Spotlight on Greens 02: All Hail Kale

Kale popularity is at an all time high, isn't it time we all knew why? In this second installment of my Spotlight on Greens article series, I'm here to answer all your kale queries. 

Where Does Kale Come From?

Kale is a member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, collards, broccoli, Brussels spouts etc. and has been cultivated in Europe along with flat leaved cabbage varieties dating back to the fourth century BC. 

Kale was brought to North America by the colonists in the 16th century, later Russian kale was introduced into Canada by Traders in the 19th century. Our temperate climate is perfect for growing Kale. 

Fact: not all forms of kale are edible, some are much too tough and indigestible by the human body. 

When is Kale Season? 

Kale is available in Ontario from June through November, and actually tastes its best after the first frost. so leave your kale in the ground, the cool fall temperatures will make it all the sweeter. 

Nutritional Benefits

Kale is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, C, and minerals- manganese, copper, calcium and iron. Not to mention it's a fibre powerhouse and is full of pre-biotics, a type of oligosaccharides that feeds our healthy intestinal flora. Kale is also one of the highest sources of lutein, a carotenoid responsible for maintaining eye health. In fact, a 1/2 half cup serving of kale once per week may be enough to significantly reduce your risk of glaucoma (a disease involving excess pressure in the eye).  

Other Health Related Benefits

  • Recent studies show that kale can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you cook it by steaming. The fiber-related components in kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they've been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it's easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw kale still has cholesterol-lowering ability—just not as much. Along these same lines, a recent study has examined the impact of 5 ounces of kale juice per day for 12 weeks in men with high blood cholesterol levels (above 200 mg/dL). Consumption of kale juice was determined to raise the HDL (good cholesterol) levels in these study participants, lower their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and also improve their atherogenic profiles (which measured their likelihood of developing coronary artery disease).
  • Kale is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body's detoxification system. New research has shown that the ITCs made from kale's glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level. For more on this see www.worldshealthiestfoods.com
  • Kale may reduce your risk of colon and breast cancer.
  • One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
  • Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism.

Possible ill effects

If someone is taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) it is important that they do not suddenly begin to eat more or less foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting. You can still enjoy kale in moderate amounts. 

Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If a person's kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal, anyone with kidney disease should speak with their doctor about their intake of this and other high potassium foods.

Flavour PAIRINGS

Kale is a bitter green and pairs well with coconut or coconut milk in stir fries and curries, citrus fruits in salads, apples and raisins in a kale slaw, or try it with banana and almond butter in a smoothie. The sweetness of the banana helps to cut the bitterness of the kale. 

Preparing and Cooking 

Choose kale with firm darkly coloured leaves, wash it as soon as you get home and store it loosely wrapped in the fridge. 

Kale retains the most nutrients when eaten raw, so try chopping it up, and adding it to a ziplock bag with a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Shake it around and massage the bag until the kale is well coated. Massaging kale in this way makes it easier to digest. This makes a great base for salads. 

Steaming kale is another great option, I like to stream it just until wilted and serve it with tofu scramble for a healthy sunday brunch. 

Don't be shy with your kale, it works well in all kinds of dishes from soups to stews and even chili. so toss it in almost anything to add extra greens, fibre and antioxidants to your favourite meals. 

Try kale in my Millet Masala Bowl, you'll be glad you did! 

 

 

Kara-Lynn Garland