Kale. It’s got street rep. You either love it or hate it. It’s either a bad word in a home, or upheld as the number one cure-all, the healthiest food you can have in your fridge. Whether you’re a health nut or eat fast food every day, odds are you’ve heard about kale, and have maybe even made yourself a kale smoothie because, duh, everyone is drinking green juice. But what is kale? Is it really as healthy as people say? Does it really taste like dirt, as some people insist? Turns out the answers are yes and no (if you cook it or dress it up right).
This week’s challenge is to eat your kale. Kale contains a variety of macro- and micronutrients that can be hard to get elsewhere. It’s nutrient dense compared to other foods, meaning you can eat less of it and get more nutrients than you would from eating other foods. So eat your kale this week, in a salad, steamed, or in chip form—however you prefer your kale. (If you’re not sure, don’t worry; we will share some of our favorite ways below.)
So what’s so great about kale, anyway?
- Kale is rich in vitamins K, A, and C, manganese, copper, vitamin B6, and is a great source of fiber. Kale also lowers cholesterol and contains cancer-fighting compounds. It is a super food because it is high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and anti-cancer nutrients.
- Kale's risk-lowering benefits for cancer have recently been extended to at least five different types of cancer: cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale play a key role in its ability to fight cancer, as does its unusual concentration of two types of antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids. Two carotenoids, lutein and beta-carotene, are standout antioxidants in kale. Researchers have followed the passage of these two carotenoids in kale from the human digestive tract up into the bloodstream, demonstrating kale’s ability to raise blood levels of these carotenoid nutrients. Lutein and beta-carotene are key nutrients protecting our bodies from oxidative stress and associated health problems, including cataracts, atherosclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)–and cancer.
- Kale is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body's detoxification system. New research has shown that the ITCs made from kale's glucosinolates can help regulate detoxification at a genetic level.
- Researchers can now identify over 45 different flavonoids in kale. With kaempferol and quercetin heading the list, kale's flavonoids combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to give kale a leading dietary role to avoid chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.
- It only takes 100 calories of kale to provide over 350 milligrams if the most basic omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA). There is no research yet on inflammation and kale's omega-3 or vitamin K content. But one cup of kale provides far more micrograms of vitamin K than most vegetables do, and vitamin K is a key nutrient for regulating our body's inflammatory process.
Source: The world’s healthiest foods, which provides to data and research that backs up these claims.
Raw or cooked?
It’s a heated debate out there in the health world—should veggies be eaten raw or cooked? The answer is both, depending on what veggie you’re eating, and what nutrients you’re trying to get out of them. Vitamin C, for instance, oxidizes almost immediately in cooked foods, but other nutrients can become more bioavailable when lightly steamed. In the case of kale, it’s best when lightly steamed for five minutes. Kale’s health-promoting properties are enhanced when steamed, especially its ability to lower cholesterol.The fiber-related components in kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they've been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it's easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw kale still has cholesterol-lowering ability—just not as much. Try to consume kale at least two to three times a week, one to two cups at a time.
Best ways to enjoy kale:
- Lightly steamed (five to 10 minutes) with butter or olive oil, plus garlic, salt and onions to taste
- Kale chips: Cut in small squares, and drizzle on plenty of olive oil and sea salt. Top with cheese for extra yummy goodness, and put in a dehydrator or set oven to lowest temperature to dehydrate. It takes 45 minutes to one hour in the oven—check to make sure they aren’t burning. They are done when crispy.
- In a green smoothie
- In a salad with avocado, tomatoes, onions, and cheese, topped with Bragg Ginger & Sesame Salad Dressing. Let the dressing sit for 30 min to an hour or longer to soak into the kale—it makes the kale easier to chew and brings out the flavor.