Kale: A Nutrient-Dense Choice For Your Diet
Gone are the days of kale being simply a decoration on your plate at a restaurant or a divider at the salad bar. While some varieties of kale are still planted and used ornamentally, there are countless ways to add kale to your diet, and, it would be quite beneficial to your health to consider doing so if you haven’t already considering that kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Kale is Vermont’s Harvest of the Month for October, selected for its hardiness and ability to withstand frosts and snowfall, which we all know, is not out of the question for this time of year.
What is kale?
Kale is commonly referred to as a “new” food because of its recent boom in popularity and trendiness – FALSE!
Kale has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years and eaten in its wild form for much longer than that. Advances in science and technology have made it possible to discover the potential medicinal benefits of foods beyond just the necessary vitamins and minerals they provide – kale being one of those, hence the reason for its recent popularity.
What is the best way to eat kale?
Curly, flat, green, purple, raw, steamed – there’s no one size fits all when it comes to kale. Its incredible versatility makes it easy to add into dishes of all kinds.
The rugged leaves stand up well to cooking. So, next time you plan to cook with spinach, substitute kale into the recipe. Sneak a bit in your morning smoothie for an extra punch of nutrients with little to no effect on the taste. Or, massage a few leaves and add them to salad greens for a nutrient-boosting bite.
What are the types of kale?
Lacinato Kale (Dinosaur Kale, Tuscan Kale)
This dark blue-green Italian variety of kale doesn’t look like the “traditional” curly kale most people think of. It gets its nickname “Dinosaur Kale” from the reptilian-looking leaf texture.
This variety is traditionally used in soups and stews, but can be used in salads and is great for making crispy and delicious kale chips.
Fun Fact: Kale leaves sweeten after the frost. Do an experiment: early season kale vs. late season kale – which do you prefer?
Red Russian Kale
This type of kale, with its mild nutty flavor that is slightly sweet and earthy, is not only delicious, but beautiful to look at. The cold weather intensifies its deep red veins and overall green coloring.
Try adding the tender new sprouts of Red Russian Kale to your mixed green salads, or use the mature leaves to compliment the flavors of grilled pork, pancetta, sausage, garlic and onions.
Common Curly Kale
This is kale most of us call to mind when we think of the leafy green.
Curly, bright green, long woody stems – slightly bitter, but mild in flavor. You’ll want to massage it with some citrus or apple cider vinegar to soften it if you choose to eat it raw – a bit high maintenance, but worth it. Cooking or massaging will not soften the stems so it’s best to remove those and only use the leafy part.
What is kale’s nutritional profile?
Kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Believe it or not, one cup of raw kale contains more vitamin C than a whole orange and 4.5 times as much as spinach. Vitamin C is critical for the synthesis of collagen, the most abundant structural protein in the body.
Kale also contains 684% of the recommend daily amount of Vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.
Kale has many incredible health benefits, including the ability to help lower cholesterol with its omega-3 fatty acid. Kale has also been studied and found to combat cancer cells. If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate more highly beneficial nutrients into your diet, try experimenting with kale.
Recipe: Yellow Squash With Kale
This quick and simple yet flavorful recipe for Yellow Squash with Kale is a delicious side dish option for those chilly fall weeknight dinners.
Yellow squash and kale are both relatively cheap produce items that you will absolutely be able to find in your local supermarket during this time of year. Enjoy!
- 3/4lb kale, stemmed, washed and chopped, slightly damp
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1lb yellow summer squash, sliced
- 2cloves garlic, minced
- Salt to taste
- 1tsp fresh thyme leaves OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
- Black pepper to taste
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add squash and cook, for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly brown and translucent.
- Add garlic and stir 30 seconds then add kale and continue to cook and stir for about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add salt, thyme and 1/4 cup of water or stock and continue to cook and stir another 5 minutes until squash and greens are tender. Add more water or stock if the mixture seems dry or sticks to pan.
- Season to taste and serve.
Abbi Bailey is an Employee Wellness Health Coach with Employee Wellness and Employer Health Management at the University of Vermont Medical Center.