Why Kale May Kill Us, So I’m Getting a Divorce.

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On the other hand, all hail kale.

Kale, Kale, we love Kale.

9-Year Olds Discuss the Value of Kale. (Plus 2 Great Kale Recipes.)

Ode to Kale.

For 2014, I made several resolutions, and among them I am giving up kale.

Yes, I am throwing it out, once and for all. I will no longer look at its deep dark greenery sitting on the produce shelf and think that within its lush and fertile folds lie the mysteries of life. And guess what? I have recently learned that it is actually bad for me. But more on that later.

Of course, I will make an exception for a kale chip smothered in olive oil and salt and toasted to where the nutrients are fried right out of its hair. Anything smothered in olive oil and salt is pretty good.

But kale and I are breaking up. I’ve been divorced before and I know how to do it amicably. You have to be quick and firm about it, and be clear that it’s not you, kale, it’s me. This makes the other half feel superior so they can move on too.

From now on, and this is my resolution, I am no longer going to torture myself trying to do better. I’m not going to eat anything nasty and bitter even though it is the yoga mascot and I think it’s going to make me more yogic. If my haters don’t like this, they can suck it.

I know that as a (minor) celebrity yogi, I am supposed to eat kale. I am supposed to juice it and put pictures of it on Instagram. However, I am also a rabble rouser, so I am breaking with the pack and going my own way.

I made this decision several weeks ago, but I was afraid to write about it for fear of vicious yogic retaliation (don’t believe me? See the vicious yogi comments on Facebook, already). I have many new sponsorships and magazines for which I’m writing this year, and I’ve been afraid to let them know of my decision. While the elephant journal will allow for dissension in the ranks and non-kale-eaters, other yoga voices will not. So now I am coming clean because a closet is a small space to live one’s life.

Here is the kicker, and if you are still reading (God knows why you would be, unless you want to more clearly formulate your argument about why I should die for being so unyogic) I have just learned that kale is actually, wait for it, very bad for me!

What the what? Hold the presses! The yoga mascot can cause harm?

I have hypothyroidism, and if you have a lazy thyroid you should not eat kale. Oh My God!

Up to now, I’ve been eating it, juicing it, mulching it, putting it in my kids’ oatmeal, and even in my vodka. I stick it in soups, stews and smoothies. I am probably, single-handedly, supporting the international kale stock exchange.

Kale, along with other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, turnips and watercress (which is pretty much my entire diet) will I-don’t-know-what-the-eff-they-are-talking-about to your thyroid. Right? Because that’s what I understood when I read the scientific research.

My doctor simply said, don’t eat it, and I knew right away this was a sign from the Universe that I was right to give it up.

So now that I have been validated in this divorce, no matter what the yogis say, I am leaving kale. Remember, it’s not you, kale, it’s me.

If you want to find me, I’ll be making out with the spinach from now on.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo:  sleepyneko/Flickr.

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anonymous Feb 23, 2016 3:49pm

You'll be glad to know that kale is also bad for anyone who has any kind of blood clotting disorder–it has a massive amount of Vitamin K1, which clots blood. And I mean massive. You could probably cure a bloody nose by eating one leaf. So if you have thick blood, avoid kale like the plague.

anonymous Feb 23, 2016 9:12am

I have known about this for quite a while, a lot of cruciferous vegetables adversely effect people who have hypothyroidism. (soy milks and edame also causes similar problems.) I wish more people who don’t have these problems would realise and stop seemingly shove Kale this, Kale that down people’s throats. I’d love to be able to have KALE FREE food. Everyone, it seems is obsessed with Kale. It drives me nuts.

anonymous Feb 22, 2016 2:50pm

Many, but not all, green vegetables contain some levels of goitrogens. Even when eaten frequently, foods containing goitrogens will not cause thyroid disease in healthy people. You need only monitor goitrogen intake after you have been diagnosed with thyroid disease. Kale and green vegetables are very healthy foods, rich in nutrients, and do not need to be avoided completely. If you have thyroid disease, continue to eat these foods cooked. Dietary guidelines given by your doctor should take precedence.

anonymous Feb 22, 2016 2:01pm

Dr Seuss said it best…Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. You don't know me but, don't mind 🙂

anonymous Nov 17, 2014 11:02pm

I LOVE the taste and texture of kale..raw or cooked…but I'm also technically a "non-taster" and relish anything With a strong flavor.

anonymous Nov 17, 2014 9:24pm

It's a big myth in the hypothyroid/Hashimotos circles to avoid kale and other cruciferous veggies. We'd have to eat pounds of raw kale to impede the thyroid per the latest research.

anonymous Nov 17, 2014 7:09pm

SO glad I’m not alone–kale tastes to me like I imagine the fake grass in Easter baskets tastes, and I really don’t care what anyone tells me about its magical nutritional properties 😉 Huge thanks!!!

anonymous Oct 17, 2014 12:28am

Disappointed that Elephant Journal would print this article. Its a personal opinion that doesnt seem based on broad enough research. It doesn’t help anyone. And isnt referring to yourself as a yoga celebrity unyogic?

    anonymous Oct 17, 2014 8:44am

    This is one of our featured authors, and she's featured for many reasons, not the least of which is that she's funny! 😉

anonymous Oct 15, 2014 4:47pm

I get it. You never liked kale. But it's NOT TRUE that it (or any other of the cruciferous vegetables) is bad for you or for anyone with hypothyroidism (like me). It is slightly contra-indicated if you eat it raw. But if you cook it, all that might harm you disappears. And there are way too many good things in it and the other cruciferous veg to give them up.

anonymous Oct 14, 2014 9:17pm

Great piece, Michelle – Be sure NOT to put spinach in your morning smoothie if you're taking Synthroid or Levothyroxine, as even the trace amount of calcium will block absorption if you have it less than two hours after your dose. btw….you seem pretty damn yogic to me. 🙂

anonymous Oct 13, 2014 7:27pm

Bad news: It's fine to eat kale if you're hypothyroid. Just cook it. The goitrogens are only present in the raw food.

anonymous Oct 13, 2014 2:01pm

This isn't an article about Kale people. It's an article about feeling like you have to follow the crowd. Be true to yourself. Read the current science, try items that are reported to have health benefits. If you like them and you feel good eating them, continue to do so. If not, find other foods that are good for you. Listen to your body, don't just go along with what "everybody is doing"

anonymous Oct 13, 2014 1:11pm

Yeah, had to give up all the dark leafy goodness years back when I was diagnosed w/hypothyroidism. Realized I had issue after gaining weight all summer after eating super raw for months. But have no fear, its not a Never Eat It, its more a Eat It Sparsely type thing.

anonymous Jan 9, 2014 8:50pm

The link you provided says:

"Goitrogens are almost completely destroyed during cooking, so avoid eating raw kale in excess with hypothyroidism."

And since goitrogens are what interfere with thyroid functionality, if your thyroid is underperforming, all you have to do is cook your kale and other cruciferous veggies. Problem solved.

anonymous Jan 9, 2014 12:36pm

The recipe for kale and vodka: make a green drink. Add vodka. It’s quite delicious.

anonymous Jan 8, 2014 9:50pm

I have an open relationship with all foods.

anonymous Jan 8, 2014 7:19pm

I just have one question did you really put it in your vodka? If so I want the recipe I’m still trying to improve my kale intake and adding it to alcohol could seriously boost my intake. Haha love the honesty of this article!

anonymous Jan 8, 2014 7:24am

Same old adage applies:
Everything in moderation.
Listen to your body (if you hate a food, there's usually a good reason).
We're not all the same – you have to think for yourself.

anonymous Jan 7, 2014 7:13pm

I love Kale and my Nutribullet!

anonymous Jan 7, 2014 4:13pm

Kale in general is not bad. The article was a bit misleading by saying that Kale may kill us and that it is " very bad" for you. If eaten in large amounts it can cause some issues with your thyroid. But it does not have to be eliminated completely from the diet and it is further suggested that cooking it is the best way to eat it. It is preferable to eat only organic kale to avoid the pesticides. I will tell you this, well done on the marketing side, the title definitely got some attention.

anonymous Jan 7, 2014 10:21am

Well then, here’s hoping that my thyroid never gets lazy because I have feelings for raw kale that can only be described as lusty.

    anonymous Jan 7, 2014 5:09pm

    That's how I feel for chocolate.

anonymous Jan 7, 2014 8:09am

I love your over the top style of writing. Very funny. But too much kale or anything else can only result in an imbalance or disease. Don't be so rigid with yourself. If you have been eating kale the way you mention you are doomed for a nasty result. I don't mean to be rude or inconsiderate but hyper-controling your food intake = eating disorder, kale or not.

anonymous Jan 7, 2014 7:32am

Thank you! I hate kale and I can't seem to get away from the stuff. Do you realize they're even making kale candles now? Next it's going to be in shampoo. Mark my words. It's like the new pomegranate.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 9:09pm

But cruciferous veggies, for example, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., have anti-cancer and anti-estrogenic properties and are “good” for people with breast cancer. Everything in moderation though.


anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:43pm

It really breaks my heart that kale's soft cousin spinach, so creamy and bright, can't be eaten by those of us with kidney stones. Can someone do a follow-up post lamenting the loss of these greens from the diets of those who once worshiped at their shallow roots? And perhaps suggesting some good alternatives? If someone tells me arugula is bad for my joints, I'm going to choke.

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 10:13pm

    I'm with you Ali. I love spinach and arugula, but some evidence suggests it may not be good for me either. There's really nothing left to eat, except chocolate.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:40pm

Kale changed my life. It is “the” wonder food. I wish you a happy forced 2nd choice with spinach but kale kicks it’s ass, sorry! That is a fact. I however wish you a fast recovery from your health condition. My wife and I were helped by an amazing nutritionist called Andrea Beaman who “cured” her thyroid condition. You can YouTube her or check out her web site http://www.andreabeaman.com.


anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:33pm

I was interested and I read your link to the "scientific research"… which is one article. Even so, it says this.

"Even when eaten frequently, foods containing goitrogens will not cause thyroid disease in healthy people. You need only monitor goitrogen intake after you have been diagnosed with thyroid disease. Kale and green vegetables are very healthy foods, rich in nutrients, and do not need to be avoided completely. If you have thyroid disease, continue to eat these foods cooked."

So overall, the point of the article is that you have decided it is bad for YOU and your referenced article clarifies only if you eat it raw. Great. Good for you. Give it up. Seems like you are trying to influence others with some mis-leading rant.

    anonymous Nov 17, 2014 8:29pm

    You did read the part where she says that she has hypothyroidism, and therefore, this could be bad for her?

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:33pm

I eat a ton of kale, in smoothies, raw kale salads, etc. and I have hypothyroidism that is treated with meds. I've had my thyroid checked several times and it is always at the same level in spite of consuming gobs of kale.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:55pm

Interesting, but my kids prefer kale sautéed with garlic and Olive oil over other vegetables. We love how it tastes. Watercress too actually. I’ve divorced asparagus and Broccoli.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:46pm

Oops! I previously posted the wrong article/link. Ignore the previous one re: broccoli! Anyone with thyroid issues, or, who would like to work toward avioding thyroid disease will benefit from reading this: http://diagnosisdiet.com/foods-and-hypothyroidism

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:40pm

Spinach is a poor source of iron and will prevent your body from taking in iron from other sources if you ingest them at the same meal.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:26pm

You need to read more instead of just taking a "doctors" advice. Kale is not going to hurt your thyroid and you would need to accompany it with iodine deficiencies and consume huge amounts for years….not good to use "yellow journalism" in order to get clicks. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/cruci

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 10:10pm

    I haven't peed on this at all.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:20pm

I thought by gently cooking it the goitrogens get mostly inactivated, no?

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:16pm

I will be your spinach and your kale baby!!! No regrets 2014!!!

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 10:09pm

    Ahahahahahahahhhhh love this from my future.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:01pm

This article is misleading. 1. Kale is perfectly fine for people with a normally acting thyroid. 2. The chemicals that affect an underactive thyroid are almost completely destroyed when kale is cooked. 3. Most obviously, listen to your own doctor or talk to a registered dietitian (RD) to answer questions about food. Everyone has individual needs and some foods aren't good for some people (see: wheat gluten and celiac).
As a health professional myself, it drives me bonkers when all this stuff goes out there like any one food is categorically either a "superfood" or demonized. Simply not true. Eating a variety of whole foods (fruits, veggies, lean meat/seafood, whole grains – there's more out there than just wheat people – lean dairy or natural dairy substitutes) is good for you. But it's individualized. Really, articles like this do not help the average person. There is so much grey area, this just muddles the pot. Congrats, you hate kale and your body doesn't agree with it. Not worth an article unless you want to actually be informing people of something relevant. But I guess I shouldn't rely on elephant journal for scientific evidence or unbiased opinion.

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:57pm

    totally agree AE!

    anonymous Jan 8, 2014 5:33pm

    A voice of reason.

    anonymous Jan 9, 2014 8:50pm

    I agree also! I actually just submitted a more "scientific" article to elephant in regards to this…I am hypothryoid and ever since Jennifer Berman published that New York Times op-ed, MANY people are being misled….in droves….I saw on this bio of this particular author that she classifies herself as a journalist…but IMHO, I think the sensational headline and poorly researched and referenced statements, is irresponsible journalism. I am disappointed. 🙁

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:01pm

It's okay, I'm in the same boat. I'm on blood thinners quite often to keep me alive but it means I can eat loads of foods.

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:56pm

    katrina- you should watch your spinach intake.. contains high vit k also know to think blood.

      anonymous Jan 8, 2014 10:14pm

      It depends on what blood thinners are being taken actually. Coumadin and high vitamin k products are a no-no. However, with Zarelto it's good-to-go according to my Doc.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 6:56pm

Nothing wrong with my thyroid but that intense why-am-I-eating-my-lawn-? flavor ruins it for me every time. Enjoy your new-found freedom!

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 10:06pm

    Why am I eating my lawn! Ha ha ha.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 6:43pm

I take it this "Doctor" is the know all Doctor in the world? I would seek a second opinion. Just like my Doctor told me that I shouldn't eat soy because of my Hypothyroidism… I listened for 20 years and was in horrible health… Started eating and drinking soy last year and what do you know… I have lost 75lbs, been taken off high blood pressure and cholesterol meds and my Thyroid Uptake has IMPROVED for the first time in 20 years… No thanks Doc, but I'll figure it out on my own. Oh yea, I eat Kale too and actually like it… You may want to stop drinking the Vodka instead… Just my op

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 6:32pm

Do you take any medication to regulate your hypothyroidism, or do you try to keep it regular through diet? In the case that your thyroid is medically regulated, kale is not bad for your thyroid. But either way, I think everything should be eaten in moderation, and it sounds like you and kale spent far too much time in the honeymoon stage. 😉

    anonymous Feb 8, 2014 4:18am

    Mike, you are right. Second opinion was needed here. I read this article on the same day that I had qn appointment with one of the most accomplished endocrinologists in the country at Washington University, St. Louis who stated as long as you are taking yourr thyroid supplement kale and other foods will still do their job. Seems like the author could do more research this is a serious condition bee afflicted tor 20 years with severe thyroiditis monitor my blood levels rvevery 6 weeks. food is an enormous part of your metabolic system, no one should steer you away from greens.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 6:32pm

My thyroid's already toast, and I think kale is good for the rest of me, so I decided a while back to keep eating it. When my thyroid failed I did all kinds of research and goitrogens were a big part of my consideration in my nutritional ideas. Interestingly, I find that your philosophy and mine offer both of us the opportunity to think for ourselves! Namaste, thanks for the article!

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:52pm

    Just wondering if you considered fluoridated water to have contributed to your thyroid's demise? Is your city's water fluoridated? If so, I'd advise an RO system or totals avoidance of tap water. Good luck.

    anonymous Jan 8, 2014 5:01pm

    Best response! Thank you 🙂

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 6:30pm

Actually I have read that these veggies are fine to eat with hypothyroidism if (even lightly) cooked. I don't remember the source, but I will try to track it down. These veggies have great anti-cancer properties. I am also hypothyroid AND vegetarian. Such a dilemma. I can't live on carrots and beets. Green is good! Any nutritionists want to weigh in here?

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 4:33pm

Thanks for the article. I have hypothyroidism as well, and have been eating a lot of kale. Its too bad as I thought it was good for me. Have you found foods that can help people with the lazy thyroid condition?

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 6:37pm

    I thought it was the green drinks and kale that helped, so what do I know?

    anonymous Jan 9, 2014 8:46pm

    Kale is actually NOT bad for you. The research that people are citing saying it is is over 50 years old and very outdated. Newer research suggests otherwise. You can eat unlimited quantities cooked and the amount you would have to eat raw to actually impact your thyroid function would be large

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 2:19pm

I love spinach. I'm not ready to break up yet.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 11:07am

Spinach should also be avoided as it has the same impact on the thyroid due to goitrogen content. Cooking these veggies removes the goitrogens.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 9:47am

Liberations! thank you for writing this – that stuff is nasty unless it is cooked and my body reacts to it like kryptonite. But I so enjoy how much people get excited about something I'm pretty sure is poisonous, at least my stomach thinks so.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:55am

It states pretty clearly in the article that you share to explain the Kale-Thyroid connection that kale shouldn't be eaten if you have hypothyroidism, but you say nothing of actually having it. Are we to assume this mean you have hypothyroidism, which is why claim your doctor told you to stop eating it? Why didn't you just admit your diagnosis, and not blame kale for it?

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:37am

    So Sarah, there is this line in the story:
    "I have hypothyroidism, and if you have a lazy thyroid you should not eat kale."
    Thank you very much my friend.

      anonymous Jan 6, 2014 10:11pm

      You are correct! I did miss that, and I apologize for having assumed you omitted it.

        anonymous Nov 18, 2014 1:52pm

        I missed it too, the red in these articles always throws me. My eyes skip over it as if it were an advertisement. I, fortunately, do not have hypothyroidism and I love steaming up kale and onions with some soy sauce so I will continue to do that. Kale is not bad for everyone and is far better that a lot of other stuff we put in our face. But I am happy you found out that it was bothering you and that you are free of the kale! lol 😉

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:42am

    "I have hypothyroidism, and if you have a lazy thyroid you should not eat kale. Oh My God!" You musta missed that part 🙂

      anonymous Jan 6, 2014 9:29am

      She was sooo happy and excited to find something mean to say.

      anonymous Jan 6, 2014 10:12pm

      I did indeed! Was surprised by the omission too, which is why I asked.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 7:52am

Michelle – I just adore you. I wish we had gotten to know each other better in our core power training. I love reading what you write. Anyway I am all for divorcing kale. Talk to you soon. Melanie Penfield

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:34am

    Mel! Be sure to read my book, Finding More on the Mat. I have that training in there. You will laugh your asana off.

anonymous Jan 6, 2014 6:45am

Hypothyroid-ic yoga teachers (and others) rejoice; we are free from kale. I found it tolerable, but never felt the pressure to eat it, so didn't after the first few smoothies, chips and salads. Thanks, Michelle, for a lighthearted poke at kale.

    anonymous Jan 6, 2014 8:33am

    Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty.

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Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.