The term kale is kind of a buzz-word for healthy living these days. Who doesn’t go crazy for all those pure-looking green smoothies on Instagram and pat themselves on the back for snapping up superfood salads.
But me, not so much.
Why? I’m not necessarily down on kale itself, but here’s a little-known fact to the general public (and most folks on Instagram) that the naturopathic world knows well: while kale is indeed super healthy, too much of it in it’s raw form can stop your body from absorbing the vital mineral iodine properly.
Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism and a host of health issues. Basically, high consumption of substances known as goitrogens (which suppress the proper function of our thyroid gland by inhibiting or interfering with the uptake of iodine and iodine-rich foods) may induce what’s known as secondary iodine deficiency.
Which foods may do this?
Goitrogens are found in the Brassica family of veggies – cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips and Brussels sprouts – as well as other foods such as linseed, casava, millet, soybean and soy products. They’re in higher concentration when these vegetables are raw.
Why do we need iodine?
Iodine is crucial for healthy thyroid hormone production, including the conversion of T4 (an inactive hormone) to T3 (its active form). Our bodies also need it for:
- Balanced reproductive health
- Brain and nervous system development in pregnancy, infants, children and adolescents
- Prevention of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in offspring of women with adequate levels of iodine during pregnancy
- Improved outcomes in fibrocystic breast disease and cyclic mastalgia
- There’s also evidence of a preventive role for iodine in breast cancer
Iodine is found in all seawater fish and shellfish, sea veggies such as seaweed, iodised salt and some fortified breads and milk (but fortified foods? Ugh.)
TIP: Selenium is also super important for the proper conversion of thyroid hormones T4 (inactive form) to T3 (active form) and for the only iodine-recycling pathway of the body. Apart from thyroid hormone modulation, selenium is one of the most important antioxidants for our bodies, and as well as playing an important role in mood, reproductive health, immunity, and cardiovascular protection. Selenium is found in brewer’s yeast, wheatgerm, meat, fish, seafood, Brazil nuts, garlic and organ meats.
So can you see why eating bunches of raw kale every day might not be so great in the long term? Especially if you suffer from reproductive issues, fatigue or thyroid issues. And since most of my clients suffer from fatigue and/or thyroid imbalances, daily raw kale smoothies are NOT a part any dietary recommendations that come from my clinic.
Sure, enjoy some raw kale here and there. But daily? Just don’t. You see, I know green kale smoothies might seem cool, but fatigue and thyroid imbalances? They’re not.
And lets not even get me started on the ‘dampness’ of green smoothies from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, especially in winter. (I shiver at the thought. Literally. I’m cold thinking about drinking cold green kale smoothies in winter.)
So to sum it up…
If you love eating raw kale, fine but just don’t eat it every day. Just eat it in moderation and mostly cooked so you’re supporting your body in a really nourishing way.
The same goes for the other veggies in the cabbage family!
Some other tips:
- Instead of raw kale in your green smoothies, use beet tops, carrot tops or other greens
- Add some Brazil nuts into your smoothie for their Selenium
- Eat seafood and other foods high in iodine to support your thyroid
- Try this delicious green smoothie as a tasty, nutritious option.
Here’s a recipe for one of my fave smoothies:
It has greens in it, but it’s a purple smoothie. It’s easy to make and the ingredients are accessible, nutrient-dense and also really healthy for you. Will it win awards on Instagram for best (read: most annoyingly overflowing smoothie in a glass jar that no sane person would ever fill that much or pick up and drink from?) Maybe not. But it will support your thyroid, adrenal glands, nervous system and digestive system?
- A handful of frozen berries and/or half a frozen banana
- A handful of baby spinach, beetroot tops or carrot tops (or a combination)
- Protein powder of choice (I love Nuzest‘s chocolate flavour) or you could just throw in a handful of nuts
- A teaspoon of chia seeds or nut butter
- 1-2 tbsp of gluten free muesli or something crunchy to top it with… because our brains like to know we’ve chewed; it helps to send the message we’ve eaten real food.
Blend, top with something crunchy, then drink (but also… chew)