Tang, instant mashed potatoes, TV dinners – chances are, if you were born in the 60’s or early 70’s, “Space Age” freeze- dried foods were the order of the day – futuristic, convenient and super cool – so much more exciting than old-fashioned, fresh, real food. Fortunately, over the last decade or so, attitudes towards food have changed, and by now most Americans understand that eating fresh, unprocessed, local and organic foods are far kinder to the earth and body than the faux foods created in the culinary labs of yesteryear. However, for those who grew up on the typical processed diet of the era, loading up on broccoli, spinach and my favorite superfood kale, can seem daunting – but actually, it’s one of the most important things one can do to support health and empower the body to fight off disease.
While spinach and broccoli are excellent leafys, you can stack the nutritional deck a bit higher by adding kale, the king of the cruciferous, to your culinary mix. Extraordinarily powerful, but often overlooked, kale is the original green superfood that’s so nutritionally dense, it seems silly not to pile your plate high (*). To inspire your next trip down the produce aisle, here’s my 5-point topline on the mighty leaf and how to make it your new nutritional BFF:
Kale is the Superman of the Veggie Aisle.
When you talk superfoods, kale is top of the heap. Inside those curly, deep green leaves are such goodies as beta-carotene, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, C and K – in far larger quantities than you’ll find in most other vegetables. In fact, kale delivers 4 times more magnesium and calcium than Brussels sprouts; more Vitamin C than carrots or spinach and more folate than broccoli, according to McCance and Widdowson’s ‘The Composition of Foods. ‘
Kale’s Got Vitamin K to Spare.
A cup of kale comes with lots of vitamin K. In fact, it’s just about the largest single source of vitamin K to be had in the entire veggie kingdom, delivering about an astonishing 1,376% RDA of vitamin K per cup. And what’s so important about vitamin K? Well, vitamin K helps strengthen bones, reduces cardiovascular disease and stroke risk and tamps down inflammation throughout the body.
Kale Hates Cancer and Cataracts.
Kale has over 45 different antioxidants – great news for our bodies and bad news for certain cancers – so eat up to promote breast, ovarian, gastric and prostate health. With a nice dose of phytochemicals leutin and zeanathin in every cup, kale is also thought to offer protection against sight-stealers such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
Kale Loves Your Gut and Waistline.
Need a few more reasons to have a cup o’ kale? The mighty leaf keeps your gut happy by aiding digestion and elimination, as it helps detox and promote optimal liver function. Not surprisingly, kale also has no cholesterol and is lo-cal, packing just 36 calories per cup, so it’s great for those who are watching their weight.
How to Make Kale Your Nutritional BFF.
OK, so kale’s is one of nature’s heaviest hitters, but what to do with it? Here’s a few no-brainer ways to boost your kale intake and enjoy all of its health-boosting benefits:
- Add a fist-full or two to fruit smoothies, for a refreshing green taste
- Add lightly steamed kale to omelets, tomato sauces and soups – you’ll be adding extra nutrients and fiber to even the simplest dishes
- Add chopped raw kale to your usual salad greens to perk up both taste and nutrition
- Create a “bed” of shredded kale for fish, poultry or meat, or sprinkle on top of meals as a garnish – but be sure to sprinkle liberally!
- Try this delicious kale smoothie, which is my current favorite:
1 Packet Sustain
1 Cup shredded Kale (lacinato or dinosaur kale)
1/4 cup fresh mint Juice of one lime
1 small box coconut water (11 oz)
1 TBS chia seeds
4 ice cubes
Place ingredients into a blender and blend till smooth and creamy
(*) NOTE: Kale’s high vitamin K content can interact with and/or lessen the efficacy of some medications, so be sure to check with your doctor about possible drug interactions.
*Image of “kale” via Shutterstock