Kale has become an increasingly popular vegetable in recent years due to its stellar nutritional profile and versatility in recipes. However, some people wonder if kale contains high amounts of sugar and should be limited in a low-sugar diet. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the sugar content of kale and how it fits into a healthy diet.
The Basics of Kale
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the brassica family, which also includes cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Native to Europe, kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years but has surged in popularity in the U.S. in the last decade. Curly kale is the most common variety, but other types like dinosaur, red Russian, and lacinato kale are also widely available.
Kale is packed with nutrients including vitamins A, K, C, B6, manganese, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and fiber. It also contains powerful antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol. Due to its stellar nutritional profile, kale is associated with many health benefits like reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, and aiding detoxification.
Carbohydrates in Kale
When evaluating the sugar content of vegetables, we have to look at their carbohydrate composition. Carbohydrates are broken down into three main types:
- Fiber – indigestible carbs that promote gut health.
- Starch – long chains of glucose molecules that are digested and absorbed.
- Sugar – short, sweet-tasting carbohydrates like glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
Kale contains 2.7 grams of total carbohydrates in a 100 gram serving. The carb composition is as follows:
As you can see, kale provides 1.3 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving. The majority of these sugars are glucose and fructose. Kale has minimal starch.
Evaluating Kale’s Sugar Content
Now that we know kale contains 1.3 grams of sugar per 100 grams, the next question is – how does this compare to other vegetables?
Here is a comparison of the sugar content of 100 grams of some common vegetables:
|Total sugars (g)
As you can see, kale is moderate in sugar content. It contains less sugar than sweeter veggies like carrots, beets and sweet potatoes. It’s comparable to broccoli and lower than spinach.
Sugar Content of Kale Vs Fruit
To better evaluate kale’s sugar content, let’s compare it to the sugar found in fruit. Fruit contains simple sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose, while kale only contains 1.3g per serving:
|Total sugars (g)
It’s clear fruits contain significantly more sugar than kale, often upwards of 10x more sugar per serving. Even though fruits contain natural sugars, portion size should be monitored in a low sugar diet.
Does Kale Impact Blood Sugar?
Given its low sugar content, kale has minimal impact on blood sugar levels. The glycemic index (GI) is a scale of 1-100 that rates foods based on their effects on blood sugar. Kale scores a 15 on the glycemic index. This is considered a low GI.
- High GI foods above 70: Russet Potatoes, Pretzels, Dates
- Moderate GI foods 56-69: Sweet Potato, Mango, Couscous
- Low GI foods below 55: Cherries, Peas, Apple, Carrots
Kale’s low GI and minimal sugar content means it won’t lead to blood sugar spikes or crashes. This makes kale an excellent choice for individuals with diabetes or those following a low glycemic diet.
Should Kale Be Avoided on Low-Sugar Diets?
Given its stellar nutritional profile and low sugar content, kale can be enjoyed as part of a low-sugar diet. Kale makes an excellent replacement for higher sugar foods.
For example, you can create low-sugar smoothies with kale instead of fruit. Sauteeing kale and adding spices can also replace starchy sides at meals. Kale chips are a delicious snack in place of crackers and cookies.
While kale itself is low in sugar, be mindful of additions like high-sugar salad dressings, bacon crumbles, nuts, and dried fruit that can increase the sugar content.
Other Benefits of Kale for Low-Sugar Diets
Beyond its low sugar content, kale offers additional benefits for those monitoring sugar intake:
- Fiber – Kale contains 2.5g of fiber per cup. Fiber helps control blood sugar spikes by slowing digestion.
- Low calorie – With only 33 calories per cup, kale is great for weight management which helps control blood sugar.
- Nutrient density – Kale contains more nutrients per calorie than most other foods which prevents vitamin deficiencies.
- Satiety – The fiber and water content of raw kale make it very filling and satiating.
Tips for Enjoying Kale on a Low-Sugar Diet
Here are some simple tips to incorporate more kale into your low-sugar diet:
- Add raw kale to salads or smoothies.
- Saute kale lightly in olive oil with garlic.
- Make crispy baked kale chips seasoned with spices.
- Blend steamed kale into soups, sauces, and pesto.
- Replace wraps or bread with kale leaves to make sandwiches.
Kale is extremely low in sugar, with only 1.3 grams per serving. Compared to the natural sugars found in fruits and other higher-carb vegetables, kale is a smart choice for low-sugar diets. Kale is packed with nutrition and fiber that slows digestion and promotes blood sugar control. With its stellar nutrient profile and versatility in recipes, kale is one of the most diabetes-friendly vegetables.
Kale makes an excellent addition to any low-sugar or diabetic eating plan. By substituting kale for starchy foods or high-sugar ingredients, you can enjoy its many health benefits while keeping blood sugar in check.