If you haven’t noticed Kale by now you seriously live in the dark ages.
It is everywhere, enjoying an ever increasing popularity on the health food scene, with the differing varieties not limited to just farmer’s markets anymore, but available in almost every supermarket now.
Even restaurants menus include more and more dishes prepared with this nutritional powerhouse and potent cancer-fighting jewel.
We steam and sautée it with caramelized onions, we vigorously massage a salad out of the relatively tough leaves and we juice it and include it in our smoothies, sometimes daily.
We want our piece of this highly nutritious leaf that boasts a rich source of anti-oxidant carotenoids, Vitamin C, E and the Bs as well as being a mineral cocktail with high amounts of calcium, copper, iron & manganese.
Not just that, we know it belongs to the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, collard greens, mustard greens, cauliflower) and these are known for containing potent cancer-fighting compounds.
These sulfur-containing chemicals are called glucosinolates – which give kale its distinguished bitter and pungent taste – of which indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane are the most widely known – and have been shown in animal studies to inhibit the growth of cancer in various organs.
“I want that!” you may think even if it means figuring out how to make this tough, bitter leaf somehow edible. For some of us a real challenge, right?
And then this study pops up last week, denouncing kale as a potential toxic heavy-metals-harboring demon that crept into our lives like a Trojan horse only to unleash potent toxic debris and compromising the very same immune system we were valiantly trying to boost.
As I could not find any reference to this study in the world of peer-reviewed scientific journals we nutritionists rely on to educate you – the public – as well as ourselves, I began investigating…
Here is my take on this groundbreaking story.
FIRSTLY, it is a formal study alright, performed by an experienced biochemist, and does require us – the consumer – to prick up our ears and raise our eyebrows when it comes to the concluding results. Where there is smoke, there might just be a smoldering fire.
He found the highest concentrations to be of thallium and cesium, both fairly uncommon, yet he found them to be in both conventional as well as organic kale, and is himself still baffled by this outcome.
However, at this point the study is not yet peer-reviewed or has even been conducted in a sterile research setting, but rather inside the houseboat of said biochemist. He seems to know what he is doing, but further controlled research would be required before any definite claims can be made that I would feel comfortable repeating in an educational setting.
SECONDLY, there is valid research out there published in peer-reviewed journals showing that although heavy metals can be found in many plants these days (hello, we just don’t have a clean world out there anymore), cruciferous veggies have been found to absorb these in much higher concentrations.
Then there is the fact that kale and collard greens are part of the Dirty Dozen, the Environmental Working Group’s classification of which veggies to stay away from and definitely buy organic as they contain the most pesticide residue. (ewg.org)
This got me thinking…
Last month I underwent my annual preventive check up by my integrative physician, and part of that is a heavy metals test done via a chelation challenge. Through an IV infusion a chelating agent is injected into the blood which will bind with heavy metals (as well as minerals), and is then eliminated via the urine.
After receiving the IV, you go home and drink and pee for the next 6 hours like it is going out of fashion, collecting your urine during this time. At the end of this time you decant a sample from your collection– don’t worry, you get the entire kit including Fedex shipping label – and send it into a lab for testing. The results look something like this.
My results have improved significantly over the last 3 years since chemo, but I am still high on platinum (directly related to the chemo drug Carboplatin I received) and then thallium! Now that was new. It did not feature last time.
My Doc also scratched his head and informed me that this was odd, high levels would only really show up if I lived or worked in a heavily industrialized area. Nope, not in my beautiful Hunterdon County!
I am a juice and smoothie queen, and yes, kale features high on my go-to for Greens. Always organic, either fresh from my farm or supermarket-grade.
I am officially what one functional Doc called a “kale head” at yesterday’s Detox Summit I attended in NY (more on that on another blog).
Could this be?
Is there a possible correlation between my almost daily organic greens juices and smoothies and my current high levels of toxic Thallium?
There is only one way to find out. So I am currently conducting my own research, namely on myself, by cutting down significantly on my kale consumption.
I said significantly, but not totally!
This review would not be complete if I did not mention that kale, as well as all brassica family members listed above, are so-called goitrogens and can contribute to or exacerbate Hypothyroidism.
Goitrogens interfere with iodine absorption in the body, and this can severely affect the hormone production in the thyroid gland, a pretty common condition these days among us women. Cooking generally inactivates goitrogens.
Back to the toxins. We would be naïve to think that our fresh produce is 100% squeaky clean, even if it is totally organic or home-grown.
Kale still has numerous health benefits, too many to ignore, and I do not want to miss out! I will follow my own rule and walk my talk: EAT VARIETY!
Everything in moderation. Even the healthiest edible plant can potentially be toxic if consumed in excess.
Let’s spread the load, and get a little of this and a little of that, despite what the current trend seems to be.