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7 Feb

Smart Fuel: Kale

Meet Kale, yet another member of the brassica family, a clan of vegetables that includes cabbage, collards, and Brussels sprouts.

Although believed to have been brought over to Europe around 600 BC by groups of Celtic wanderers (and over to the U.S. in the 17th Century), Kale has only recently stepped into the spotlight for its organosulfur-containing phytonutrients. Specifically, kale offers a hefty dose of the phytonutrients glucosinolate and cysteine sulfoxide, which are thought to activate detoxifying enzymes in the liver and neutralize potentially carcinogenic substances, free radicals and other harmful compounds.

Of particular note, kale and its cruciferous cronies contain a number of phytochemicals thought to reduce the risk of cancer, including sulforaphane, which has been shown to reduce the risk of gene-based cancers affecting the breast and colon, and isothiocyanates, which reduce the risk of bladder cancer. In addition, kale also contains a flavanoid called maempferol that is thought to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 40% and other compounds that are thought to reduce lung cancer risk. Finally, kale contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are thought to prevent damage to the eyes caused by ultraviolet light and reduce future risk of cataracts.

In terms of vitamins and minerals, kale is an excellent source of vitamin A (providing 194% of the recommended daily allowance per one cup serving), which is important for lung health, as well as vitamin C for immune support and vitamin B6 and manganese, which are important for fat metabolism. In addition, kale is a very good source of dietary fiber, calcium, potassium and vitamin E.
Kale is best when the leaves are firm and deep-green colored and on the smaller side (since smaller leaves are more tender and have a milder flavor than larger leaves). Like most leafy greens, kale should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerators crisper drawer. However, culinary experts recommend that you store the kale for no more than two days at a time, since prolonged storage can turn the leaves bitter.

To prepare, wash the leaves under cool running water, and cut to desired shape and size. Kale is delicious as a side dish when sautéed with fresh garlic, garnished with lemon juice, steamed or braised and added to casseroles, stir-frys and other vegetable medley dishes.

Any reader suggestions or experiences using this cabbage-like vegetable?

Check back later for Healthy Tastes Great! kale recipe ideas.

elroySF Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

The 16 Most Powerful Foods

Foods That Help Combat Inflammation

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  1. I love kale. Recently I’ve been making a Kale-Sausage soup, with mashed cauliflower as the base, as well as stir fried kale with garlic and walnuts. For something simpler, steam it and serve with butter and sea salt. For all these I pull the leaves off the thick stems and tear them into bite-sized pieces.

    Ed Parsons wrote on February 7th, 2008
  2. Great recommendations for kale, Ed! Mashed cauliflower sounds really good too. I’ve had pureed broccoli and loved it. I’ll have to give mashed cauliflower a whirl…

    Aaron wrote on February 7th, 2008
  3. Roasted garlic, rosemary, sweet potato (+ leek) soup with kale. Puree the soup and add chopped kale. Delectable!

    Jay wrote on February 7th, 2008
  4. Wow! What an interesting combination. Sounds amazing! Now I’ve got dinner plans for two nights! Thanks, Jay.

    Aaron wrote on February 7th, 2008
  5. Those ideas do sound awesome!! I love the lactino kale!

    sarena wrote on February 7th, 2008
  6. Kale and sausage (farm-made from pastured meats, of course!)are a match made in culinary heaven.

    Sonagi wrote on February 7th, 2008
  7. Ive been a kale-skipper all these years…not sure Im IN yet but DANG that is one pretty looking health food.

    I might just be tempted.

    carla wrote on February 8th, 2008
  8. Does anyone know if kale is also available in tablet form??
    I’ll also be trying some of the recipes, but would like an easy way of taking it too – for the health benefits.

    Josie wrote on March 8th, 2008
  9. I love Kale. The taste took a little to get used to but I just throw it in with ym Romaine lettuce everyday for a bit of a different taste. WIll definitely look into some of these recipes though.

    Matt wrote on April 5th, 2010
  10. I have made kale chips. You tear them into pieces, sprinkler with olive oil and sea salt and bake. They are a bit crunch and taste oh so good! :)

    Lori wrote on May 12th, 2010
  11. kale chips are the BOMB! just found this recipe online and it’s delicious and easy to customize with what you have in the house: boil 2lbs. kale for 5-7 minutes in 4 qts boiling, salted water (about 1-2 tlbspoons sea salt) drain and icebath to stop cooking. in same pot on MED Heat, add 5 tblsp oil (you could make bacon and use the grease!) Add 2 tblsp chopped fresh garlic and sautee for 30 sec, add drained Kale (don’t squeeze wet kale, it’s OK if it’s a bit wet). Add 1/2 cup dried cranberries or bits of any dried fruit, perhaps some chopped nuts of choice. stir it around, add salt/pepper or any other spice you think would taste good.

    Don wrote on June 15th, 2010
  12. Kale is one of the most nutrient packed vegetables. The deeper the color, the more nutritious it is. Sometimes, I just throw it in with my stir fry.

    Jeff wrote on November 12th, 2010
  13. Mark – I’ve heard that Kale is bad for the thyroid because of goitrogens… is this true?

    ta wrote on August 8th, 2011
  14. Just found out about kale. It’s great and have been sauteing it and eating it with salmon.

    Joe wrote on December 7th, 2011
  15. I found this recipe for Kale and it’s great. This is an alternative to the same ‘ole, same ‘ole sauteing recipes out there.

    Kelly wrote on July 26th, 2012
  16. I make Kale chips that taste a lot like the ‘seaweed’ you get in chinese take-outs. Just put the kale on a baking tray with some oil and salt (to flavour) and bake at a low temperature (I use 125 C) until crispy but not burnt. In my oven this takes about 20-30 min.

    Dan wrote on January 10th, 2013
  17. delicious with a little vinegar, olive oil, parmersan cheese, italian spice, pinch of garlic, and kale torn in pieces and shook up in a bag, put in oven and baked till golden brown (350′) … Have it all the time. DELISH.

    PrilmalRach35 wrote on February 10th, 2013

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