If you need a little boost in your bone health, there’s one leaf, in particular, the best leafy green vegetable you can eat for strong bones is kale.
You can’t go wrong with consuming leafy greens. There are so many types, and they all provide amazing benefits. But depending on what your health goals are, some are better suited to your diet than others. Some are great for weight loss while others are for your heart. Whichever you choose, you know you’re about to reap tons of benefits.
However, if you need a little boost in your bone health, there’s one leaf, in particular, that’s calling your name. According to Laura Burak MS, RD, founder of GetNaked® Nutrition and author of Slimdown with Smoothies, the best leafy green you can eat for strong bones is kale.
Kale Nutrition Facts
Kale is a member of the cabbage family and is often labeled a superfood because it is so high in nutrients per calorie.
Kale is also low in fat and high in fiber, making it a great addition to almost any diet for the substantial nutritional and health benefits it provides.
Different varieties of kale provide different eating experiences. Some are more pungent, for instance, while others have a fairly mellow flavor. This enables you to choose the variety that you enjoy most.
One cup of raw kale (20.6g) provides 7.2 calories, 0.6g of protein, 0.9g of carbohydrates, and 0.3g of fat. Kale is a great source of vitamins A, K, and C, as well as potassium and calcium. The following nutrition information is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Vitamin A: 49.6mcg
Vitamin K: 80.3mcg
Vitamin C: 19.2mg
One cup of raw kale contains less than a gram of carbohydrate. Most of this carbohydrate is in the form of fiber (0.8 of the 0.9 total grams). The remainder consists of a small amount of naturally occurring sugars.
The glycemic load of kale is estimated to be 3, making it a low-glycemic food. Glycemic load indicates a food’s impact on blood sugar and, unlike the glycemic index, takes portion size into account when estimating this effect.
There is almost no fat in kale. However, the way that you prepare this green superfood may change the nutrition it provides. If you cook kale in butter or oil, for instance, or rub olive oil on the leaves before roasting them or adding them to a salad, there will be additional fat.
Kale provides less than 1 gram of protein per one-cup serving. The protein it does contain is easily digestible.
Vitamin and Minerals
Kale is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C. As a plant-based source of calcium, it is a favorable addition to vegetarian and vegan meal plans.5 Kale also provides a good amount of potassium, along with trace amounts of manganese, copper, and some B vitamins.
One cup of raw kale contains only 7.2 calories. When compared to other leafy greens, kale has slightly fewer calories than a cup of shredded iceberg lettuce (10 calories) and slightly more calories than a cup of spinach (6.7 calories).
Kale is a low-calorie vegetable that is extremely high in fiber. One cup of raw kale provides a variety of nutrients, especially vitamins A, K, and C, but also potassium and calcium.
Kale: The #1 Best Leafy Green for Strong Bones
“Although us dietitians love all leafy greens, my #1 pick is always going to be kale because not only is it super high in nutrients, but it is readily available in almost any market, has a neutral taste, and is so versatile,” says Burak.
Kale is one of Burak’s favorite plant sources of calcium, as it clocks in at around 100 milligrams for just one cup. Because of this, she believes it is a great choice for boosting your bone health without having to rely on dairy.
Not only does kale contain calcium, but it also contains vitamin K, which regulates the calcium in your body. The vitamin K1 found in this vegetable has also been linked to stronger bones. In fact, studies have researched that those who are deficient in vitamin K have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, as well as dealing with bone breakage.
If you’re eating the kale raw, one cup of it contains nearly 100% of your daily dietary intake of vitamin K. However, cooking one cup of it provides you with over four times the amount, making it a very healthy addition to any meal.
However, as nutritious as this leafy green is, it has also been known to be a little bitter. It’s also said to be a strong, earthy flavor. If this doesn’t suit your taste buds, there are recipes to mask it to ensure you can still add it to your dishes.
“There are endless ways to use this calcium-rich veggie,” she says.”Throw a handful into a smoothie and you will never taste it. Or, add it to a stir-fry, sauce, soup, or scrambled eggs.”
Burak also recommends massaging it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper for a delicious salad.
Some Health Benefits of Kale
Assists in Healthy Weight Maintenance
Kale and other dark green vegetables provide great nutritional benefits for very few calories. The fiber and protein in kale can also help you to feel full and satisfied after eating. Studies show that diets higher in vegetables are associated with greater weight loss.
Promotes Better Heart Health
A large research review published in the journal Nutrients compared the health benefits of different vegetables. Kale was categorized with other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Study authors reported that, along with leafy greens, this category of veggies may provide the greatest cardiovascular health benefits.
Reduces Risk of Cancer
Kale is one of the cruciferous vegetables shown to have anti-cancer properties. Kale contains glucosinolates, which are compounds being researched for their potential ability to manage certain health conditions in humans, including certain types of cancer.
Improves Bone Health
Vitamin K is important for bone health, as well as for clotting blood. Vitamin K deficiency is associated with osteoporosis; studies have shown that supplementation has a positive effect on the bone health of postmenopausal women.
While taking a dietary supplement may be beneficial, including foods with vitamin K (and other nutrients, like calcium) can help ensure that you are not deficient in this important nutrient.