Kale has been hailed as one of the most nutrient dense foods in the world. From reducing the risk of cancer to reversing grey hair, this nutritional powerhouse has been associated with some serious health benefits. Kale offers unmatched culinary versatility, lets face it there is no other green that tastes good baked as a chip. There are only 36 calories per a cup of kale yet it offers us amazing bang for our nutritional buck. I’m a firm believer in eating locally and as kale is a vegetable that grows best in cold frosty weather, it makes it the perfect food for us Irish. Never again will you turn up your nose up at your mothers colcannon! Let’s take a look at the many things that makes kale the most inexpensive ‘superfood’ on the planet.:
1. Detox: Kale is high in fibre (7 grams per 100 cals) and chlorophyll which binds to toxins in the gut and helps excrete them from the body. It also helps to strengthen the liver.
2. Healthy hair and supple skin: Kale is high in vitamin A, a nutrient required for sebum production to keep hair moisturised. Vitamin A is also necessary for hair growth. Adequate intake of vitamin C, which kale can provide, is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair.
3. Immunity: Kale possesses phytonutrients, which reduces inflammation and fights off bacteria that cause illnesses.
4. Bone health: Kale is a really good source of calcium. Per calorie it contains more than milk! Its also abundant in vitamin K which is just as important for bone health and preventing osteoporosis. Kale contains nearly twice the amount of vitamin K as most of its fellow cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and spinach.
5. Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is the number one cause of arthritis, heart disease and a number of autoimmune diseases. Kale is an incredibly effective anti-inflammatory food, which may help prevent these illnesses.
6. Vision: Kale is high in vitamin A which is needed for healthy eyesight. It is particularly beneficial if you struggle to see in dim light.
7. Cardiovascular support: Kale helps lower the type of cholesterol that is linked with heart disease. It also contains more iron per a calorie than red meat. Iron transports oxygen in the blood which helps strengthen the heart.
8. Reduce Cancer risk: The chlorophyll in kale, has been shown to be effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines – these are toxins that are generated when charring foods (particularly meat) at a high temperature. If you like your steak a little too well done, make sure to pair it with green vegetables to help negate these effects.
Tips for getting the most from kale:
- For a therapeutic effect eat at least 1 cup of kale 3 times a week
- Steaming for 5 mins releases the magnesium and makes it easier for the body to absorb. It’s one of the few vegetables that is better for you when gently cooked
- Choose kale with smaller sized leaves as these will be more tender and less bitter
- Consume within 5 days – the longer you leave it the more bitter the leaves will taste
There’s so many ways to eat kale. Add it to soups, stews, casseroles or wraps. It tastes great sautéed with mushrooms and onions or in a sweet potato frittata. My all time favourite way is as kale chips. I have to admit that that didn’t sound too appetising when I first heard about this. However, I was pleasantly surprised and now I can’t get enough of them. They’re even loved by children and that’s really saying something! The nutritional yeast in the below recipe should not be confused with brewers yeast. Nutritional yeast is high in iron and vitamin B12, so is particularly beneficial for vegans. It has a flaky texture and gives a lovely cheesy flavour.
‘Dorito’ style kale chips
- 1 bunch of kale, ripped from the stem and in bite-sized pieces
- 2 Tablespoons of coconut or olive oil
- 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp. chili powder
- 1/8 tsp. cumin
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Wash and dry kale thoroughly. Rip leaves from the stem and tear into roughly square inch pieces.
- In a large bowl, add oil, spices and nutritional yeast to the kale pieces, covering thoroughly.
- On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper spread the kale out to make sure no two pieces are touching. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, checking periodically as they burn easily. They should look dark and crisp but not browned. Some may cook quicker than others so just leave the softer ones on for an extra minute of two.
(Credit: Veronica Burke, IINH Nutritional Therapy student)