation reduction, and promotes healthy hair and skin. Watermelon is also one of the best sources lycopene.

Health benefits and nutritional value of spinach

Spinach is a superfood. It is loaded with tons of nutrients in a low-calorie package. Dark, leafy greens like spinach are important for skin, hair, and bone health. They also provide protein, iron, vitamins, and minerals.

The possible health benefits of consuming spinach include improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering the risk of cancer, and improving bone health, as well as supplying minerals and vitamins that can provide a range of different

Spinach has been used by various cultures throughout history, notably in Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern, and South-East-Asian cuisines. It can be incorporated quite easily into any diet, as it is cheap and easy to prepare.

This article explores the nutrition contained in spinach, how it can benefit the body, and a range of flavorsome ways to include this in the diet.

Fast facts on spinach

  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 100-gram serving of spinach contains 28.1 milligrams of vitamin C, 34 percent of the daily recommendation.
  • Different types include savoy spinach, flat spinach, and semi-savoy spinach.
  • Spinach can be added as an ingredient to many dishes and either cooked or served raw.
Nutrition
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Spinach is a green, leafy vegetable that is high in nutrients and low in calories.

One cup of raw spinach containsTrusted Source:

Spinach also contains vitamin K, fiber, phosphorus, and thiamine. Most of the calories in spinach come from protein and carbohydrates.

Iron

A lack of iron in the diet can affect how efficiently the body uses energy. Spinach is a great source of iron. Make sure to combine vitamin-C-rich foods such as citrus fruits with plant iron like spinach to improve absorption.

Calcium

Spinach contains approximately 250 mg of calcium per cup. However, it is less easily absorbed than calcium obtained from dairy sources. Spinach has a high oxalate content, which binds to calcium. This makes it difficult for our bodies to use.

Magnesium

Spinach is also one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, which is necessary for energy metabolism, maintaining muscle and nerve function, regular heart rhythm, a healthy immune system, and maintaining blood pressure. Magnesium also plays a part in hundreds more biochemical reactions that occur in the body.

Benefits

Spinach has the following possible health benefits:

Diabetes management

cooked-spinach

Spinach contains an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative, stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.

Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreasesTrusted Source in peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy in diabetics.

However, most studies have used intravenous alpha-lipoic acid, and it is uncertain whether oral supplementation would elicit the same benefits.

Cancer prevention

Spinach and other green vegetables contain chlorophyll. Several studies, including this 2013 study carried out on 12,000 animals, have shown chlorophyll to be effective at blockingTrusted Source the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines.

These are generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.

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This can contribute to preventing the growth of cancer.

Asthma prevention

A study of 433 children with asthma between the ages of 6 and 18 years, and 537 children without, showed that the risks for developing asthma are lowerTrusted Source in people who have a high intake of certain nutrients.

One of these nutrients is beta-carotene. Spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene.

Lowering blood pressure

Due to its high potassium content, spinach is recommended for people with high blood pressure.

Potassium can help reduce the effects of sodium in the body. A low potassium intake might be as potent a risk factor for developing high blood pressure as a high sodium intake.

Bone health

Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture.

Adequate vitamin K consumption is important for good health, as it acts as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improves calcium absorption, and may reduceTrusted Source the amount of calcium that leaves the body in urine.

Promotes digestive regularity

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

Healthy skin and hair

Spinach has large quantitiesTrusted Source of vitamin A, which moderates the production of oil in the skin pores and hair follicles to moisturize the skin and hair.

It is this oil that can build up to cause acne. Vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.

Spinach and other leafy greens high in vitamin C are crucial forTrusted Source the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair.

Iron deficiency is a common causeTrusted Source of hair loss, which may be prevented by an adequate intake of iron-rich foods, such as spinach.

Diet

spinach-salad

Spinach is a versatile vegetable and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is available fresh, frozen, or canned. Here are some tips to try to incorporate more spinach into a daily routine:

  • Add spinach to pasta, soups, and casseroles.
  • Lightly sauté spinach in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Add spinach to a wrap, sandwich, or flatbread.
  • Make a dip with spinach, such as spinach and artichoke dip or spinach and goat cheese dip.
  • Add a handful of fresh spinach to an omelet or scramble, or throw a handful into a smoothie.

Risks

If someone is taking blood-thinners, such as warfarin, it is important that they do not suddenly begin to change the amount of food they eat containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting.

Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional.

If the kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal. It is important that people with kidney problems do not consume dangerous levels of potassium.

Spinach is best consumed as part of a well-rounded, nutritious diet.

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Why do we need vitamin B-3, or niacin?

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Vitamin B-3, also known as niacin, is one of eight B vitamins. It plays a role in converting the food we eat into energy. It helps the body to use proteins and fats, and it keeps the skin, hair, and nervous system healthy.

Other possible benefits of vitamin B-3 stem from its potential cholesterol-loweringTrusted Source, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Other names for vitamin B-3 include nicotinamide, nicotinic acid, and vitamin PP, because it prevents pellagra.

The body excretes any niacin it does not need in urine. The body does not store niacin, and so people must consume it in food every day.

A healthful diet can provide all of a person’s vitamin B-3 needs. Vitamin B-3 deficiency is rare in the United States.

Deficiency symptoms

In the past, niacin deficiency was common, especially in the Southern States of the U.S. Now, however, most people get enough vitamin B-3 in their diet.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS)Trusted Source, a person who lacks vitamin B-3 may experience:

  • a pigmented rash on skin that is exposed to the sun
  • rough appearance to the skin
  • bright red tongue
  • fatigue or apathy
  • vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea
  • circulatory problems
  • depression
  • headache
  • memory loss
  • in severe cases, hallucinations

A severe lack of vitamin B-3 can result in pellagra. The condition can be fatal.

Factors that can lead to low levels of B-3 include:

  • having a diet low in tryptophans or a condition that reduces the body’s ability to convert tryptophan to niacin, such as Hartnup disease or carcinoid syndrome
  • undernutrition, for example, due to alcohol use disorder, anorexia, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • a low intake of vitamin B-2, B-6, or iron, as this can reduce the amount of tryptophan that converts to niacin

Uses in medicine

In the past, some people have combined vitamin B-3 with statin use as a treatment to control cholesterol. However, research into this has produced mixed results, and some people have had adverse effects.

For this reason, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association do not recommendTrusted Source using this treatment.

Risks

The amount of vitamin B-3 found in food does not cause side effects. However, taking high doses of vitamin B-3 as a supplement can result in adverse effects.

These include:

  • flushed or itchy skin
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • headache
  • rash
  • dizziness

Excess vitamin B-3 can also:

  • reduce glucose tolerance and insulin resistance
  • trigger an attack in people with gout
  • result in eye problems
  • lead to gastrointestinal problems
  • increase the risk of liver damage
  • lower blood pressure, leading to a loss of balance and risk of falls

Recommended intake

man checking supplements label

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dietary Supplement Label Database recommend 16 milligrams (mg) a day of vitamin B-3 for anyone of 4 years of age or over who is consuming a 2,000-calorie diet.

On this basis, those who eat a well-balanced diet will tend to consume enough niacin in their food.

Food sources

The following foods are good sources trusted Source of vitamin B-3:

  • Beef liver: A 3-ounce portion contains 14.9 mg or 75 percent of a person’s daily value (DV)
  • Grilled chicken breast: A 3-ounce portion contains 10.3 mg or 52 percent of DV
  • Turkey breast: A 3-ounce portion has 10.0 mg or 50 percent of DV
  • Sockeye salmon: A 3-ounce piece contains 8.6 mg or 43 percent of DV
  • Cooked brown rice: One cup provides 5.2 mg or 26 percent of DV
  • Enriched breakfast cereal: One serving contains 5.0 mg or 25 percent of DV
  • Dry roasted peanuts: One ounce of these nuts contains 4.2 mg or 21 percent of DV

Foods that are high in tryptophan are good sources of niacin. The body needs tryptophan to make protein, but if there is extra, it can convert it to niacin.

The benefits and food sources of vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a vitamin that benefits the central nervous system and metabolism. Its roles include turning food into energy and helping to create neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Vitamin B6 is one of eight B vitamins. This group of vitamins is important for proper cell function. They help with metabolism, creating blood cells, and keeping cells healthy.

Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in water. The body does not store vitamin B6 and releases any excess in urine, so people need to get enough vitamin B6 every day.

This article looks at the health benefits and food sources of vitamin B6, along with a person’s daily needs of the vitamin. It also discusses deficiency and supplements.

Possible health benefits of vitamin B6

Two bowls of chickpea stew served in tasteful gray bowls. Chickpeas are rich in vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6 has many functions in the body, and it plays a role in over 100Trusted Source enzyme reactions. One of its main roles is in helping the body metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates for energy.

This vitamin is also involvedTrusted Source in:

  • immune system function
  • brain development during pregnancy and infancy
  • creating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine
  • creating hemoglobin, which is the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Vitamin B6 deficiency is an uncommonTrusted Source in the United States. Most people get enough from their diets.

The following sections look at some effects of vitamin B6 in human health.

Brain function

Vitamin B6 helps to create neurotransmitters, which are important chemical messengers in the brain. It also helps regulate energy use in the brain.

Some researchTrusted Source suggests that vitamin B6 deficiency may be linked with cognitive decline and dementia.

According to the Office of Dietary SupplementsTrusted Source, studies have suggested that those older adults with higher blood levels of vitamin B6 have better memory.

However, there is little evidence to suggest that taking vitamin B6 supplements improves cognition or mood in people with or without dementia.

Nausea during pregnancy

A review study from 2016Trusted Source reports that taking pyridoxine may help with mild symptoms of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, compared with a placebo.

It also reports that taking a combination of pyridoxine and doxylamine could help with moderate symptoms.

Based on the research, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend vitamin B6 supplements as a safe, over-the-counter treatment for nausea during pregnancy.

Protection from air pollution

A study published in 2017 indicated that vitamin B6 may help to protect people against the harmful effects of air pollution by reducing the impact of pollution on the epigenomeTrusted Source.

The researchers hope their findings may lead to new measures to prevent epigenetic changes that can result from exposure to air pollution.

The World Health OrganizationTrusted Source reported that, in 2016, 91% of the world’s population was living in places where official air quality guidelines levels were not met.

How much vitamin B6 should I have each day?

A number of factors will affect a person’s daily requirement for vitamin B6, because it impacts several aspects of a person’s metabolism.

According to the ODSTrusted Source, the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for vitamin B6 are:

AgeMaleFemale
0–6 months0.1 mg0.1 mg
7–12 months0.3 mg0.3 mg
1–3 years0.5 mg0.5 mg
4–8 years0.6 mg0.6 mg
9–13 years1.0 mg1.0 mg
14–18 years1.3 mg1.2 mg
19–50 years1.3 mg1.3 mg
51+ years1.7 mg1.5 mg
During pregnancy1.9 mg
During lactation2.0 mg

Food sources of vitamin B6

Most foods have some vitamin B6. People with a well-balanced diet do not tend to develop a deficiency. Medical conditions and certain medications can lead to a deficiency.

The following are good sourcesTrusted Source of vitamin B6:

  • chickpeas (1 cup) provide 1.1 milligrams (mg) or 65% of the daily value (DV)
  • beef liver (3 ounces) provides 0.9 mg or 53% DV
  • yellowfin tuna (3 oz) provides 0.9 mg or 53% DV
  • roasted chicken breast (3 oz) provides 0.5 mg or 29% DV
  • potatoes (1 cup) provides 0.4 mg or 25% DV
  • banana (medium) provides 0.4 mg or 25% DV
  • tofu (half a cup) provides 0.1 mg or 6% DV
  • nuts (1 oz) provide 0.1 mg or 6% DV

Other sources of B6 include:

  • fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals
  • salmon
  • turkey
  • marinara sauce
  • ground beef
  • waffles
  • bulgur
  • cottage cheese
  • squash
  • rice
  • raisins
  • onion
  • spinach
  • watermelon

B6 deficiency

Deficiencies are uncommonTrusted Source in the U.S., but they may develop if a person has poor intestinal absorption or is taking estrogens, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, or some other medications.

Many deficiencies in vitamin B6 are associated with low levels of other B vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and folate.

Long-term, excessive alcohol consumption may eventually result in a B6 deficiency, as can hypothyroidism and diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency include:

  • peripheral neuropathy with tingling, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet
  • anemia
  • seizures
  • depression
  • confusion
  • a weakened immune system

In rare cases, vitamin B6 deficiency may lead to a pellagr-like syndrome, such as:

  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • inflammation of the tongue, or glossitis
  • inflammation and cracking of the lips, known as cheilosis

In infants, seizures may persist even after treatment with anticonvulsants.

Some deficiencies, like peripheral neuropathy, can be lifelong.

B6 supplements

Between 28 and 36%Trusted Source of people in the United States take vitamin supplements containing vitamin B6. Supplements are available in capsule or tablet form.

Most people of all ages in the U.S. consume sufficient B6 and do not require supplements.

Those who are more likely to have low levels of B6 include:

  • people who drink excess alcohol
  • people with obesity
  • people who are pregnant or breastfeeding

There is no evidence of any adverse effect from consuming too much vitamin B6 in food.

However, evidence has shown that taking between 1 and 6 gramsTrusted Source of oral pyridoxine a day for 12 to 40 months may be linked with severe, progressive sensory neuropathy and a loss of control of body movement.

The 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendTrusted Source that most nutrients should come from foods. They encourage consumption of a balanced diet with nutrient-dense foods and plenty of dietary fiber.

Vitamin B6 is an important vitamin for many processes in the body, including the nervous system and metabolism. The body does not store this vitamin, so people need to get some from their diets each day.

Most Americans get sufficient vitamin B6 from their diets. If not, a doctor may recommend dietary changes or taking vitamin B6 supplements.

References

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