Kale…my new favorite vegetable. I stumbled upon kale during my quest to eat more vegetables. I started this quest in the winter and naively thought that no vegetables grown locally were in season in winter. Winter, while not a great time for fruits, is prime time for dark, leafy greens…like kale. Fresh kale should look firm with deeply colored leaves (which can range from dark green to purple to deep red in color – the most common being dark green) and hardy stems. Smaller leaves will be more tender and milder in flavor. You can store kale, unwashed, in an air-tight zipped plastic bag for up to five days in the refrigerator. This winter I was able to find kale EVERYWHERE and for cheap ($0.99 a pound). This led to a lot of experimentation and incorporation of kale into my diet.
On top of tasting great, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and contains the following percentages of the daily requirements of calcium and vitamin B6 (15%), magnesium (40%), vitamin A (180%) , vitamin C (200%), and vitamin K (1,020%). Vitamin K can reduce the overall risk of developing and dying from cancer (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article). Vitamin K is abundant in kale but also found in parsley, spinach, collard greens, and animal products such as cheese. Kale is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Kale is rich in carotenoids and flavonoids (specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits), along with lutein and zeaxanthin (compounds which promote eye-health). As with anything, there are some things to be careful about…Kale contains oxalates, naturally occurring substances that decrease the absorption of calcium. Calcium is a very important part of the diet especially for women, so try to avoid eating calcium-rich foods like dairy at the same time as kale to prevent any problems. Furthermore, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.
Three great kale recipes:
- Red Bean Soup with Hearty Greens
- Rigatoni with Sausage and Kale
- Kale with Bacon and Cannellini Beans