Kale Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 06/03/22 •  12 min read
kale benefits and side effects

What are kale benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are kale pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

Food is something we consume every day and if you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on kale benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about kale benefits and side effects. This will include kale benefits for your health and potential risks, kale water footprint and kale carbon footprint, kale sustainability, if kale are vegan or impact animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if kale are good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about kale benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Must-Know Kale Benefits And Side Effects

Health

Kale health benefits may include:

Kale is…

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Environment

Water footprint: low, 322 liters of water used to produce 1 kilogram of kale / 39 gallons of water used to produce 1 pound of kale

Carbon footprint: low, 1.6 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of vegetables, a car driving equivalent of 3.75 miles or 6 kilometers

Destruction: low, kale production is relatively sustainable, there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc.

Kale is…

Animals

Kills: none, kale production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, kale production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no animals are indirectly killed or harmed from kale production as long as toxic chemicals have not been used, be sure to buy Non-GMO/organic, as pesticides harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Kale is…

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Laborers

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Kale…

Is kale nutritious? 🥗

Yes! Kale contains fiber, antioxidants, calcium, vitamins C and K, iron and other nutrients.

Kale alternative and kale replacement? 🍴

If you can’t find kale good alternatives are mustard greens, spinach, green cabbage, collard greens and broccoli.

Where does most kale come from? 📍

The world’s top kale exporting country is Mexico, followed by China, USA, Spain, Italy, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Macedonia.

kale is alkaline. kale benefits include fitting into an alkaline diet.

kale benefits include being alkaline

Is kale alkaline or acidic?

Kale is alkaline.

What is the pH level of kale?

Kale has a 9.5 pH level when raw once digested and a 7.5 pH level when cooked once digested.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

kale is gluten free.

gluten free foods and what to eat on a gluten free diet

Is kale gluten free?

Yes, kale is gluten free. Kale does not contain gluten. Kale is a type of vegetable, therefore making it a naturally gluten free food. 

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

kale is not a common food allergen.

the most common food allergens include milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is kale a common food allergen?

No, kale is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to kale but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

kale is included in the dirty dozen.

dirty dozen foods that get the most pesticides

Is kale part of the dirty dozen foods?

Yes, kale is part of the dirty dozen foods and should only be bought organically.

The dirty dozen refers to twelve types of produce that receive the heaviest amounts of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) updates the list annually to publish the latest trends in agriculture. An organic diet is always preferable, as there is less exposure to problematic pesticides and toxic chemicals which are not only beneficial to health but undoubtably the environment as well. 

Health conditions that are linked to pesticide exposure are: diabetes, cancer and neurological defects like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s,  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), birth defects, and reproductive disorders; not to mention laborers employed in agriculture that touch and breathe in pesticides, making them vulnerable to acute and chronic poisoning. 

The environmental impact of pesticides includes pollution to water systems and air, the emergence of “superweeds”, which can now resist normal herbicides and perhaps worst of all, declining pollinator populations -essential for all food production!

Consumers are advised that if they don’t tend to purchase organic foods regularly, then at the very least they should opt for organic when shopping for the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables, the latest list consisting of: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes.

Buying organic ensures the farmers have met strict guidelines to produce safe food that is best for minimal toxin exposure and overall health.

Here’s an excellent resource for further information on pesticides: Poisoning Our Children: The Parent’s Guide to the Myths of Safe Pesticides by André Leu

kale has a low water footprint. kale benefits include not requiring too much water.

kale benefits include having a low water footprint

Does kale have a high or low water footprint?

Kale has a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of kale?

It takes 322 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of kale / 39 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of kale.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of something referred to as a “water footprint”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

kale has a low carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Does kale have a high or low carbon footprint?

Kale has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of kale?

It takes around 1.6 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of vegetables, a car driving equivalent of 3.75 miles or 6 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

kale is sustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, is kale eco friendly? Is kale sustainable?

Kale production is relatively sustainable since there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. as long as pesticides have not been used. Be sure to buy non GMO/organic, as toxic, chemical pesticides contaminate air, water, soil, etc. when using regenerative practices.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

kale is vegan. kale benefits include not killing, harming or using animals.

kale benefits include being vegan

Is kale vegan?

Yes, kale is vegan. Kale is a leafy green vegetable and not an animal product or byproduct, therefore making it a vegan food. 

Animals of factory farming are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. Growth hormones allow all kinds of animals to become fatter faster and live short lives.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non-Vegan Foods List

kale may have labor issues and human rights concerns.

labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is kale a product with labor concerns?

At this time there are no major concerns with kale production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may be associated with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even be subjected to harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment has been likened to modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

This post was all about kale benefits and side effects.

Sources:

Kale, raw – FoodData Central – USDA

SNAP-Ed Connection

Kale | The Nutrition Source

Adriane Marie

Self-proclaimed Grocery Guru, Material Maven and all around Conscious Consumer Connoisseur. I organize ethical info for us to comprehensively see how purchases impact people, animals and the planet. I hope you find HEALabel helpful and use it for personal and global improvement and empowerment.

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