Do you find yourself adding kale into many of your favorite dishes? If so, that’s great because kale is an ubër healthy vegetable, which has been identified as high in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer nutrients.
Kale is a funny looking vegetable, especially the curly kind, so we find that we’ve had to “sneak” it into more of our traditional dishes to make it palatable for our families. A big bowl of kale salad is awesome in our view, but our kids don’t quite understand the enthusiasm. A few leaves of kale disguised in a regular mixed salad and some steamed kale added to a pasta dish are two great ways to get your family started on this vegetable.
What is Kale?
Kale comes from the wild cabbage family like broccoli, collards, and cauliflower and is said to have originated in Asia Minor. There are many varieties such as curly, dinosaur (also called Lacinato or Tuscan), and ornamental kale (also known as salad savoy). The most common type sold in North American grocery stores is the curly kind. Each variety has a slightly different texture, color and taste. Some are sweeter than others, although the sweetness is related more to whether it is in season. Although kale is available throughout the year, the growing season is from the middle of winter to early spring.
Kale is nutrient dense, which means that it has lots of vitamins and minerals and very few calories. One cup of cooked kale is only about 36 calories! If you’re looking for a way to fill up while watching your waistline, kale might be your answer.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits
As we mentioned, kale is an ubër vegetable. It is high in:
- Vitamin K, A, and C
- Manganese and copper
These vitamins and minerals are all important in bone and tissue building, vision, cell growth, regulating blood sugar levels and generally maintaining a healthy immune system.
It is also a very good source of the vitamins and minerals listed below, which may help with heart functioning, cholesterol, PMS, energy levels, and hair and nail health.
- Vitamin B6, B2, and E
The largest number of studies conducted with kale relate to cancer, and in particular bladder, breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer. “As a group, these studies [related to intake of cruciferous vegetables] definitely show cancer preventive benefits from kale intake, and in some cases, treatment benefits as well.” (1). The high concentrations of carotenoids and flavonoids contained in kale are said to be the link to cancer prevention. As antioxidants, they help our bodies combat oxidative stress. In addition, glucosinolates contained in kale may help the body create cancer-preventing ITC compounds.
Other studies suggesting kale leads to health benefits focus on cardiovascular support related to kale’s fiber content and ability to lower cholesterol. The high sulfur-based content of kale is also helpful for detoxification of cells.
To read more about its health benefits, please see the references quoted at the end of this blog.
On a cautionary note, both WebMD and the World’s Healthiest Foods state that some people may experience problems with kale when over-consumed. People on anticoagulant drugs should avoid getting too much Vitamin K (of which kale is very high) as it may interfere with the drugs. Also, kale has naturally occurring oxalates, which can cause problems if they are too highly concentrated in body fluids. People with kidney or gallbladder issues should avoid kale. If you have concerns, please speak to your health care practitioner before adding kale to your regular diet.
The following are tips on storing and preparing this great vegetable, along with two easy recipes to try.
Storage and Preparation
Kale stores well in cool temperatures and, in fact can grow in cooler climates where light frost can help make its leaves taste sweeter. You can place kale in a plastic bag with air removed out of bag and keep it in the fridge for about 5 days. Wash the kale just before cooking or eating it as the water can cause the kale to spoil more quickly.
It is recommended that kale be cooked lightly such as steaming. Overcooking will cause more of its nutrients to be lost. For a simple method, 5 minutes of steaming does the trick. If it’s cooked longer it will change to a brownish color and release a smell like rotten eggs. “This is a sign that magnesium has been lost. This is when it starts to release hydrogen sulfide, the cause of the ‘rotten egg smell’.” (1)
From Whole Foods Market:
A winter-warming, comfort food with super healthy ingredients.
From The World’s Healthiest Foods:
A chicken dish that is tasty and makes life simpler as an easy one-dish meal.
(1) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38, accessed February 14, 2014
(2) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-kale, accessed February 14, 2013
For more information on health benefits and recipes, visit: http://www.healthambition.com/benefits-kale-recipes/