Whether you’re looking to reduce your blood pressure naturally or add some tang and zing to your diet, fermented kale is an excellent option. It’s loaded with essential vitamins and minerals and packed with dietary fiber that can help lower blood pressure. People of all ages and lifestyles can benefit from the nutrition provided by fermented kale.
For those that experience elevated blood pressure levels, regularly eating fermented kale supports the lifestyle changes that are a part of any treatment for high blood pressure. In this article, we will explore the benefits of fermented kale for blood pressure and provide a recipe for whipping up the delicious garnish at home.
The Dangers of Hypertension
We’re highlighting this recipe for fermented kale because it’s not only delicious, but it’s a potent plant remedy for high blood pressure (HBP). Also known as hypertension, HBP is a health problem that affects one-third of Americans. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s not serious. In fact, hypertension is called the “silent killer” because though no symptoms, it can lead to serious cardiovascular health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Before we jump into the benefits of kale and fermentation, let’s start with some background on blood pressure.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure reflects the amount of energy the heart has to exert to send blood throughout the body. When you get your blood pressure read, there are two numbers that reflect the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure when your heart pumps blood into your arteries and diastolic is the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.
The Cycles of High Blood Pressure
When someone has high blood pressure, their body starts experiencing a harmful positive feedback cycle. The higher pressure causes micro-tears to form on the walls of the arteries. Cholesterol deposits create plaque build-ups in these tears which further narrows the passageway. A narrower artery then results in further increased blood pressure and the cycle continues. The heart has to get the same amount of blood throughout the body and the smaller arterial openings make that core muscle work harder and harder.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
There isn’t a single factor that causes high blood pressure. However, the cumulative of an unhealthy diet and low activity levels both increase the likelihood of HBP. Risk factors for HBP include the following:
- Too much sodium in your diet (and conversely, not enough fruits and veggies)
- Too much alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Not enough exercise
- Sleep deprivation and deficiency
- Relatives with high blood pressure
Healthy blood pressure is anything below 120/80 mmHg. If you exceed these levels, you can make shifts in your diet and lifestyle (and consult medical professionals) to get your blood pressure back under control. But fermented kale is for anyone! Whether you are trying to lower your blood pressure or just maintain your current level, regularly eating fermented kale is a welcome addition to any diet.
Why Does Fermented Kale Help?
By itself, kale is truly a superfood. Because of its nutritional value, regularly incorporating kale into your diet can help lower blood pressure. The fibrous green is absolutely packed with nutrients and antioxidants that support overall health. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C. Research on these nutrients shows that they can play a role in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Additionally, fermented foods also support blood pressure health. The fermentation process produces beneficial probiotics that can alleviate hypertension. If salt fermentation is giving you pause, that makes sense. After all, a high intake of sodium is a contributing factor to hypertension. But a study from the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that the consumption of salt fermented foods did not correlate with an increase in blood pressure for the average adult. In fact, the lactobacillus that developed during fermentation helped the body flush sodium more efficiently.
Some may take these findings to mean they should add more supplements to their pill box. However, a few potassium or magnesium capsules may not always have the desired effect. According to Julie Corless with the Harvard Health Review, “you’re better off getting your magnesium from foods that are naturally rich in this important mineral.” Examples of magnesium-rich foods are: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, dark-green leafy vegetables, cashews, soymilk, whole grains, avocado, banana, dried beans, legumes and others.
Fermented kale brings it all together. It offers both valuable minerals and nutritious fiber that together pack a powerful, blood pressure-reducing punch.
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DIY Fermented Kale for Blood Pressure
Fermented kale can be quite strong. Because of this, it pairs well with other strong flavors that can stand up to the potent tang. Incorporating it into a kimchi-esque recipe, the fermented kale is brought to life with onion, garlic, ginger, and chili.
- 8 oz. kale, stems removed and thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
- 2 carrots, grated
- 1 tbsp. chili flakes
- Quart jar or another fermenting container
- Plastic bag
Step 1: Prep your ingredients. Rinse kale and remove stems. Chop to desired thinness. I preferred to slice it lengthwise and then chop it again because the kale can stay tough even when fermented. Mince, dice, and grate the other veggies.
Step 2: Massage the mixture. Combine all the veggies in a bowl and add salt.
Add the chili flakes, then massage until the kale is dark green and has the slimy texture of seaweed. This took about two to three minutes.
Step 3: Add the brine. Compared to cabbage, kale doesn’t produce nearly as much juice, so adding a bit of water to make the brine will help the fermentation. Press the veggie mixture into the bottom of your fermenting container (jar) then pour boiling water into the jar until it just barely covers the veggies.
Step 4: Set up the ferment. If you have a fermenting crock, follow the directions for your equipment. For those of us who don’t, you can ferment your kale kimchi in a quart jar using either the water bag or the burping method. In our example, we used the water bag method.
Stuff a sturdy plastic bag into the jar with the opening out the top. Then pour water into the bag until it creates a seal over all the kale. As the ferment bubbles, the gas will be able to be released without exposing the kale to oxygen. I then put the jar lid very loosely on the top just to prevent spills.
Step 5: Ferment! Let sit for four to seven days until the kale kimchi reaches your desired sourness. The time will depend on the room temperature and your preferences, so feel free to give it a taste after a few days.
If you are new to fermented foods, then 1 large tablespoon added to a dish is a good start. As you get accustomed to the taste and start to experiment a bit, then you can increase the amount to 2 – 3 tablespoons a day or more if you wish.
Fermented kale adds pep to so many dishes. Fermented kale has a tangy, sour taste that pairs well with a variety of dressings and toppings. It makes a great topping to a soba noodle salad or Korean-inspired sandwich. If you love strong flavors, you might even enjoy it by the spoonful!
In addition to lowering blood pressure, fermented kale may aid in digestion and gut health, act as a detoxifier, boost the immune system, promote weight loss, and it’s also good for eye health. We would love to know what your favorite fermented veggie is.