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The brassica kale (part of the broccoli family) is enjoying a surge in popularity right now and rightly so. This fashionable queen of the greens is being championed by celebrities and celebrity chefs and is readily available wherever you go.
Super-nutritious kale is a great choice for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. It is an amazing vegetable with exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits, and delicious flavor. One cup of chopped kale contains as much as 9% of an adult’s daily calcium requirement (protecting you from bone loss and osteoporosis) and helping your metabolism); 206% of your vitamin A requirement (good for vision and skin as well as helping to prevent lung and mouth cancers); 134% of your vitamin C requirement (supporting the immune system) and a whopping 684% of cancer fighting vitamin K. Vitamin K is also necessary for a wide variety of other bodily functions, including normal blood clotting, antioxidant activity, and bone health.*
Kale provides a broad spectrum of carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants, which are associated with a reduction in several types of cancer. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin compounds, both of which support eye health.
Kale is a great source of dietary fiber. It is higher in iron than beef (iron helps with the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, preventing anemia, and is essential for liver function and cell growth). The fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol reducing the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is eaten cooked instead of raw.
This super veg operates as a good source of copper, magnesium, potassium and omega 3 fatty acids. It has anti-inflammatory properties so can help fight conditions such as arthritis.
Kale is an excellent addition to a green smoothie alongside some coconut, almond or cows’ milk. However, while it is undoubtedly a powerhouse of nutrients, it also contains oxalates (naturally occurring substances that can interfere with the absorption of calcium). You can avoid any issues arising from this by ensuring that you eat a variety of foods containing calcium, in addition to and at different times than enjoying kale.
The beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around. Although it can be found in markets throughout the year, kale thrives in cooler weather and it is in season from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring, when it has a sweeter taste and is more widely available.
To find the freshest kale, look for firm, deeply colored leaves with hardy stems. Smaller leaves will be more tender and milder in flavor. Leaves range from dark green to purple to deep red in color.
Store kale, unwashed, in an airtight zipped bag or container for up to five days in the refrigerator.
The following recipes come from Lisa Pitman and her mother LLL Leader Teresa Pitman. (See other delicious recipes from Lisa here.)
White Bean and Kale Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans of white beans
4 to 5 cups of vegetable stock or water
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 teaspoons of fresh minced sage (or one teaspoon of dried sage)
2 teaspoons of salt (less if you are using a salted vegetable stock)
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups of chopped kale (large stems removed)
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Heat the oil in a soup pot on medium heat, add the garlic and sauté for 30 to 60 seconds until fragrant but not browned. Add one can of beans and 2 cups of stock or water. Cover and turn off heat.
In a blender or food processor, blend the remaining cup of beans, the stock or water, tomato paste and sage until smooth. Transfer to the soup pot and add the salt, pepper and kale. Simmer for 20 minutes until kale is tender, stirring occasionally.
Mix the cornmeal and lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup and add more water until it reaches the 1-cup mark. Pour this into the soup slowly while stirring well to keep lumps from forming. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so on low heat, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. This soup has great texture and flavor. Serves six.
1 large bunch of kale, cleaned and thoroughly dried
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
1 pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
Tear the kale leaves into small pieces (no stems) and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss with your hands until the leaves are all coated. Spread on two baking sheets in a single layer and put in the oven.
Bake until they are dry and crispy. This could take anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes, but they can burn quickly too, so watch them closely. If your oven is uneven in how it heats (as mine is) you may want to switch the positions of the pans (top to bottom and front to back) half way through. When they look done, check a few—they should be crispy, not chewy. If there is still some chewiness, put them back in for a couple more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. These will keep for several days in an airtight container.
Those who enjoy more spicy food might also like to add a sprinkling of chilli flakes to their Kale chips.
* Too much vitamin K can pose problems for some people. Anyone taking anticoagulants such as warfarin should avoid kale because the high level of vitamin K may interfere with the drugs. Consult your doctor if taking such medications before adding kale to your diet.
And see Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family.