kale – wonderful kale!
Move over Popeye… kale is precisely what this nutritionist means when she says, “Eat your greens with reckless abandon.” It is wise to include kale as one of your crucifeorus vegetables of choice on a daily basis.
To start with, kale is a remarkable and ancient superfood, that has gotten somewhat of a trendy reputation in recent years. Maybe you have even noticed kale chips at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. A delicious snack, only made better if you venture to make your own.
What you might not know is that kale has nourished people, well, forever really. Kale is an offspring of wild cabbage. Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have grown kale. Even ancient Egyptians recognized kale as a nutritional superfood – considering that they lined the tombs of pharaohs with elaborate gold and silver carvings of woven kale garlands.
Scientists know that kale has been under cultivation for more than 6,000 years, as there are remants of fossilized kale found in ancient containers from the Shensi Province of China dating back to 4,000 BC.
Roaming Celts evidently brought kale from Asia to Europe as long ago as 600 BC, and because of it’s easy cultivation, resilience and cold-tolerance, kale proliferated and sustained nourishment for people throughout the European continent. It’s easy germination and fast growth is one of the reasons early European settlers brought this nutrient rich leafy green with them to North America.
All of our farmer’s markets bring in an abundance of kale. If you are a gardener, then you know the simplicity of growing kale. In fact it may be one of the easiest vegetables to grow organically. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or new to the possibilities, growing your own kale is a cinch. It’s delicious straight from the garden, and grows well in warm and cold climates. In fact, a little freezing weather only tends to sweeten the kale leaves!
Still not sure whether kale is for you? Try the young tender shoots in a salad. They are sweet, nutrient dense and delicious.
There are many varieties of kale from Lacinato, Dino Kale, Red Russian Kale, Tuscan Kale and many more.
Kale has stood the test of time, and deserves a spot on your plate and in your garden. Build a habit of eating more green vegetables, the greener the better!
Health Benefits of Kale
- Aids in Detoxification : Cruciferous vegetables like kale contain large amounts of health promoting sulfur compounds, such as sulforaphane and isothiocyanate and these increase your liver’s ability to produce enzymes that neutralize toxic compounds and substances.
- Rich in Phytonutrient Antioxidants : Phytonutrients are biologically active plant substances that are vital to health. Kale is the most concentrated source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that protect the lens of the eye. They act like sunglasses and protect the eyes from ultraviolet damage and are protective against cataracts. Studies have shown that people who eat foods, like kale, rich in lutein have a 50% lower risk of developing new cataracts.
- Can Reduce Natural Cognitive Aging : Green vegetables like kale, spinach and collards can help your thinking! In experiments, older rats given a diet high in such greens improved learning and motor skill capacity.
- Repair Damaged DNA : Cruciferous Vegetables such as kale and cabbages contain many vitamins and a chemical called “indole-3-carbinol” which repairs damaged DNA. One of the reasons is that phytochemicals activate glutathione, and glutathione is critical to cell survival and repair. Glutathione is a potent detoxifier and our mitochondria (which are what provide us energy) depend on glutathione for their well being.
- Protection Against Cancer : Brassica vegetables offer protection against cancer. The organosulfur phytonutrient compounds in kale, including glucosinolates and methylcysteine sulfoxides activate detoxification enzymes in the liver which may help neutralize carcinogenic substances. This helps clear them from the body more quickly.
- Kale is Anti-Inflammatory One cup of kale has 10% of omega-3’s, which are anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling, arthritis pain and anti-inflammatory issues.
- Concentrated Source of Many Nutrients : At only 36 calories per serving. Kale contains an entire spectrum of health promoting minerals, vitamins and nutrients,
- Rich in manganese and copper – which are free radical scavengers
- Good source of dietary fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6 folic acid, and potassium.
- Contains calcium and magnesium – vital for strong bones, as well as phosphorus, iron, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and niacin.
- Kale is rich in vitamin A which coupled with beta-carotein is supportive of optimal vision and eye health.
- High in Vitamin C : Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant which is extremely protective against free-radicals and oxidation (including to DNA and cholesterol). Vitamin C also helps maintain a strong immune system.
What is the best way to eat kale? Any way you like, but here is a great recipe for steamed kale…
- 1 pound fresh kale, washed
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Separate kale leaves from stems and slice the leaves into 1 inch pieces. Don’t throw away the stems, cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. Let sit for 5 minutes. According the the World’s Healthiest Foods, cutting the kale and letting it rest five minutes breaks down the cell walls and enhances the activates enzymes that slowly convert the plant enzymes to a more active form.
Add two to three inches of water to bottom of steamer. Bring to boil. Stems kale for five minutes max – to preserve phytonutrients..
Place steamed kale in bowl and add lemon, garlic and olive oil. Toss. Salt and pepper to taste.
More Kale Recipes
Smitten Kitchen has a potato scallion and kale cake that is fantastic. Poach an egg and have it for breakfast! Kale is also versatile in many salads such as roasted cauliflower and kale salad or kale salad with avocado and almonds. Trying it in a soup is an easy way to slip any vegetable in your diet.
Truly, though, one of our favorite ways to enjoy this vegetable are homemade kale chips. My kids love it, and I think yours will too!
Homemade Kale Chips
1 pound fresh kale, washed and leaves removed from the stem (save the stems for smoothies) Cut or tear leaves into dorito sized pieces.
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt
Massage kale leaves and olive oil. Add salt and nutritional yeast. Toss again until leaves are fully coated. Place leaves in a layer on one or two cookie sheets. Place cookie sheets into a 150 degree oven. Use convection if you have it. Let bake until they are dried out.
If you have a dehydrator, you may also use that.
The possibilities for eating kale are endless. Think your kids won’t like them? Chop small and add it to meatloaf! Throw it in a smoothie with a green apple, four ice cubes, a teaspoon of lemon juice, banana and a tablespoon of coconut oil.
But still, I have to say, the most tried, tested a true way I know to get my kids excited about veggies is for them to help plant and grow it – on a windowsill, back porch in pots or in the garden proper.
Whatever you do, make room on your plate for this awesome vegetable.
Hanna, Sharon (2012). The Book of Kale: The Easy-to-Grow Superfood, 80+ Recipes (Kindle Location 257). Harbour Publishing
Mateljan, G. (2006). In The world’s healthiest foods: Essential guide for the healthiest way of eating. Seattle, Wash.: George Mateljan Foundation.
Kornblatt, S. (2012). Eating For Brilliance. Well Being Journal, 21(2), 7-14.