Many people consume kale by adding it to salads, blending it in smoothies and using it in soups. Snacking on kale chips has even become a healthier alternative to eating regular potato chips, which is one of the benefits of kale chips. However, the vitamins in kale decrease when cooked.
This doesn't mean there are no vitamins left in kale chips when they are baked. When baked, the kale chips still contains many vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The amounts are just less than when consumed raw.
The dark leafy green has been called a "superfood" and become increasingly popular. Kale is one of the oldest forms of brassica vegetables. Kale has been associated with minimizing free radical damage in chronic conditions including coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Baked kale, such as the popular snack kale chips, does have nutrients left. Some are cooked off during baking, but one of the benefits of kale chips is that it contains some nutrients while resembling the texture and satisfaction of potato chips.
Kale Cooking Methods
The key to consuming the most nutrient-dense version of kale is by preparing it in a way that retains the most nutrients. While consuming raw kale is usually less enjoyable than cooking kale, you may want to opt for raw kale if nutrient density is important to you.
When different cooking methods were researched in an October 2016 study published in the International Journal of Food Properties, cooking kale was found to induce changes to the bioactive compounds of kale. The cooking methods studied include blanching, steaming, boiling, microwaving and frying kale.
The study found that stir-frying kale results in the greatest loss of phytochemicals. However, steaming kale had the least impact, especially on antioxidant activity. If you want to cook your kale, consider steaming it. While steaming will not yield the crispy texture of kale chips, it is still a tasty way to get in your greens without having to eat your kale raw.
Nutrition in Baked Kale
Whether kale is baked, blanched, steamed, microwaved or fried, several studies have found that all of these cooking methods decrease the amount of antioxidants available. A March 2019 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition confirmed that steaming kale is the best way to preserve the nutrients in this leafy green vegetable.
However, there is still nutritional value in consuming kale chips. According to the USDA, one serving of homemade baked kale chips with olive oil contains:
- 52 calories
- 4 grams of fat
- 4 grams of carbohydrates
- 2 grams of protein
Kale chips are also a great source of fiber, with 1 gram per serving. Other vitamins in kale chips include calcium, iron and potassium. People on a low-cholesterol or sugar-free diet can also enjoy homemade kale chips. Besides these vitamins, the nutrients in cooked kale include high amounts of B vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin C, according to the USDA.
The crunchy texture of homemade and store-bought kale chips is also beneficial to some people who utilize the vegetable snack as an alternative to potato chips. Baked kale chips can be seasoned with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, turmeric, paprika and nutritional yeast. The preparation method and ingredients may affect the kale chips' nutrition.
In comparison, 1 cup of boiled kale contains the following nutrition facts per the USDA:
- 42.5 calories
- 1.43 grams of fat
- 6.25 grams of carbohydrates
- 3.47 grams of protein
The vitamins in boiled kale include calcium, iron and potassium. Like baked kale, boiled kale contains high amounts of vitamin A and C.
Baked Kale Versus Raw Kale
Consuming raw kale is more nutritious than baked kale. However, a March 2015 study published in the International Journal of Food Properties found that cooking kale can preserve its antioxidant and disease-fighting benefits.
Cooking, in kale and other foods, has generally been known to alter the bioavailability of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Certain nutrients are known to be light- and heat-sensitive during various cooking methods. Some of these nutrients include vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamins A, D, E and K, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
According to the USDA, 1 cup of raw kale contains:
- 7.2 calories
- 0.3 grams of fat
- 0.9 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.6 grams of protein
Cooked kale is also rich in calcium, iron and potassium.
According to an April 2016 study published in Food Chemistry, raw kale has the highest concentration of carotenoids. These carotenoids include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin and have been linked to health-promoting benefits in human health. Their antioxidant benefits play a role in reducing degenerative-disease activities.
Oxidative stress has been linked to a number of chronic diseases. The antioxidants scavenge free radicals in the body and chelate metal ions. Kale is the second strongest of 22 brassica vegetables in its antioxidant abilities. The other high-antioxidant vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
A November 2018 study published in Nutrients looked at the health-promoting benefits of cooked kale versus raw kale. Cooked kale can reduce DNA damage from free radicals significantly when compared to raw kale. The cooking process may promote new antioxidant formation, making baked kale more nutritious. In particular, blanching was shown to break down the cellular and subcellular structure of kale. This makes it easier for antioxidant compounds to be released from cooked kale. Therefore, some of the benefits of kale chips include their degenerative disease-fighting capabilities due to the carotenoids and phenols, otherwise known as antioxidants.
Are Kale Chips Healthy?
Kale chips are a healthy snack alternative when compared with other snack options such as potato chips and store-bought granola bars. However, not everyone shares the same definition of healthy. Store-bought kale chips also tend to be higher in calories and fat than homemade kale chips.
Per the USDA, 1 ounce of store-bought kale chips contains the following nutrition facts:
- 110 calories
- 7 grams of fat
- 12 grams of carbohydrates
- 5 gram of protein
Kale chips nutrition can change based on the seasonings added, the method of cooking and the freshness of the vegetable. The above example has other ingredients added, including rice flour, potato starch and maltodextrin.
A January 2014 study published in Food and Nutrition Sciences looked at four types of kale-based snacks. They looked specifically at the polyphenol content, the amount of glucosinolates, and antioxidant activity. The study suggested that buying kale chips does not have negative benefits. That's because when seasoned, kale chips can taste similar to snacks that people are generally used to buying in stores. This can make the change from eating conventional snacks to healthier alternatives much easier.
However, making kale chips at home can offer more health-promoting benefits. This is because when you make kale chips, you can buy a fresh bunch of kale. Fresher vegetables offer a wider array of vitamins and minerals. Cooking kale can also change the bioavailability of certain vitamins as mentioned above because of light and heat sensitivity.
By making homemade kale chips, the kale chips' nutrition is plentiful. You're able to flavor the snack as you like and use good quality oils and seasonings that support your health.
Eat Kale Chips
Overall, consuming kale chips or eating kale raw are both healthy dietary choices. Having a balance of both raw and cooked kale can be especially beneficial as you get a wider variety of vitamins in kale chips and raw kale.
When considered as a functional food, although the kale chips nutrition is decreased, the antioxidant activity has been shown to increase. This makes kale chips a great disease-fighting healthy snack.
If you're looking for a healthy, crunchy snack alternative, kale chips may be a great option. Try making them at home for even more nutrients with less calories, fat and added ingredients.
- International Journal of Food Properties: “Influence of different cooking methods on color, bioactive compounds, and antioxidant activity of kale”
- International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: “Effects of different cooking methods on the antioxidant capacity and flavonoid, organic acid and mineral contents of Galega Kale”
- Nutrients: “Are Raw Brassica Vegetables Healthier Than Cooked Ones? A Randomized, Controlled Crossover Intervention Trial on the Health-Promoting Potential of Ethiopian Kale”
- Food Chemistry: “Cooking techniques improve the levels of bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity in kale and red cabbage”
- International Journal of Food Properties: “Effect of Domestic Cooking Methods on Antioxidant Capacity of Fresh and Frozen Kale”
- Food and Nutrition Sciences: “Polyphenol Composition and Antioxidant Activity of Different Potentially Functional Kale-Based Snacks”
- USDA What’s Cooking: “Kale Chips”
- USDA FoodData Central: "Kale, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Kale, raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Kale Chips"