Move over broccoli, is kale the true king of the veggie world?
It's certainly making its presence felt with superfood accolades aplenty and featuring on all the trendiest restaurant menus.
A lesser known part of the cruciferous veg family, it shares its greatness with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts – all noted for their super nutrient status and health benefits.
But kale beats them all on polyphenol content – and that’s what makes it so special.
It wasn’t always treated as such. In fact it used to be fed to cattle, as it was so plentiful and cheap. And now demand is soaring – Tesco reported a 90% increase in sales in the last year!
Its popularity is good news for anyone wanting affordable nutrient dense food – its cheap, easy to cook, available all year round and it packs a mighty punch in the nutrient stakes. Here’s why kale should be in your shopping basket;
1/ Antioxidants – no less than 45 of them, including lutein, beta-carotene, quercitin and kaempferol – these antioxidants help protect against oxidative stress and the health problems it can cause (e.g. cataracts, heart disease, pulmonary disease, cancer).
2/ Anti inflammatory – omega 3 fats ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and Vitamin K – help to fight inflammation that can lead to chronic disease.
3/ Anti cancer – kale contains 4 known glucosinolates – these are known to provide protection against many cancers, including colon, breast, bladder, prostate and ovarian.
4/ Detoxification – the glucosinolates help with the 2 phase detoxification process in the liver. Not only getting rid of hormone disrupting toxins, but also helping detoxify excess oestrogen so that it doesn’t recirculate and cause oestrogen domimant symptoms such as PMS, breast tenderness, fibroids and endometriosis. The 7g of fibre per 100g also helps with eliminating waste and toxins.
5/ General health – kale is high in vitamins (K, A, C, E, B) and minerals (iron, manganese, copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium) – a great source of nutrients for a lowly vegetable!
Kale is so versatile – for me, that means its easier to get your fix. A simple kale salad is delicious but if you don’t like the taste, you can easily hide it in smoothies, and you can add it to pretty much anything without ruining the taste of the dish. Try chopping it up small and throwing into a shepherd’s pie, lasagne or hotpot. You won’t know its there. I promise.
Try these easy recipes;
KALE BERRY SMOOTHIE
- 200ml milk of your choice (I like almond)
- 1/2 banana
- 1 tbsp mixed seeds
- handful of frozen berries – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries
- handful of kale leaves
- Handful of ice
Blend all ingredients well and enjoy!
SPICY KALE CHIPS
- Large bag of kale
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (or parmesan cheese)
- 2 tbsp cashew nuts, chopped small or blitzed in a processer
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
- 1 tbsp miso paste (optional)
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp sea salt
Remove kale from stalk, cutting the greens into strips. Melt the coconut oil in a pan. Pour over kale leaves and add all the other ingredients.. Spread the kale out on a baking sheet and bake in the lowest oven for about an hour or until crispy.
SAUTEED KALE WITH CHILLI AND GINGER
- Large bunch kale
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ inch chunk of ginger
- ½ small red chilli, deseeded (optional)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- salt & pepper
Wash kale and slice. Heat coconut oil in a large frying pan. Add chilli and garlic. Then add greens and cook until wilted. Add vinegar, salt & pepper and serve.
And if you really can’t stand the taste of kale? Cover it in chocolate!
KALE CHOCOLATE ENERGY BALLS (makes 8-10)
- 100g medjool dates
- 50g nuts (walnuts, cashews, brazils)
- 50g seeds (chia, hemp)
- 1 tbsp almond butter (or any other nut butter)
- 1 tbsp ground almonds
- handful of kale leaves (no stalks!)
- 50g raw cacao powder (or melted 70% dark chocolate)
- 1 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 50g shredded coconut or mixed seeds for coating (optional)
Put everything in a food processor and whiz until you can mould the mixture into balls. Coat in mixed crushed seeds or coconut. Chill in fridge until set.
Do make sure you look for organic kale as the non-organic varieties are grown with pesticides that can disrupt hormones and reduce many of the above beneficial effects. It's really easy to grow your own too.
So anyone can sneak more kale into their diet. Be careful not to eat it raw if you have thyroid issues as it can be goitrogenic (inhibit thyroid function). Cooking it is fine though, so you can still get the benefits.
Try one of these recipes this week and see how easy and delicious kale can be!
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Steinbrecher A, Linseisen J. Dietary Intake of Individual Glucosinolates in Participants of the EPIC-Heidelberg Cohort Study. Ann Nutr Metab 2009;54:87-96. 2009
Zhu H, Jia Z, Zhou K et al. Cruciferous dithiolethione-mediated coordinated induction of total cellular and mitochondrial antioxidants and phase 2 enzymes in human primary cardiomyocytes: cytoprotection against oxidative/electr. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2009 Apr;234(4):418-29. 2009