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Can kale be juiced raw?

Kale is one of the healthiest and most nutritious leafy greens you can eat. This superfood is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. Some of the many health benefits of kale include improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and better digestive health. While kale is commonly eaten cooked, many people enjoy drinking kale juice as a quick and convenient way to get a concentrated dose of nutrients. But can you juice kale raw without cooking it first? Let’s take a closer look.

The Benefits of Juicing Raw Kale

There are several potential advantages to juicing raw kale rather than cooking it first:

  • More nutrients – Cooking kale can destroy some of its delicate vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Juicing raw kale provides a way to get all of its nutrients.
  • Convenience – Juicing takes just a few minutes compared to cooking kale.
  • Versatility – Raw kale juice can be consumed on its own or added to smoothies and other juices.
  • Digestibility – Some people find raw kale easier to digest than cooked.
  • Enzyme preservation – Raw kale retains all of its natural enzymes, which may provide health benefits.

Overall, juicing raw kale enables you to get an unadulterated, concentrated nutritional punch in a simple, quick-to-make beverage.

Potential Downsides to Juicing Raw Kale

However, there are also some possible drawbacks to juicing kale in its raw form:

  • Bitter, strong taste – Raw kale has a naturally bitter, pungent flavor that some find too overpowering on its own.
  • Nutrient absorption – The plant cell walls in raw kale may limit nutrient absorption compared to cooked kale where cells walls have broken down.
  • Thyroid effects – Raw kale contains goitrogens that may interfere with thyroid function if consumed in excess.
  • Pesticide residues – Raw kale retains any pesticide residues, unlike cooking which can degrade residues.
  • Soft texture – Raw kale produces a thinner, less pulpy juice compared to juicing cooked kale.

Juicing raw kale may not be ideal for everyone. The intense flavor and plant compounds may cause issues if consumed excessively.

Tips for Juicing Raw Kale

If you want to juice raw kale, here are some tips to improve the flavor and experience:

  • Use lacinato (dinosaur) kale rather than curly kale—it has a milder flavor.
  • Remove the tough central stem and ribs from kale leaves to reduce bitterness.
  • Mix kale with sweeter fruits and veggies like apples, carrots, pineapple, and lemon.
  • Drink kale juice promptly rather than storing to avoid bitterness from oxidation.
  • Introduce raw kale juice gradually rather than all at once to allow your taste buds to adapt.
  • Add nut milks like almond or coconut milk to mellow the strong kale taste.
  • Use a slow juicer rather than a centrifugal juicer to get a higher juice yield from kale.

Nutritional Comparison: Raw vs. Cooked Kale

How does the nutritional value of raw kale juice compare to cooked kale juice or eating kale? Here is a table looking at some of the key vitamins and antioxidants in raw and cooked kale per 100 grams:

Nutrient Raw Kale Cooked Kale
Vitamin C 120 mg 43 mg
Vitamin K 709 μg 387 μg
Vitamin A 831 μg 495 μg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin 23 mg 12 mg
Beta-Carotene 17 mg 7 mg

As shown, raw kale generally retains more vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidants compared to boiled or steamed kale. However, the differences are not enormous. Both raw and cooked kale remain incredibly nutritious.

Can You Juice Raw Kale Every Day?

While kale is one of the healthiest vegetables you can juice, drinking raw kale juice every single day may not be advisable. Here are some reasons why you may want to moderate your intake of raw kale juice:

  • May suppress thyroid function – Very high amounts of raw kale provide goitrogens.
  • Risk of oxalate buildup – Kale contains oxalates that could accumulate.
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Overconsumption may lead to an imbalance of nutrients.
  • Pesticide exposure – Frequent intake amplifies exposure to any pesticides.
  • Bitter taste – Most people tire of raw kale’s bitterness when consumed daily.

To balance these risks, limit raw kale juice to no more than one or two servings per day. Also, vary your intake by including other beneficial fruits and vegetables so you get a diverse range of nutrients.

Best Fruits and Vegetables to Juice with Raw Kale

To mitigate the strong flavor and risks of juicing raw kale, it’s best to blend it with sweeter, milder produce. Some of the best options include:

  • Apples – Sweetens the juice naturally and provides vitamin C.
  • Cucumbers – Mild flavor and hydration.
  • Carrots – Sweetness and vitamin A.
  • Beets – Earthy flavor and antioxidant content.
  • Ginger – Spicy kick and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Celery – Crunchy texture and moisture.
  • Lemon – Bright citrus flavor and vitamin C.

Mixing raw kale with a few of these ingredients can help make for a tastier, more balanced juice.

Can You Juice Kale Stems?

When preparing raw kale for juicing, many people strip the leaves off the thick stems and ribs. This is because the fibrous stems are difficult to fully break down in a juicer. However, the stems contain their own nutrients and flavors. For example, the stems contain higher amounts of vitamin C, fiber, and glutamine compared to the leaves.

Here are some tips if you want to juice kale stems:

  • Use a slow or cold press juicer that can crush stems more thoroughly.
  • Chop stems into small pieces before juicing to maximize extraction.
  • Consider blending stems into smoothies rather than juicing.
  • Mix stems with sweeter and softer produce like apples or pears.

While juicing kale stems is challenging, getting some of their nutrients into your juice is worthwhile. Just be sure to blend them thoroughly with other ingredients.

Bottom Line – Should You Juice Raw Kale?

Juicing raw kale enables you to get a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from this super healthy vegetable. Drinking raw kale juice provides these nutrients in a quick, convenient form without destroying them by cooking. However, kale’s strong, bitter flavor can be unpalatable on its own for many people. For the best results, juice raw kale combined with fruits like apples, lemons, or berries to balance the taste. Introduce raw kale juice gradually rather than daily long-term to avoid potential thyroid and oxalate issues. Overall, juicing raw kale in moderation can be a nutritious addition to a healthy, balanced diet.