Kale is hot: It’s everywhere you look – restaurants, food magazines farmers’ markets and grocery stores. While I’m sometimes happy to see a food trend bite the dust (bacon in anything and everything that’s edible, thank you very much), I hope this one continues to have true staying power.
If you haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon and discovered what a wonderful veggie kale is, now’s the time to get on board and reap its countless health perks.
Kale has always been considered to be chock full of traditional nutrients such as vitamins C, K and A, fibre and minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron and calcium. For a mere 36 calories in a cup of cooked kale, you get almost three grams of fibre and a little less potassium than what’s contained in a small banana – not too shabby.
But as scientists probe its heaping dose of phytochemicals, they’re finding even more disease-fighting properties.
Spanish researchers recently identified in kale eight different glucosinates – compounds which fight cancer in a variety of ways. But their power is only unleashed once they’re eaten and they turn into a variety of different anti-cancer substances that work in different ways. Some may target cancer-causing agents while others may stop cancer cells from spreading. And there’s more: The same researchers found 20 different flavonoids, the same compounds that have elevated the health status of dark chocolate and red wine.
Other Spanish scientists – they certainly seem to love that kale in Spain, don’t they? – have identified a flavonoid called kaempferol, which has a simply astounding range of effects. Not only does it act as an antioxidant, but it also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties – meaning it kills germs while defending against heart disease, diabetes and allergies. How’s that for a superstar?
Antioxidants protect arteries throughout the body, both in the heart and brain, lowering the odds of heart disease, stroke and even cognitive decline. When it comes to killing germs, scientists have found that kale’s antimicrobial effects can play a role in decreasing the risk of stomach ulcers caused by the bacteria H. pylori.
Finally if that’s not enough to sell you, consider that kale ranks along with spinach as the top sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds with potent power to protect your eyesight. These pigments have been linked to a reduced risk of developing both cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Just one note of caution for those taking certain blood thinners such as warfarin: The vitamin K in kale can impact the rate of blood clotting and as a result, it’s often recommended to simply not eat these vegetables in order to determine proper medication dosages. But rather than avoiding kale, consuming a consistent amount of dark leafy greens is a better approach that allows for healthy eating and taking the right amount of blood thinning medications. But before you make any adjustments, make sure to talk to your doctor.
As diversified as kale’s health benefits may be, so is its cooking versatility:
For a side dish, add it trimmed and chopped to sautéed garlic and onions and cook until it’s wilted. Or toss the mix with cooked pasta and garnish with freshly grated parmesan. You can also use kale in salads – I had a yummy one recently made with chopped kale, dried currants, pine nuts, parmesan and lemon vinaigrette. Add it to soups, as you might use spinach or Swiss chard.
Or go for Asian dishes or stir-fries, using it as you would any dark, leafy green. Whatever preparation, save the tough stems, chop and add them to your veggie soups.
Next up: A recipe for kale chips
Do you eat kale? What’s your favourite preparation? Please share in the comment section below.