Hello, my name is Sarah and I’m a reformed raw kale-aholic. A few years ago, when I first got into clean eating, I became a little obsessed with raw kale.
The idea that one veggie could be packed with so many antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and general green goodness was so appealing to a budding nutrition nerd. Almost overnight I went from not even knowing what kale was to buying three or four bunches of it a week…all for myself! I was totally on the raw kale bandwagon; adding it to salads, using it as the basis of my daily green juices and smoothies. All the while thinking, that I was being soooo healthy!
So you can imagine my surprise when I went to see Miranda Kerr’s nutritionist Sally Joseph who told me that my kale obsession might not be as healthy as I thought. What the hell? How could eating copious amounts of one of the most nutritious veggies on the planet be anything but good for me?
However, it turns out that raw kale and other cruciferous veggies contain something called oxalic acid. I won’t attempt to explain the science behind oxalic acid. I’ll leave that to the nutrition experts below. But, basically, when consumed in high amounts (say, for example if you’re using a few bunches of raw kale a week in smoothies, green juices and salads!) oxalic acid can inhibit your absorption of minerals and even mess with your thyroid. A little raw kale is fine but if you’re going crazy on the stuff like I was you might want to think twice.
The good news though is that cooking (or even lightly steaming) kale solves the oxalic acid issue. So you can have your kale and eat it too! Kale chips cooked in coconut oil with a pinch of Himalayan salt are delish. Or when you’re making green smoothies at home try blanching your kale leaves in boiling water first. Also try to mix up your green juices with hydrating ingredients like cucumber and celery. The moral of the blog? When it comes to your health it is totally possible to have too much of a good thing.
What the experts say
Don’t just take my word for it. I asked two health gurus I admire to weigh in on the raw kale issue.
Anthia Koullouros naturopath and author of I Am Food
“The kale craze has seen health enthusiasts blending bunches of raw kale into smoothies. However, we need to be mindful of the less beneficial elements that are concentrated when we ingest a single food in high amounts. Kale contains goitrogens, thyroid-disprupting compounds high in uncooked cruciferous vegetables. Traditional preparation methods, like steaming, sautéing, accounted for this fact. But drinking large amounts of raw kale juice does not.”
Claire Obeid holistic health coach and Sporteluxe expert
“Kale is an incredible source of much needed and powerful antioxidants Vitamins A, C and K. It is also packed with fibre, folic acid and chlorophyll among many big players from the mineral front such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc. There is a dark side to kale though. Kale is high in oxalic acid which can deplete calcium from the bones and teeth. It can also block iron absorption and prevent the production of the thyroid hormone in the body. If you want to get the benefits of kale you’ll get more bang for your buck if you cook it first. Personally, I like to lightly steam my kale before chucking it in my green smoothies. If this sounds a little too troublesome just eat your cooked kale. And guess what? Cooked in butter or coconut oil is best as it actually helps with the absorption of minerals. Not to mention it tastes 1000 times better!”
Photographer: Heidi Boardman