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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