bowl of raw kale on wood tableIf you’re concerned about heart health, joint health, preventing cancer, and living a longer, higher quality of life … you’ve probably heard a lot about kale! Nutrition experts, researchers, and physicians tout this dark, leafy green as a superfood packed with antioxidants and nutrients that will put a spring in your step, turn back the clock, and add years to your life!

WHAT IS KALE?

Kale, a member of the cabbage family, is well known as the king of the hill when it comes to superfoods! Related to cruciferous vegetables (i.e., broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and collard greens) this vegetable has leaves that range from green to purple in colour and have either a smooth or curly shape.

THE KING OF SUPERFOODS

Kale has earned top honors when it comes to being a superfood! It packs in more nutrition than any other whole food (foods that are unprocessed, unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed). For example, in one single serving of kale (one cup chopped, 67 grams or 2.4 ounces) you get:

  • 684% of the RDA of vitamin K
  • 206% of the RDA of vitamin A
  • 134% of the RDA of vitamin C
  • 26% of the RDA of manganese
  • 10% of the RDA of copper
  • 9% of the RDA of vitamin B6
  • 9% of the RDA of calcium
  • 9% of the RDA of potassium
  • 6% of the RDA of magnesium
  • 121 mg of omega-3 fatty acids
  • 92 mg of omega-6 fatty acids

With a single serving weighing in at only 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (mostly fibre) and 3 grams of protein this food is a guilt-free addition to breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

5 WAYS KALE BENEFITS YOUR HEALTH

Because of its high nutrient value (including antioxidants, omega fatty acids and the phytonutrient indole-3 carbinol), this superfood offers a wide range of health benefits:

  1. Protects against prostate and colon cancers. Cruciferous vegetables (including kale) contain phytochemicals that stimulate the body to detoxify carcinogens. In addition, a diet with a higher cruciferous vegetable intake has been associated with lower prostate cancer risk.
  2. Protects against heart disease and stroke. With a high concentration of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein, including kale in your diet can prevent atherosclerosis (the hardening and narrowing of the arteries), which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
  3. Prevents (and even reverses) arthritis. Following a diet low in processed foods and saturated fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans is great for your body. This is especially true for those suffering from arthritis. Kale is especially helpful with high concentrations of vitamin K, which dramatically reduce inflammation.
  4. Helps to maintain ones eyesight. Kale contains lutein and zeaxanthin, powerful carotenoid antioxidants known for protecting the eyes.
  5. Helps with losing weight. Aside from its low calories per serving (33 calories per one cup chopped) it has high water content, small amounts of protein and a good amount of fibre.

HOW TO COOK

Although kale has many superfood qualities, it also has a few negative side effects. Because kale is high in insoluble fibre, it can be really hard to digest and can result in abdominal bloating, gas, and diarrhea. This is even more evident when you eat it raw (i.e., kale salad, kale pesto, green smoothies, etc.). Although there are many recipes that call for it raw and untouched, one of the best ways to alleviate these side effects is to cook in various preparations.

Unlike spinach, that immediately wilts when it is heated, kale needs to be tenderized and broken down. Although most people would resort to pan frying or sautéing vegetables, steaming and boiling are much better ways to break down kale and bring out its true sweetness and flavor (without the side effects). Below are quick tips on how to properly steam kale for a delicious side dish.

Basic Steamed

Place chopped kale into a steamer basket (which is recommended because it allows the leaves to cook evenly and protects it from leaching nutrients into the water). Bring 1 to 2 inches of water to a boil in a large pot. When ready, place the steamer basket into the pot. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until leaves are wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Steamed Using a Microwave

If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can get the same result using a microwave. Simply put the leaves in a microwave-safe bowl with one teaspoon of water (because there is already quite a bit of water in the kale itself). Cover the bowl with a paper towel or plastic wrap. If using plastic wrap, poke the surface with a knife or fork to allow steam to escape. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes for every 2 cups of kale. Cook until the leaves are just wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you want to get more adventurous with other delicious kale recipes, visit www.allrecipes.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Oh is an accomplished writer, published author, podcaster, and local blogger in Calgary, AB (Canada). She is the Editor-In-Chief of Business.fit and SixFootCanasian.ca and author of “GET MOTIVATED! Powerful Quotes and Exercise Tips to Inspire 52 Weeks of Extraordinary Workouts” and “The Business of Personal Training: Essential Guide for the Successful Personal Trainer”.

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