Organic Kale vs. Regular Kale: What’s the Difference?


Kale is a superfood that provides you with a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. This amazing cruciferous vegetable is incredibly healthy, making it a wholesome addition to your diet. While regular kale and organic kale share the same health benefits, you may be asking yourself, what’s the difference between organic kale and regular kale?

Organic kale and regular kale are different because organic kale has less pesticide residue. Regular kale placed third on the Environmental Work Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list because of its high pesticide levels. Organic and regular kale also differ because organic kale is more costly.   

This article will go over what kale is, the many types of kale, the health benefits it provides, its health risks, and the differences between organic and regular kale.

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What’s the Difference Between Organic and Conventional Kale? 

Organic kale is safer than conventional kale because it contains fewer pesticides. As a result, it may be better for vulnerable individuals, such as children and pregnant women, to eat organic kale. Is it the same with organic spinach? Find out by reading my blog post next, Organic Spinach vs. Regular Spinach: What’s the Difference?

Conventional Kale Is Included on the “Dirty Dozen” List

Each year the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) creates a “dirty dozen” list, which analyzes various fruits and vegetables to determine which ones have the most pesticide residue. In 2019 and 2020 kale made third, only beat by strawberries and spinach 1

The EWG discovered that 92% of the kale samples they tested had two or more types of pesticide residue. Some samples had 18 different types of pesticides still on them 2

The most common substance found on kale was Dacthal, otherwise known as DCPA 3

DCPA is the active ingredient in many herbicides responsible for controlling the growth of weeds and plants.   

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified it as a possible carcinogen to humans based on studies done on rats. During the studies, they found that rats who were administered DCPA were more likely to develop liver and thyroid tumors than rats who did not receive DCPA 4

Even though kale has more pesticide residue on it than other produce, many experts argue that the amount is still not large enough to negatively impact someone’s health. So, while regular kale contains more pesticides, it is still up to debate whether these amounts are harmful to humans. 

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Organic Kale Is Safer for Vulnerable Populations

According to the Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health, fetuses, babies, young children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and women who are of childbearing age may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of pesticides 5

Children eat more relative to their body weight compared to adults, so they are more at risk. Similarly, fetuses and infants can receive pesticides from their mothers, which may negatively impact their health. 

People might be more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides during times of extensive growth, such as fetal development, infancy, early childhood, and puberty 5.

Multiple studies have shown that when children eat an organic diet, they are exposed to fewer pesticides than when they eat conventional diets. In fact, organic produce has been found to have 30% lower pesticide residues than conventional fruits and vegetables 6

So, if you want your loved ones to consume fewer pesticides, organic kale may be the way to go. 

Organic Kale Is More Expensive 

While organic kale has fewer pesticides, it also costs more 7. On average, organic produce is 10-40% more expensive than conventional produce since it is more costly to grow produce organically without the use of traditional pesticides and conventional farming techniques. 

Does Organic Kale Contain More Nutrients? 

In short, the answer is no. 

Researchers from Stanford University reviewed approximately 237 studies that compared the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. They discovered that, in general, organic foods and conventional foods are pretty similar health-wise 8

The differences they found were higher phosphorus levels in a number of organic foods and greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk and chicken. 

So, according to these studies, organic kale will not provide you with more nutrients than conventional kale. 

Should I Buy Organic Kale? 

Because kale is on the “dirty dozen” list, it may be safer for you to buy organic kale. While pesticides are potentially bad for everyone, they may be especially harmful to infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant and nursing mothers. So if you or any of your family members fall into any of these groups, you might want to consider buying organic. 

Although the negative effects of pesticides such as DCPA are still under investigation, studies have identified that they have harmful effects which could also negatively impact you and your loved ones 9

Kale is not the only food you should consider buying organic. Other fruits and vegetables on the EWG’s 2020 Dirty Dozen list include:

  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Nectarines 
  • Spinach
  • Cherries 
  • Celery
  • Hot Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes 
  • Tomatoes

The EWG also has another list called the “Clean 15.” This list consists of 15 fruits and vegetables that have less pesticide residue, so you may not need to buy organic 10. These include: 

  • Sweet Corn
  • Avocados
  • Onions
  • Pineapple
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Eggplant
  • Papaya
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew melon
  • Mushrooms

So, if you choose to buy organic produce, it may be a good idea to start with items on the Dirty Dozen list. Organic produce has been proven to have less pesticide residue than regular produce, making them an ideal choice if you are concerned about the potentially negative health effects.

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What Is Organic and Regular Kale? 

Organic or regular, kale is a leafy green that has been marketed as a “superfood” because of all of its amazing health benefits 11. This delicious vegetable is packed with tons of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, providing nourishment for your entire body. 

It is part of the cabbage family along with broccoli, cauliflower, and collard greens.

It is an easy crop for local farmers and gardeners to grow since it thrives on small plots of land 12. Unlike many other fruits and vegetables, kale grows extremely well during colder months, making it a wonderful addition to your winter menu 13.

What Are the Different Types of Kale? 

There are four common types 14 of kale: 

  • Curly kale is the most common. Its leaves are bright green with a ruffled texture and it has a hard stem. 
  • Dinosaur kale is very wrinkly and kind of resembles dinosaur skin, hence its name. It has a very thick stem that needs to be cut off before consumption. 
  • Redbor kale has ruffled leaves. Its color ranges from red to purple.  
  • Russian kale can be green, red, or purple. It is less common than the other varieties. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Organic and Regular Kale? 

Organic or regular, kale has numerous health benefits. Listed below are the top 9 health benefits you’ll receive from eating kale. 

Contains Powerful Antioxidants 

Kale contains several antioxidants. 

Antioxidants are powerful molecules that help protect your body from oxidative damage, which is known to progress aging and may cause certain diseases, such as cancer. 

Kale includes two special types of antioxidants called quercetin and kaempferol. These antioxidants have been tested thoroughly on animals and revealed that quercetin and kaempferol might be extremely beneficial for humans. Some studies suggest they may lower cholesterol 15 and have a protective effect against inflammation, viruses, and even cancer 16

May Help Lower Cholesterol 

The liver turns cholesterol into bile acids. These bile acids are used to digest body fats after you eat a high-fat meal. After the fat has been absorbed by your system, the bile acids are returned to your bloodstream and used again the next time you eat something high in fat.  

Kale contains bile acid sequestrants, which can bind to bile acids and prevent them from being reabsorbed, thereby lowering your cholesterol 17

Lower cholesterol is associated with a reduced chance of developing heart disease. So, by eating kale, you may be indirectly improving your heart health 18.

Has a Lot of Vitamin C

Kale contains more Vitamin C than most other vegetables, making it the perfect source if you are trying to add more vitamin C to your diet. 

Vitamin C is important because it helps lower blood pressure, decreases your risk of heart disease, and helps prevent gout attacks. 

This amazing antioxidant also improves the body’s ability to absorb iron. This is important for individuals who have iron deficits, such as anemics.  

One of the Top Sources of Vitamin K 

Kale contains 7x more than the daily recommended amount of Vitamin K1. 

Vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting. This vitamin works by “activating” proteins, which permits them to bind to calcium. This leads to blood clotting. 

You may be wondering, why is blood clotting a good thing? Well, clots are very important when you harm yourself because they prevent you from losing too much by stopping the bleeding. So, for this reason, having enough vitamin K1 in your system is very important. 

Contains a Lot of Beta-Carotene

Kale contains beta-carotene, which is a type of antioxidant. The body is able to convert it into vitamin A. 

Vitamin A is essential for normal body functioning. 

This powerful vitamin plays a role in male and female reproduction since it aids in egg and sperm development. 

Vitamin A is also needed to create B and T-cells, which are important for the immune system since they help guard the body against infection and disease. 

Additionally, Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining eye health. It has a protective effect on the eyes and reduces the likelihood of getting certain diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. It’s also needed to create a molecule that is necessary for color and low light vision. 

Provides You With Folate 

Folate is a type of B-vitamin that is present in a variety of foods.  

This vitamin is essential for having a healthy pregnancy. If a pregnant mother has high folate levels, it decreases the risk that her baby will experience congenital deformities. If you don’t have enough folic acid in your body while pregnant, you will likely experience miscarriages or neural tube defects. 

Additionally, folate is crucial for mental health. Folate deficiencies have been linked to depression and have been found to negatively impact an individual’s response to antidepressant medications. One study found that adding folate to the diet could improve depression by making people more receptive to their medication 19

Contains Several Minerals 

Kale provides you with several minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and zinc 20

  • Phosphorus is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth. It also manages the way the body uses energy and assists in the growth and repair of tissues and cells. One of its most essential features is that it produces DNA and RNA, which are the basic building blocks of the body. 
  • Kale also includes a significant amount of potassium, which helps maintain fluid balance, nerve functioning, and muscle contractions. Potassium may also reduce blood pressure by helping the body remove excess sodium. 
  • Another important mineral kale contains is calcium, which is necessary for creating strong bones and teeth. Calcium also allows the body to move and permits the brain to carry messages to the rest of the body. 
  • Kale also contains magnesium. This mineral helps your body perform hundreds of chemical reactions. It is also very important for exercise. During workout activities, your body needs 10-20% more magnesium than while you are at rest since it helps eliminate lactate, which can build-up and cause fatigue. It also affects mood. If your magnesium levels are too low, it could cause various forms of mental illness, including depression. 
  • Zinc is another mineral you’ll get when you eat kale. Zinc decreases inflammation, helps get rid of acne, and might reduce your chances of getting certain age-related diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration. It also decreases the rate of infection experienced by older individuals. 

High in Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are nutrients beneficial for the eyes. 

These wonderful nutrients have been found to reduce the risk that people will develop macular degeneration and cataracts.

A Weight Loss Aid

Kale is extremely low-cal, making it an ideal weight-loss food. In fact, a cup of raw kale has only 33 calories and 7 grams of carbs.

Although kale is low in calories, it is very filling. Better still, it contains a little bit of protein and fiber, which have both been proven to promote weight loss 21

Does Kale Have Any Downsides? 

Kale can negatively impact individuals with certain conditions. Listed below are the ways in which organic or regular kale can be harmful.

  • Kale is high in goitrogens, which are compounds that can impact thyroid functioning. When you eat raw kale, you ingest a specific type of goitrogen called goitrins, which can decrease the amount of iodine your body can take in 22. Iodine is important for thyroid hormone production, so inhibiting this mineral can be harmful to individuals with thyroid problems. 
  • Eating too much kale can also impact your metabolism. Thyroid hormones are needed to regulate your metabolism, so if you aren’t getting enough iodine to make sufficient amounts of these hormones you can experience weight gain, reduced energy levels, an irregular heartbeat, and more 23
  • Individuals who use beta-blockers should be careful about their kale consumption. Beta-blockers are typically prescribed to people with heart disease. This type of medication increases the levels of potassium found in the blood. Kale contains a lot of potassium, so eating too much of it while taking beta-blockers can lead to excessive potassium levels. 
  • Individuals with kidney disease should be cautious when it comes to kale. If you eat too much kale your kidneys may not be able to process the high levels of potassium in your blood which can have detrimental effects. 

In general, kale is safe for most people. Even individuals with the conditions listed above can often eat kale in moderate amounts. However, if you have a thyroid problem, are on beta blockers, or have kidney disease, you should talk to your doctor before consuming kale to make sure it is safe for you! 

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How Can I Eat Kale?

Organic or regular kale can be consumed in several ways. Listed below are some traditional ways to prepare kale to add this nutritious vegetable to your diet:

  • Raw kale is a great addition to salads, sandwiches, or wrap. However, the leaves can be a bit tough, so you may want to scrunch them in your hands before eating them for easier digestion. 
  • Sauteed kale is delicious and nutritious. Simply add some kale into a skillet with olive oil, garlic, and some onions. Then, presto! You’ll have a wholesome side dish for dinner.
  • Bake kale to create kale chips. These crispy chips are healthy and make a wonderful snack. 
  • Add kale to your smoothies. If you aren’t particularly fond of the taste of kale, this is a great way to receive all of its benefits without tasting its flavor. 

Read Next – More Food vs Food!

Farm-Raised Vs Wild-Caught Scallops: Which Seafood is Best?

Organic Carrots vs. Regular Carrots: What’s the Difference?

Organic Mango vs. Conventional Mango: Which is Better?

Wrapping Up 

Kale is very healthy and provides you with a plethora of nutrients and minerals that help protect your eyes, lower your cholesterol, and promote normal body functioning. 

While regular kale and organic kale have the same nutrient content, organic kale has around 30% less pesticide residue than regular kale. Because regular kale made the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticide residue, buying organic kale is recommended.

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. EWG: Dirty Dozen EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce[]
  2. EWG: Kale Vaults Up the Dirty Dozen List, California Takes on Chemicals in Cosmetics and More[]
  3. Delaware Health and Social Services: DACTHAL[]
  4. EPA: Health Effects Support Document for Dacthal Degradates: Tetrachloroterephthalic Acid (TPA) and Monomethyl Tetrachloroterephthalic Acid (MTP) []
  5. Center for Ecogenetics & Environmental Health: Health Risks of Pesticides in Food[][]
  6. Harvard Health: Organic food no more nutritious than conventionally grown food[]
  7. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Why is organic food more expensive than conventional food? []
  8. Stanford Medicine: Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, study finds[]
  9. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment: DCPA, MTP and TPA in Groundwater[]
  10. EWG: Clean Fifteen: EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce[]
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Kale as a superfood: Review of the scientific evidence behind the statement[]
  12. USDA: Kale Grades and Standards[]
  13. USDA: Cover Crop Chart[]
  14. Wikipedia: Kale[]
  15. ScienceDirect: Kale Juice Improves Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors in Hypercholesterolemic Men[]
  16. SpringerLink: Sulforaphane as a Promising Molecule for Fighting Cancer[]
  17. Wikipedia: Bile acid sequestrate[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Kale juice improves coronary artery disease risk factors in hypercholesterolemia men[]
  19. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Women with depression should be offered folic acid[]
  20. NutritionData: Kale[]
  21. MedlinePlus: Health food trends – kale[]
  22. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism[]
  23. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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