Kale – the Super Food for a Sharp Mind and a Healthy, Lean Body
By George Giltner, MS, Adv. Master Gardener
Kale is the ideal vegetable for your garden. It is hardy and easy to grow, nutrient dense, and delicious. With over 48 varieties that exhibit numerous color, texture, and leaf forms, it delivers eye-appeal to food dishes and the garden. Just go beyond typical preparations of chopping, serving raw, steamed, sautéed, or juiced. Think about a luscious cheddar kale omelet for breakfast, a chipotle flank steak with lime, black beans, and kale for lunch, and then top it off with chocolate chip kale cookies, or kale and black cherry sorbet for lunch or supper. After a day of kale-centric meals, you will be hooked on this tasty vegetable that offers so many health benefits. With just 33 calories per cup and loaded with bioavailable nutrients, you will be eating decadent-tasting foods without guilt.
What do you get in a cup serving of kale? Get ready for a ‘Wow Moment’! Your body receives more pro-vitamin A than any other leafy green, close to three times the calcium as a lunch container of milk, and more vitamin C than an orange. Also the ratio of fats, omega-3, and 6’s are in perfect ratio. Fresh kale gives you a medicine chest of phytonutrients which turn on your genes for detox. Sulforaphane protects against diseases like cancer and diabetes. The flavonoids which are responsible for the deep vibrant colors, boost the immune system and cardiac health.
Hippocrates in all his wisdom said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Let’s look at the “medicine” in kale. Folate – required for cell replication and to produce molecules like serotonin that regulate mood to feel vibrant and full of life. Pregnant women must have adequate supplies of this vitamin for proper fetal development. ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) – this fat lowers the risk of diabetes, depression, anxiety, and lowers the effect of stress hormones. Sulforaphane – is a sulfur molecule that detoxes safely and naturally to prevent debilitating diseases. Magnesium – along with manganese produces hundreds of cellular reactions. Most diets do not have adequate supplies of Mg for proper health which leads to diabetes. Kaempferol – stimulates the longevity genes for longer life, and boost cellular mitochondria. Fiber – it helps the body excrete cholesterol and bile as it passes through the intestines. Quercetin – neutralizes inflammations, protects blood vessels, prevents plaque formation, and is a cancer fighter. Iron – supplies oxygen to our body cells, and it is a co-factor in making the pleasure molecules of serotonin and dopamine. All of this body biochemistry is in just a cup of kale.
When you cook kale, be careful not to destroy its wonderful chemistry. Remember that some of our local water supplies contain alkaline water (9+ pH) that ruins folic acid. First add an acidic organic acid (like lemon juice) to the water before the kale. Then let the magic begin. Add garlic to lower blood pressure while making a savory flavorful dish. Ginger has antibacterial molecules that calm nausea and upset stomachs while it spices up dishes. Make a crunchy salad with kale, olive oil, and walnuts/Brazil nuts for healthy hair, omega-3’s, and metabolism regulation. Adding lemon juice aids your body to absorb kale’s iron, and the peel zest contains molecules that diminish pain and enhance pleasure in the brain. While thinking of the world’s best salad, top it with Parmesan to aid in absorption of kale’s antioxidants and to add extra zinc, magnesium, and B12 to this tasteful chemistry.
Why do you want to grow kale or buy organic kale? Commercial kale is sadly in a group of vegetables labeled as “the Dirty Dozen”. All grocery-store peppers, celery, cherries, potatoes, spinach, and even blueberries are in this group which are more likely to contain residual pesticides. Research this website for a list of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen” at www.ewg.org/foodnews.
Is kale a routine food for everyone? No. Talk to your doctor first – if you take warfarin or other blood thinners, if you have a blood clotting disorder, and if you have a thyroid sensitivity to goitrogens. Kale does deliver a huge dose of vitamin K (600% DA/serving) which is excellent for most healthy people.
According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2012, the average individual spends $3900 in food costs/year at home and $2700 with purchased meals. Your food dollars can be saved by growing your own vegetables and meat, or they can support our local gardeners and farmers that produce food in a safe and sustainable manner. Kale is just one of the fantastic vegetables that can be purchased or grown locally. Contact the LSU AgCenter for Master Gardener Classes for more information.