Kale: Superfood and Delicious Too!

January 14, 2012 in Categories: by

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Kale is definitely a superfood.  And as far as superfoods go, it’s fairly cheap and easily found.  I find myself eating it more and more, raw tossed in a salad, chopped and added to soups and stews, braised by itself or in a mix with other veggies, and as kale chips!  And it’s one of the best surprises of committing to paleolithic nutrition and experimenting with new foods:  I love kale!

Why is kale so good for you?  Kale is in a family of vegetables called cruciferous or brassica vegetables, of which cabbage and broccoli are also members.  All cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane (particularly when eaten raw), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.  When cooked, kale is a rich source of indole, another potent anti-cancer chemical.  Kale is a rich source of carotenoids, including being one of the best sources of beta-carotene, a powerful anti-oxidant known to lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.  Among the other carotenoids in Kale are lutein and zeaxathin.  Kale is also a good source many members of the Vitamin B family (including folic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid), and is a great source of vitamin C and vitamin K.

Kale is a great source of calcium.  There is actually research showing that the calcium in kale is more easily absorbed and used by your body than the calcium in dairy products!  Kale is also a great source of other essential minerals, including:  manganese,potassium, sulfur, copper, sodium, iron, and phosphorus.

Kale is a good source of flavonoids, including kaempferol and quercetin (to name just 2 out of 45!), which have both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are known to decrease your risk of cancer.  Kale contains isothiocyanates (made from the glucosinolates found in kale), which are considered very useful for your body’s ability to detoxify.  The sulfur content of kale is also useful in this regard.

Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods available to us.  It’s also high in fiber and very low in carbohydrates.  It’s even a decent source of omega-3 fatty acids.  If it isn’t part of your diet now, I highly encourage you to try some recipes with it.  Like me, you might be surprised to find out that you love it!

Comments

Can you pls post the citation/reference for the bioavailability of calcium uptake from Kale vs dairy products? I’m very interested as a dietitian.

What are your thoughts about Kale and other cruciferious veggies are slowing down the thyroid? I drink a smoothie every morning with half a banana, blueberries and other berries, raw spinach or beetroot grrens or Kale (I do steam it a little bit before). I read something to reduce those veggies a lot for people having thyroid issues (I have Hashimoto). I am very confused now as I thought I am doing something very good for me! Are the benefits of using those greens greater than the damage? What do you think?

I am still trying to work out my exact recommendations on crucifers for people with autoimmune thyroid disorders for the book. But, this is where I’m at currently. There is absolutely no evidence that eating foods rich in glucosionides has any adverse effect on people with thyroid diseases. And, on the contrary, there are so many benefits from eating these vegetable that avoiding them may cause more problems than including them. I still have more research to do to verify this, but right now I feel like it’s very analogous to avoiding fish because of the mercury (the mercury is only an issue in a few species like whale and shark and when you avoid fish, you miss out on very valuable nutrients). I think that especially if you are steaming your kale first, then there’s no need to worry about it.

The hands down, absolute, uncontested best kale recipe is as follows:
Remove the stems, cut the leaves in reasonable size pieces (2″x2″ approx), drop in boiling water (add salt to water before boiling point), when the water starts boiling again, set timer for about 5-7 minutes (depending on whether the kale is tough (7min) or tender 5(min). Use a large slotted spoon to turn over a couple of times during the boil. When finished, lift the kale out with the spoon (DO NOT POUR INTO A STRAINER). Toss the cooked kale with plenty of extra virgin olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon and high quality salt (celtic). Serve room temp. Simple, healthy, delicious!
Next – go back to the pot. Use a ladle and fill a coffee mug with the kale water. Add some fresh squeezed lemon, a dash of salt, and a dash of olive oil. Makes an excellent broth or tea, and allows you to retrieve all the nutrients lost during the cooking process. I’m addicted to it.
Btw – when doing this with red kale, the water, which is dark green, turns reddish pink when you add lemon juice. Strange, but interesting. Also, in anticipation of making kale broth, best to use filtered water, and less water makes a richer tea.
This is generally how Greeks cook all their greens (dandelions, vlita, etc.)

I disagree. The current research shows that diets high in oxalates lower risk of kidney disease, gout and cancer. And diets high in vegetables, especially green ones, reduce risks of every chronic disease for which a correlation has been investigated. That being said, I think it’s better to eat leafy greens rather than have them in smoothies since chewing is an important signal for digestion.

I’ve heard that kale, spinach, etc. shouldn’t be eaten raw. I juice them both ALL the time. What are your thoughts on this?

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