Kale Might Not Be As Healthy As You Think

Categories: Wake Up Call

leaf of kale.jpg
Andy Broder
Even kale has its weaknesses.
If you're a daily juicer and have a habit of throwing a certain leafy green superfood in your Vitamix, you might want to put down that leaf of kale. At least until after you read this.

A recent piece in the New York Times titled, "Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead," has called some attention to a potential downside to eating large amounts of what's become one of the health food world's most en vogue items. As it turns out, eating (or drinking) kale on a daily basis can cause hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. And kale isn't the only culprit.

See also: Juicy Battle: Juice Core vs. Original ChopShop Co.

The article, written by Jennifer Berman, explains how a Whole Foods junkie found her health comprised by one of the very foods she thought was doing her body good:

Imagine my shock, then, at my last physical, when my doctor told me I had hypothyroidism, common in women over 40. When I got home I looked up the condition on the Internet and found a list of foods to avoid. Kale, which I juiced every morning, tops the list, followed by broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collard greens -- the cruciferous vegetables I consumed in large quantities because they are thought to prevent cancer, which runs in my family. And flax -- as in the seeds -- high in omega 3's, that I sprinkled on cereal and blended in strawberry almond milk smoothies. Also forbidden: almonds and strawberries, not to mention soy, peaches, peanuts, corn, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.

And it's true, according to The Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center, very high intakes of cruciferous vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts) can cause hypothyroidism. In one case, an 88-year-old woman developed severe hypothyroidism and coma after eating an estimated 1.0 to 1.5 kg a day of raw bok choy for several months.

Teresa Fung, Sc.D., M.S.. an adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and a professor at Simmons College in Boston, confirmed the link between kale and hypothyroidism. But she also pointed out that normal consumption shouldn't be a problem -- as in eating several servings a week, not a day.

"It's the dose that makes a poison," Fung told Common Health. "If people have hypothyroidism or they're taking thyroid medication, then they should check with their doctor. But even in this case, reasonable amounts shouldn't be a problem. Now, if people have a tall glass of kale juice every single day, then it gets into the unknown territory."

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include everything from fatigue, dry skin, weight gain and muscle weakness, to pain and stiffness in the joints, thinning hair, depression, and impaired memory.

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6 comments
chris.m.robert
chris.m.robert

"10 Edible Stadiums for Your Super Bowl Party" is linked in the sidebar and I'm glad New Times is promoting healthy alternatives to poisonous kale.

LauraEyring
LauraEyring

Jennifer Berman's article was... unfortunate. People need to not be scared away from healthy produce, as if they don't have excuses enough not to try it. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is common for women over 40. So she blames kale after looking it up on the Internet, when it's common for women her age? And then she proceeds to ignore all the healthy eating she's been doing and pulls out some dairy and opens an old Twinkie sequestered away in a closet. Fantastic. I learned how when I'm diagnosed with something from a doctor, I should just throw away all of my healthy habits because clearly, what's the point?


My beagle had hypothyroidism her whole life. Let me tell you a secret. It wasn't from kale.

Jukes
Jukes

@LauraEyringI read the same article you did and I don't remember anyone saying it was kale and only kale that causes hypothyroidism.  Like your dog, I've had hypothyroidism most of my adult life, and no one would ever accuse me of eating kale every day. The woman discussed in this article said she ate not only kale but many "cruciferous vegetables ... consumed in large quantities because they are thought to prevent cancer." 
The article goes on to state quite clearly that it's the amount of cruciferous vegetables consumed that is at issue and "reasonable amounts shouldn't be a problem."

Ms. Berman came down on the side of consulting one's doctor.  Why should that be something you have a problem with? 

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