Think kale is just a trendy foodie food? Let’s be honest. Kale has always been a farmer food, packed with energy-providing nutrients and detoxifying properties, but has just recently become an extreme frenzy in the health and diet world.

However, in addition to simply being a healthy part of your diet, kale has numerous health benefits for the brain, body and skin. The plant-based omega-3 acid in kale helps lower your risk of developing depression and diabetes. Both diabetes and obesity wreak havoc on the brain and kale is a great first step to fighting both. The brain depends on essential vitamins and minerals to function — and by these traditional measures of nutrient density, kale is at the top of the charts.

To learn even more about kale’s brain, body and skin benefits, we sat down with Naturopathic Physician Dr. Suneil Jain. Read details below and get started on those salads (hint: try an acidic dressing for a burst of flavor!)

What are the biggest benefits kale has on the brain and involving brain function?

166324468Kale is one of the most, if not most, nutrient-dense of all foods. It provides large amounts of crucial vitamins, minerals and enzymes necessary for a healthy human body. Our bodies become susceptible to chronic disease when many of the nutrients in kale are deprived. Among those nutrients crucial for proper brain function are protein, vitamins A, C, and K, B-vitamins, calcium, manganese, potassium, and omega-3 fats. Perhaps manganese, vitamin K and omega-3’s can be singled out for being of most importance to the brain as together they help prevent nerve damage, decrease inflammation and increase circulation to the brain. Oxygen deprivation to the brain is one of the leading causes of dementia.

How does kale help lower the risk of depression, specifically?

Kale contains L-tyrosine. This amino acid is a building block for protein and is responsible for the synthesis of two neurotransmitters in the brain called dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters help elevate mood, improve memory, promote critical thinking and reduce stress caused by multitasking.

How does kale help lower the risk of diabetes?

Aside from all the powerful antioxidants and naturally low glycemic index, kale’s richness in fiber allows the body to break down sugars over a slower, more gradual period of time.  This allows for better sugar control and more efficient insulin regulation. Without this, diabetes risk increases significantly.

We’ve heard there are skin-related benefits to kale. Is that true?

Kale is excellent for the skin for multiple reasons.  Kale is rich in antioxidants that protect the skin against oxidative damage, a major risk factor for premature aging. Kale also improves oxygenation at the cellular level. This improves blood flow to the skin allowing for proper nutrient replenishment. Being rich in vitamins A and C helps with collagen formation.  Healthy collagen delays the onset of wrinkles and keeps the skin hydrated and firm.  Kale’s vitamin K content helps improve skin elasticity and diminishes the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.

How often should one eat kale to reap these benefits?

It really is too hard to get too much kale, unless one has an allergy or sensitivity to it. Kale can be enjoyed raw in salads, smoothies, and juice. It can be added to various dishes after being steamed. It’s always advisable to eat a complete whole foods diet rich in all the colors from the rainbow.  Kale happens to be one of the strongest representatives for the color green!