kaleYou’ve probably heard of kale but do you know why this vegetable is getting so much attention lately?  This unsuspecting vegetable is actually a superfood.  In fact, it may be one of the healthiest vegetables out there.

The Benefits of Kale
So what makes kale so healthy? Kale is unique in that not only does it contain multiple nutrients, but these nutrients are incredibly dense.  This means that a little kale goes a long way in promoting a healthy body.  To demonstrate this, let’s look at what you’ll find in one cup of kale:

  • 206% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A.  Kale actually contains the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.
  • 684% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.
  • 134% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.  Surprisingly, there is more vitamin C in one cup of kale than in an orange!

These are just a few examples, but kale also contains nutrients such as vitamin B6, manganese, calcium, copper and magnesium.  One cup of kale contains only thirty-three calories.  It also has three grams of protein and six grams of carbohydrates, of which two grams are fiber.  There is a small amount of fat in kale, but this is primarily omega-3 fatty acid, which is a healthy fat.

Not surprisingly, kale is also rich in antioxidants that help the body restore itself after oxidative damage.  Eating kale helps lower cholesterol.  This is important since high cholesterol levels have been linked with heart disease.  Lastly, kale contains lutein and zeaxanthin which helps promote healthy eyes.  These specific nutrients are thought to reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Cooking with Kale
There are some basic guidelines to follow when cooking with kale.  If not done correctly, you risk losing many of the nutrients that make kale such a superfood in the first place.

  • Don’t reach for a pot of water when cooking kale.  Instead, people have found that steam is the best way to cook kale.  When steamed, the fibrous portion of kale is able to bind with stomach acid better.  This allows the acid to be excreted more easily, which in turn lowers cholesterol levels.  If your goal is to lower your cholesterol, then steaming kale is the best option.  Raw kale still lowers cholesterol but the effects aren’t as dramatic.
  • Steaming kale takes only five minutes.  Start by cutting the kale leaves into half inch slices and the stems into quarter inch pieces.  Fill your steamer pot with approximately two inches of water, bring the water to a rapid boil, and then steam your kale for about five minutes.  From there, it’s up to you if you want to add any additional spices or other ingredients.
  • Steamed kale can be combined with just about anything to create a healthy dish.  In particular, it pairs well with Mediterranean recipes, pasta dishes and soups.

The simplest way to eat kale is raw.  Kale salads are quick, simple, and great for that on-the-go lifestyle.  However, kale does have a strong taste.  If you aren’t used to the taste of kale, eating a salad entirely of kale may turn you off from eating kale altogether.  Many people find it easier to start by mixing a little bit of kale into their usual salad greens.  Then, they gradually work up to an increased ratio of kale to lettuce.

So the next time you’re looking for a powerhouse meal, why not consider tossing in some kale?  This leafy green has so much potential benefit for your diet.  It’s simple to include in everyday meals.  Many people find kale becomes one of their favorite foods once they try it.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Jackie Borst, PA-C

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