Dear Timaree: It seems like everyone is talking about kale. Is this all hype or is it something that I should start buying?
Timaree: Kale will not disappoint, as it is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet! Although many people were only acquainted with kale as a garnish next to their entree, it has found it’s way to center stage and finally beginning to get the respect it deserves!
Kale may be fairly “new” to you, but this amazing green leafy vegetable has been traced back before 600 B.C. and is a member of the Brassica family, along with other nutrient packed cruciferous veggies like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, collards and Brussels. Three different varieties of kale are widely available in our area: curly kale (dark green), purple kale (a.k.a. salad savoy) and dinosaur kale (long leaves shaped like large feathers). Each varies in taste and texture, with the smallest leaves being the most tender and mild. Kale can be found all year round, but it’s “season” is mid-winter to early spring. Look for deeply colored leaves, free from holes and not wilted. Since leafy greens can harbor pesticide residues, organic kale should be purchased when feasible (Our local Raley’s has a wonderful organic produce section!). Kale can be stored for nearly a week in the crisper drawer, so long as it is unwashed in a plastic bag (remove as much air as possible).
Enjoying kale in both raw and cooked forms will maximize your exposure to a wide variety of beneficial nutrients. Raw kale can play the staring role in a salad (see recipe below), or contribute to a myriad of colors, flavors and textures that make “everything but the kitchen sink” salads so irresistible. When I bake kale chips for my family or add kale to a favorite bean soup, I never throw away the stems, I simply chop them up and toss them into my salads and stir-fries! When I steam or saute kale, I tear it up, toss with a bit of lemon juice and let it sit for at least five minutes before cooking to increase the nutrient concentration. I add kale to many whole grain dishes, including pastas, quinoa, bulgur and barley, even enchiladas and lasagnas! We juice kale along with celery, apple, parsley and carrots in our Champion Juicer made right here in Lodi, a wonderful holiday gift idea that supports a local, family-owned company!
Not only is kale is a phenomenal source of vitamins K, A and C, recent research has identified 45 different phytonutrients in kale which work together to reduce inflammation, protect our cells from oxidative stress, and reduce cancer risk (bladder, breast, colon, ovaries and prostate). Kale also provides protein, calcium, potassium and manganese. The fiber in cooked kale has been shown to do an even better job than raw kale at binding to bile salts, thereby reducing blood cholesterol levels. At only 35 kcals per cup, it offers more nutrition per calorie that any other veggie!
If you want to tap into the plethora of health promoting and disease fighting properties kale has to offer, but have been a bit hesitant to peruse the greens section of your favorite produce area, try this recipe and be pleasantly surprised how delicious it is. You might even say to yourself, “I can’t believe this is kale!”
Kale, Apple and Celery Salad with Cranberries
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup hot water
1 bunch of kale (curly or dinosaur varieties)
1 apple, cored and diced/julienned
4 celery ribs, diced small
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 TBSP unsweetened applesauce
1 TBSP honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
In a small bowl, add the cranberries to hot water and cover for ~10 mins. Chop cleaned kale leaves into 1/4 inch strips and large stems into very small pieces, then add the diced celery, apple, parsley, walnuts and drained cranberries (saving liquid). Combine the reserved cranberry liquid, vinegar, applesauce, honey, mustard and salt. Toss the salad with the dressing and let it stand for at least 10 minutes to maximize flavors and phytonutrients (keeps well for several days in the fridge).
Nutrition info (6 servings ~1.25 cups each): 168 kcals, 4g pro, 10g fat, 4 mg chol, 19 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 331 mg sodium, 136 mg calcium, 2 mg iron, 448 mg potassium
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, conducts corporate wellness work, does professional speaking engagements and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV. For more recipes like this one, be sure to purchase a copy of her innovative cookbook – The Foodie Bar™ Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. available at www.FoodieBars.com
View my article as published by the Lodi News Sentineal.