Could I Really Be Eating Too Much Kale?

A couple of months ago I discovered that I was anemic.  I was a bit surprised since I am an omnivore and eat jut about everything.  Although I don’t indulge in red meat too often, I love a good juicy steak made from organic grass fed and finished beef, or a perfectly roasted leg of lamb.  But I do eat plenty of dark leafy vegetables, especially one of my all time favorites which is kale.

Black&GreenKale2

I eat kale almost daily whether in a green juice, sautéd with garlic and onions, in my morning omelet or in a salad tossed with a bunch of other vegetables for lunch.

And what, might you ask, does this have to do with my blood iron level?

kalefoods

Kale is often called the “beef” of vegans because of it’s high iron content.

For 100 calories, beef has anywhere from 0.8 to 0.9 mg of iron, while Kale boast 3.2 mg of iron. Romaine is the most iron rich green with 5.7 mg per 100 calories. [Source: DrFuhrman.com]

So imagine my horror when I decided to share my concern and surprise at being anemic considering how much kale I eat with a couple of friends who are health nuts as I am: “Oh be careful!” they said,  ” You could be eating too much kale and that can be really bad for your health!”

Kale bad for my health?  How could that be?

I’ve always told my clients how good kale is and that it is one of the staples of a healthy diet, so I had to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

After a little digging around I discovered that the widespread scare about kale being harmful to our health came from one personal essay published by the New York Times in the Opinionator section titled “Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead.”  In this essay, author Jennifer Berman explained, that although she was one of the healthiest eaters she knew, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (enlarged thyroid) at her last physical. She further shares that one of her favorite foods, kale, was at the top of the “DO NOT EAT” list of foods for people who suffer from hypothyroidism.  Kale along with a long list of otherwise healthy cruciferous vegetables.

After the publication of this personal essay a frenzy ensued with dozens of articles floating around the internet warning of the dangers of eating too much kale.  Yet to date there has only been one study by Oregon State University, which links excessive consumption of cruciferous vegetables with hypothyroidism. In this study it is noted that one 88 year old woman developed hypothyroidism and went into a coma after eating 1 to 1.5 kilos a day of raw bock choy for several months in a row.   That means she was eating an average of 15 to 20 cups a day!  Who knows what else her diet consisted of but let’s be honest, that is an insane amount of any food!

Needless to say I was deeply relieved that all this concern about kale was based on this one essay, yet alarmed by the amount of misinformation that had spread because of it as well.

Upon further research I learned that iodine deficiency is another cause of hypothyroidism and the combination of low iodine levels with excessive goitrogenic foods – foods that contribute to an enlarged thyroid or goiter, can indeed have a negative effect on your health.  But you would have to eat a ridiculous amount of kale to put yourself at risk.

So would it be wise to stop eating kale?

If you suffer from hypothyroidism it might not be a bad idea, but before you ban kale and other cruciferous vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, broccoli, Brussell sprouts and collar greens from your diet please make sure to consult with your doctor.

Kale is a wonderfully healthy food, rich infiber and low in calories. It is rich in Iron, Calcium, Vitamins A, C and K and other powerful antioxidants, and boasts wonderful anti-inflamamtory properties.

As for me I am going to keep enjoying my kale along with a rainbow of other deliciously healthy veggies!

BlackKaleEndiveSalad

Do you enjoy kale and other cruciferous vegetables? What are your thoughts about this widespread panic that began with one personal essay?

 

 

 

About Valerie 

Valerie Remy-Milora is the mother of 3 amazing girls, an author, public speaker, coach and founder of Scrumptious Moms. She is passionate about empowering moms to embrace self care and live a vibrant, joyful life with their loved ones. A health and fitness nut, she is an advocate for chemical-free living, real food and GMO labeling. She believes in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

Comments

  1. Amazing how one article can have such a huge impact on the food industry and our medical knowledge.

    Great article and I for one will not be giving up Kale or any other good for you food. I have always said.. balance is crucial. Dump the junk and start eating healthy.

    Out diets are terrible and the amount of sugar we consume is ridiculous. But that is a topic I could go on and on about.

    Thank you for bringing this myth to our attention. Great post and I look forward to reading more from you.

    • Katarina I think you and I would have wonderful conversations! Yes balance IS crucial and oh my do we consume way too much sugar and other junk. Which makes the panic reaction to this one article about kale all the more absurd. Enjoy your kale and all other fabulous greens 🙂

    • I am with Katrina – dump the junk and eat healthy. Perfectly said in such a succinct way. Too much of ANYTHING is bad, including kale and other healthy things. Balance is needed in ALL things.

      • Amen for “Dump the Junk” Katrina! And yes to balance but most importantly it’s imperative to double check the source of the information we consume, especially when we are using it to make decision about out health. I doubt there are many people consuming the extreme quantities of kale that would potentially be harmful and I would hate for anyone not to eat it or to give it based on misinformation circulating on the internet.

  2. Anything too much may be harmful. Thanks for the info. I will have to watch my diet.

  3. Great article, if you do anything in excess you’re asking for trouble. Did you know kale is also great for your eyes? Yup. It is regularly recommended by doctors of optometry as smart eye food.

    • I did not know that kale is good for your eyes Debra, thank you for sharing this. Considering I am blind as a bat without my contacts that is excellent news. And I am going to make sure I share this with a few people who are dear to me and have recently learned they have early macular degeneration.

  4. I eat my veggies, but not overly so. Kale’s texture befuddles me a bit, but I haven’t looked into many ways to prepare it. It’s always good to know of potential pitfalls associated with super foods, but thank goodness the ill-effects of a lot of Kale seem to only be dangerous in cases of hypothyroidism.

    • The challenges I think come from a “supersize-me” mentality — and the belied that if a little bit of something is good for you, then a lot must be better. And yes you are right Jeri, based on my research I do believe that the concern with kale only affects people with hypothyroidism.

  5. Hi. My husband I used to work in restaurants I’m Scottsdale, Arizona a couple months ago and we used kale in our salads and entrees. It was apparently the popular thing out here. I like it and think it is good work a lemon salad dressing. It is a super food! I say keep on eating it. 🙂

    Crystal Ross

  6. Thank you for this post! I have recently started to be a health nut and I actually really like kale. I have even got my husband to eat it! We like to make kale chips a lot too. I’m glad to know that I shouldn’t panic about it. I’d love to see more healthy recipes! 🙂

    • Congratulations Darci on your decision to “become a health nut”!!! It’s the best feeling in the world and I wish you much success.. Feel free to browse our recipe section as I post at least one original healthy and kid friendly recipe a week 🙂 You’ll find at least half a dozen kale recipes including our parmesan kale chips

  7. Everything in moderation, eh? There was something going around FB about how cut onions were used to pull impurities out of the air and prevented the spread of colds. Therefore, if you have a cut onion past a day, you shouldn’t eat it. Luckily Snopes debunked that one.

    • Haha Christina! Love that onion story. But it’s true we have to be vigilant about double checking information that we read online before we change our habits because there is a LOT of misinformation. I hate to think of how many people stopped eating kale because of this one story!

  8. Catarina says:

    Almost every day there is a report in the press stating we should not do this and that. We have all been told that sunbathing is dangerous. This week, however, there was a report that women that sunbathe live longer. Confusing isn’t it? Should we, or should we not, be in the sun?

    • That is a really good question Catarina, and worthy of an article I believe as, just like with kale, I believe that there is indeed a moderation issue here. Sun is the best source of Vitamin D and daily time in the sun, without sun screen is the most natural way to maintain healthy vitamin D levels.. But I don’t want to spread any misinformation here and will leave it at that until I explore this subject a little more thoroughly 🙂 Thanks for raising the question 😉

  9. I have read that even too much water can hurt you. It’s good information though, thank you for debunking the fear!

    That salad looks divine!

    • Haha I remember hearing about that Kim! I believe it started with a woman who had participated in a water drinking competition at a fair and drank a RIDICULOUS amount of water — more than a gallon at once — and ended up in a coma, if I remember correctly. People came out shouting “Don’t drink too much water, you could die!”. I guess technically you could drink enough to flush out your electrolytes, but you would have to drink an insane amount of water for that to be possible. And let’s be honest,I don’t know anyone who is in danger of drinking too much water but I know plenty of people who drink much too little 😉

  10. So glad to hear it was not true! I love Kale and use it in soups, salads, stews, etc.

  11. I know they say you can have too much of a good thing, but it seems hard to believe eating kale daily could ever come close to 15 to 20 cups of bok choy a day. I won’t be giving up my kale anytime soon, and it sounds like you won’t either.

  12. I don’t eat kale. I’ve never tried it and don’t know much about it. However, I do suffer with iron deficiency. Thyroid cancer is what killed my Mom. I found this all to be interesting.

  13. We enjoy kale in our smoothies too so I was very interested to read this. I don’t think we consume the quantities or do it as often as it would take to be unhealthy which is fortunate for us. Thank you for the post!!!

  14. This is very interesting. I eat kale but mostly in smoothies and in moderation.

  15. No I don’t eat kale or several others you mentioned as I don’t like them.
    I believe there is room for everything in moderation and also that people in general have a tendency to not read thoroughly and question things.

    • You are so right Val, people tend to skim or sometimes even read nothing but the headline of an article rather than read thoroughly and go back to the source of the information. The internet has made getting information on any and all subjects so much easier but we MUST be careful and take the time to verify at least a couple of sources. Have a splendid day!

  16. Who knew the connection?
    I was anemic when pregnant with girls (not the boy!)
    Moderation is key huh?

    • Moderation is key in general I believe Beth, but I don’t think the majority of kale consumers have anything to worry about.. Anemia during pregnancy is fairly common as our blood volume increases by 50% to feed our little bundle of joy 🙂 Dark leaf greens in general is a phenomenal source of iron!

  17. I love Kale. I often eat Kale chips and my kids love them too.

  18. I’ve always been anemic. I know I need to add more green dark green veggies to my diet

    • Yes, yes, yes Melinda, add those dark leafy greens 🙂 They have so many wonderful health benefits including keeping your blood Ph on the alkaline side which is important in the fight against disease. Have a fabulous day!

  19. My concern about the amount of pesticides on non-organic grocery store kale would be a bigger concern than the veggie itself. I put in a nice crop of Russian Kale this year and I am hoping it will produce well into the winter, so that won’t be a concern for me this year.

    • Oh that sounds wonderful Robin and I agree with you completely. I’m not giving up my kale any time soon but I make it a point of buying organic when it comes to my fruits and vegetables. Summer plans include some gardening for that very reason. Enjoy your Russian kale!

  20. Good to know! I was worried when I started reading…love my kale smoothies!

  21. We always think of green leafy veggies as good no matter what so it was interesting to see that someone else’s research shows that too much might not be a good thing. Crazy.

  22. I still think of green leafy vegetables as wonderfully healthy Tiff, but I agree that anyone who suffers from thyroid problems should check with their physician before making it a staple in their diet. Kale has so many fabulous health benefits that is does not deserve a bad rep 🙂

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