Kale is kind of a big deal these days. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the hype about this super-green, which just happens to be in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens. And even though you may be tired of hearing about kale’s amazing health benefits, there might be some things you still don’t know about this wonder-veggie.
So how healthy is kale? As it turns out, really, really healthy. The green is high in a variety of nutrients, including beta-carotene, which has been associated with a reduced risk of cancers, particularly lung, stomach, colon and breast cancer. This leafy green also contains a very high amount of vitamin K and is a rich source of calcium, both of which are essential for bone health. It’s also plentiful in vitamin C, which has shown to improve immune function and may help prevent against certain cancers too. And your eyes? Yep, kale has magic ingredients for your peepers, too. Kale contains two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, that have both been proven to help prevent the eye diseases age related macular degeneration (a disease of the retina) and cataracts. But you knew all of that already. Right? It didn’t hurt to hear about it again.
So now that we know kale’s amazing health benefits, how do we get more of this veggie into our diets? Kale can have a bitter taste that some people are averse to. But there are numerous ways to make kale delicious. Lemon juice or olive oil in your preparation of kale can cut down on the bite that is usually associated with it. This is particularly helpful when using kale for sauces, a side dish, or the famous kale chip we always hear about. To keep calorie counts low, just be careful not to overdo the olive oil, though.
Kale’s leaves can also be tough. If the leaves are gently kneaded almost massaged, this will soften them, giving them a better texture and improving the taste. To do this, follow these simple instructions:
- Wash the whole head of kale to remove dirt and any foreign particles. Since dirt is likely to collect between leaves, it is smart to separate the leaves when washing.
- Dry the leaves well. With your hands, once the kale is dry, toss all of the leaves with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Gently rub the oil into the leaves for 5 minutes or until you notice the leaves turn a bright green color.
Kale also makes a great addition to smoothies and juices. All you need is three to four kale leaves! In a smoothie, add a few stalks of kale to your favorite fruit smoothie recipe, blend, and you have a delicious breakfast or snack that is nutrient-packed and ready to go.
If adding kale to your juicing repertoire, add three de-stemmed leaves to your favorite juicing recipe. I suggest that there be some sort of fruit, such as apples, incorporated to impart some sweetness to the juice.
If you are still a little hesitant to cook or use kale yourself, you’re in luck! With the rise in kale’s popularity, there has been a deluge of products out there with kale as the star ingredient. Look for ready-made kale chips at your local market, or seek out bottled juices and smoothies with kale.
Lauren Cohen, MS, RDN is a lifestyle and nutrition expert who is revolutionizing how we live, eat, and think.