Did you know that by incorporating more raw, green vegetables like kale into your diet daily, athletes can improve endurance, energy levels, and postpone fatigue during exercise? Did you also know that they contain powerful anti-cancer properties? Am I catching your attention yet?
Kale is one of the most nutrient dense of all foods and only contain about 100 calories per pound. On a side note, this makes them an excellent tool for weight loss as they can be consumed in unlimited quantities. Trust me, your stomach will get full long before you can even begin to consume too many. Sadly, the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains minuscule amounts in a typical day.
Back to performance, athletes and especially women, are at risk for low energy, muscle weakness, and fatigue that have long been associated with iron deficiency anemia. Daily high-volume, high-intensity training puts stress on the body and can diminish iron stores. One way that is can be avoided is to eat a high nutrient dense diet with foods that are high in iron. Broccoli, bok choy, kale and other dark, leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of iron.
A member of the cruciferous family, kale contains high levels of vitamins A, B6, C (helps with the absorption of iron) and K, as well as folate (the natural form of folic acid), iron and calcium. It is also one of the most antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory vegetables. Runners and athletes alike all know the daily and often times chronic nuisance of low-grade inflammation resulting from exercise-induced muscle damage. Maintaining a diet that’s high in anti-inflammatory foods reduces the risk of this problem.
Like all vegetables, kale contains protective micronutrients and phytochemicals. But what really makes the superpowers in kale shine, is that it contains a unique chemical composition of glucosinolates. When the glucosinolate cell walls are broken by blending, chopping or chewing, a chemical reaction converts them to isothiocyanates (ITCs)—compounds with a variety of very potent anti-cancer effects. ITCs work synergistically to remove carcinogens, reduce inflammation, neutralize oxidative stress, inhibit angiogenesis (the process by which tumors acquire a blood supply), and kill cancer cells. Who doesn’t want that? This is one of the main reasons that I recommend to consume as much RAW kale as possible. When cooked, the properties are diminished.
One of the easiest ways to eat raw kale is in the form of a smoothie. You won’t taste it, I promise. Check out one of my favorite recipes below.
Very Berry Kale Smoothie
16 oz water
1 cup fresh, raw leaves of kale
1 T chia seeds
1 T flax seed (finely ground)
1/2- 1 scoop Vega All-In-One Nutritional Shake Powder Mixed Berry or Vanilla Chia Flavor or other plant based protein of choice (optional)
1 T maca
1/2- 1 ripe banana
1- 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries
1 T moringa
1 inch slice of fresh ginger (optional)
1/4 inch slice fresh turmeric (optional)