Wednesday, March 27, 2013

All Hail to Kale – The King of the Greens

If you want to punch up your cancer prevention and reduce bad cholesterol, you need the Kale K.O.   We all know how good spinach is for us, but kale gives spinach a run for its money, delivering the knockout punch when it comes to anti-inflammatory properties, system detoxification, and reducing cancer risk.  In fact, the respected George Mateljan Foundation’s World's Healthiest Foods site calls kale “one of the healthiest vegetables around.” WebMD goes so far as to call kale “one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet.”  Maybe it’s time for you to explore the wonders of kale, not only for your health but for your palate.

Kale leaves
Look for kale leaves that are firm and deeply colored

Kale health benefits – and good taste!

Though lesser known than some of the more common greens we use in salads, like lettuce or spinach, kale has a pleasantly mild flavor and tons of health benefits you should know about.  The health benefits of kale include the following:
Kale is nature’s multivitamin
Kale is a great way to get a multitude of critical vitamins into your system – and in the most natural of forms.  A cup of cooked kale loads you up with vitamin K (1327.6% RDA!) as well as vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber, copper, tryptophan, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium, iron, magnesium, and more.
Kale is the king of flavonoids
Flavonoids are plant-based antioxidants that prevent disease and stave off aging. You get more than 45 different flavonoids in every bit of kale, especially the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powerhouses kaempferol and quercetin.  If you want to reduce chronic inflammation and avoid oxidative stress, eat kale.
Kale reduces cancer risk
Scientists reporting in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tell us that kale consumption can reduce your risk of getting colon cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer.  Kale does this with its glucosinolates (a cancer-preventive catalyst) and its abundance of the antioxidant vitamin K.
Kale detoxifies
Kale K.O.’s the toxicity in your body, thanks to its isothiocyanates (ITCs) and  glucosinolates, which regulate detoxification at the cellular and genetic level. Also aiding in detoxification is kale’s high amounts of sulfur compounds.  Combined with the ITCs, kale’s nutrients work wonders in protecting your body from toxins, both ingested and from the environment.
Kale can lower cholesterol 
Kale is great for you raw, but when you steam kale, it unleashes a cadre of extra cholesterol-lowering benefits. The trick is to boost kale’s binding of its fiber-related components.  Steaming does this, empowering kale to grab onto your digestive tract’s bile acids, which can then be more readily excreted.  And getting rid of that bile lowers your cholesterol levels.

Organic kale
Organic kale is the least likely to be contaminated with insecticides

Any kale health risks?

Given how good kale is for you, you may be surprised to know that, yes, there are some health risks or food combination issues with kale. 
  • Because of its extraordinary amounts of vitamin k, there are risks if you are taking an anticoagulant drug, such as warfarin. 
  • Kale also contains naturally occurring oxalates, which may block the calcium benefits of dairy products when eaten together. 
  • Because of the oxalates, also avoid kale if you have kidney or gallbladder issues.
  • A 2012 report about pesticides in produce cautions that conventionally grown kale is often contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the nervous system, and therefore recommends getting kale that is grown organically.
  • Kale may interfere with thyroid function if you have goiter issues.
As with any dietary changes, consult your doctor before adding kale to your diet.

How to buy, store, and eat kale

When selecting kale, the healthiest leaves are firm, deeply colored, and don’t have floppy stems.  To keep your kale its freshest, store it unwashed in an air-tight bag in your fridge.
Kale smoothie
One of the easiest ways to enjoy kale raw is to simply add some to any fruit smoothie. 
It will give it a nice green color and its neutral flavor blends well with your other ingredients. 

You can also enjoy it as a crunchy snack using this Cheesy Kale Chips recipe if you have a dehydrator.  I love this one.  Not only is it tasty, but it’s portable, easy to consume on a hike or as a playground munchie for your kids.

Even if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can make kale chips by drizzling a bit of olive oil onto bite-sized pieces of kale, adding a little salt, and then baking on a cookie sheet.  Set your oven to 350 degrees and you should have them ready for munching in less than 15 minutes.

Here are some real kale recipe zingers from
A couple more kale recipes on my try-it list from the Web include this sautéed Kale recipe from Bobby Flay and this chicken and kale casserole from Martha Stewart.   Any way you cut it, kale is a food you want to add to your diet. 

If you have any personal experience with adding kale to your diet, or if you have any killer kale recipes to share, please use the comments below. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

1 comment:

  1. I love greens, specially in vegetable salads. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. Hope to see more essay and photos here.