Kale 101 – Healthy Eating
Kale is part of the cruciferous family and is sister to other vegetables such as broccoli sprouts and cauliflower. Seen as one of the most nutritious veggies around, Kale is a great choice to include in your weekly diet.
It was one of the most popular veggies in Europe until the Middle Ages. In World War 2 in the UK, Kale was one of the vegetables the British Government encouraged you to grow in their dig for victory campaign.
It’s a cheap vegetable option, available all year round and for you gardeners out there apparently it is easy to grow. Another reason, I’m sure, that is was encouraged to be grown in the dig for victory campaign!
Kale has a definite ‘green and slightly bitter’ flavor. There are several varieties including curly kale, ornamental kale, red Russian kale, Italian kale and …wait for it… dinosaur kale!! Curly kale is the most common kale and the one you are most likely to see in your supermarket. Bright green or purple, tight curly leaves and very fibrous stalks.
When choosing your kale, look for fresh looking, firm, deeply colored leaves with moist stems. Don’t buy if the leaves have started to yellow or change color . The smaller the leaves the milder the taste.
When storing kale, place it in a plastic bag and squeeze as much air out the bag as possible. It will keep for easily 5 days in the fridge. However, it will become more bitter the longer you store it.
Kale is one of the most nutritiously dense yet low calorie vegetables out there. Anyone wishing to lose weight and eat a healthy nutritious diet should look to include kale in their weekly food plan.
Kale is high in beta carotene, vitamin C , K and B^ plus folate and manganese. It has a moderate amount of thiamin, (B1) riboflavin (B2) pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin E, iron, calcium, phosphorous and potassium.
In a 1 cup serving it only has 33 calories. As with many vegetables boiling and cooking kale can lose some of its nutrients. (More on best ways to cook later). Kale also has nearly 3 gms of protein per cup and 2.5 gms of fiber.
With over 45 different flavonoids, and the carotenoids lutein and beta carotene, which are powerful antioxidants, plus it’s levels of omega 3 , kale is packed with the necessary nutrients to help fight cancer. In one study kale was shown to have the highest protective effect against bladder cancer out of all other veggies.
Kale is also an anti-inflammatory with its omega 3 and vitamin K. Chronic inflammation can be behind a number of different conditions such as cancer, stroke, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s.
A true superfood, kale can also ease lung congestion, is beneficial to your stomach, liver and also your immune system. The lutein and zeaxanthin found in kale helps protect your eyes from macular degeneration. Kale can also help keep your cholesterol levels at a normal range
How to cook kale
In terms of getting the most nutrients from your Kale it is best served raw or lightly steamed
Don’t wash the kale until you are ready to use it. Pull the leaves off the stem. Discard the stems. Wash and spin dry the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little dash of lemon juice.
Steam: place the Kale in a steamer over a pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes
Boil: in a large pan, add a small amount of salted water and bring to boil. Add the Kale, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain.
Sauté: Heat oil in a pan and add Kale. Stirring continuously cook until Kale has wilted.
Kale chips: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Oil, salt and pepper the Kale in bowl. Add to a baking tray and cook for 20-25 minutes till crisp,
Other great ideas of how to serve your kale :
Try sautéed with garlic and a dash of chili pepper and top with sesame oil. You can then serve this with some stir fried chicken and cashews instead of rice for soaking up the flavor YUM!
Try flavoring your kale chips. I love mixing some Indian spices into my kale before baking them. Try 1/2 tsp curry powder, 1/4 tsp Garam masala, 1/4 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp of cumin powder all mixed together and rubbed into the kale leaves. A great snack!
If making a mixed vegetable quinoa, topping it off with some crunchy kale chips (with or without added flavor) adds a fantastic texture to your quinoa.
If making kimchi or sauerkraut, add some kale to your vegetable mix. Now THAT would be a healthy topping for any dish you serve!
So which packs a better punch between kale and spinach?
Spinach is higher in potassium and magnesium, also more iron and fiber. But in the cancer fighting, anti oxidant powers of beta carotene vitamin A and vitamin C Kale kicks spinach’s butt. It has more than 4 times the vitaminC that spinach has, nearly twice as much vitamin K and 50% more vitamin A.
Spinach is still a fantastic choice and the more varied your choice of greens the better and more varied diet you will get.
The environmental working group has a ‘dirty dozen’ list which shows which foods have the most pesticides on them. Kale is high on their list and comes in at number 16. This means always try and buy organic kale and wash and rinse it thoroughly. For more information on the dirty dozen check out www.ewg.org
Problems with Kale
There have been some issues regarding goitrogens and kale. Goitrogens can have a negative affect on the thyroid gland for people who have thyroid issues. However if you eat kale in moderation and by lightly steaming or cooking the kale, which can reduce the goitrogenic compounds, it should not be an issue. The benefits of kale way outweigh the potential negatives that the goitrogenic can cause.
Nutritional breakdown of kale
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 207 kJ (49 kcal)
Sugars 2.3 g
Dietary fiber 3.6 g
Vitamin A equiv.
Thiamine (B1) (10%)0.11 mg
Riboflavin (B2) (11%)0.13 mg
Niacin (B3) (7%)1.0 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
Vitamin B6 (21%)0.27 mg
Folate (B9) (35%)141 μg
Choline (0%)0.8 mg
Vitamin C (145%)120 mg
Vitamin E (10%)1.54 mg
Vitamin K (671%)705 μg
Calcium (15%)150 mg
Iron (12%)1.5 mg
Magnesium (13%)47 mg
Manganese (31%)0.66 mg
Phosphorus (13%)92 mg
Potassium (10%)491 mg
Sodium (3%)38 mg
Zinc (6%)0.6 mg
Water 84.0 g
This breakdown has been taken from Wikipedia.
Kale around the world:
In the Netherlands, they make a dish called stamp pot which is basically mashed potatoes with either raw or cooked mashed vegetables including kale. Smoked sausage are also added to the dish
The Irish do a similar dish called colcannon. Popular at Halloween time, this dish is also mashed potatoes with kale served with sausages – ( a slightly healthier version of the British bangers and mash!) However, the Irish go one better and serve it with a ring and thimble hidden in the dish.
In Portugal Caldo Verde is a soup made of puréed potatoes, kale and broth with … Yet again sausages!! (Of the spicy variety)
Would appear that across Europe kale, mash and sausages are a popular combination!
In Asia you are more likely to get kale, or a certain variety of kale, Kai-lam, served with beef dishes
Foods kale pairs well with
As kale has a green bitter taste to it fruits such as , cantaloupe, peach, tomatoes, pear, kiwi and cranberries pairs well with kale. If making a salad add any of these fruits or use some of the fruit juice in the vinaigrette. Gruyere cheeses, duck, turbot are good proteins to pair with kale and parsley is a great herb to match with it. As the Europeans have noted, sausages, expecially chorizo also pairs well with kale.