Functional Foods: Kale Yeah!

By Christine “Cricket” Giles, M.S., B.S., Certified Nutrition Consultant


When it comes to this trendy leafy green, do you like it, love it, just tolerate it because you know it’s “good” for you, or the last alternative Oh Kale NO! …you won’t touch it? It took me quite a while to try kale and I only tried it because I knew it was “good” for me. Alas, I slowly started to incorporate kale into my diet. I started by adding it to smoothies, meatballs, soups and stews, in foods that I wouldn’t be able to taste it in. Over time, I came to enjoy eating kale and now one of my favorite salads I make is a kale salad. Anyways, enough about me. Let me inform you on why kale should be incorporated into your diet.


The Super Pill You’re Looking For

Kale: the leafy, green bitter-tasting plant is considered a superfood and a part of the cruciferous vegetable family. It is one of the healthiest foods and most nutrient-dense, meaning it packs a lot of “good” in a little amount. Kale may be that super pill you’ve been looking for. Eating greens, in general, is associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases. But, why? Let’s go back to grade school science class. Chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants, is what gives kale its green color. It is the pigment that allows plants to absorb light. As Dr. Gregor explains, it is like leaves changing color in the fall. The beautiful colors that show in the fall have been in the leaves all along, but they were masked by the chlorophyll absorbing light. So, how does this relate to kale? It simply means that kale contains the various colors of the rainbow within its green exterior and those colors (in relation to foods, specifically vegetables) comprise various phytonutrients that help fight against chronic disease.


Nutrient Content of Kale

Greens offer the most nutrition per calorie of any other foods. Specifically, what does kale offer nutritionally? Kale is packed with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The colors of fruits and vegetables represent various aides in health and the darker the color the more nutritious. As explained above, kale contains all the hues of the rainbow and therefore has many benefits for health. As seen in the nutritional facts, there are many components that make kale "super".


Four Different Types of Kale and What to Use Them For

So, what kind of kale should you buy? There are a few different varieties. The ones I mention here can all be found in most grocery stores: black, red, baby, and green kale. However, the kind of kale you buy does not make any difference (nutritionally - there are no big differences) as long as you consume it!






Black kale, also known as Lacinato, Dinosaur, or Tuscan kale is best used in soups and stews.








Red kale or Russian kale is great in salads along with other greens and is delicious sauteed or braised.








Baby kale, the precursor to green kale has a softer, milder taste and can be used in salads along with other greens.







Green kale or Curly kale is probably what you think of when you hear the word kale. It is a more mature version (leafy) and has a slightly bitter taste. Curly kale can be used in salads, to make kale chips (see recipe below), sauteed, or roasted with other vegetables.



Food For Thought

One precautionary thing to note is the amount of greens you are consuming if you are taking drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin). Warfarin contains anticoagulants, which act as blood-thinners that antagonize the enzyme that recycles Vitamin K. As I mentioned above, Vitamin K is associated with blood clotting. Anticoagulant drugs deplete Vitamin K dependent clotting factors in the body. Therefore, if taking an anticoagulant, it is important to let your doctor know the quantity of greens you are consuming so your practitioner can properly titrate the drug so as to not undermine its effectiveness.


Garlic Parmesan Kale Chips

*vegan substitute provided

Ingredients:

1 Bunch Curly kale

1TBSP or less of your oil of choice (I used grapeseed)

1 tsp or a sprinkle of garlic salt or powder

2 TBSP parmesan cheese

* For vegan: nutritional yeast or vegan cheese of choice

**The toppings can be adjusted to your flavor preferences. I like a cheesier taste.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º degrees

Rinse and dry kale, making sure to dry all crevices of leaves

Tear kale apart from stems and into bite-sized pieces

Place kale in a bowl and coat in oil of choice (you should barely be able to see oil)

Transfer kale to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread evenly as to not overlap kale

Sprinkle garlic salt/ nutritional yeast to your preference

Bake in the oven for 12-18 minutes depending on preferred crispiness and oven


If you'd like more information on how to work with Christine on your nutrition-related goals, please email hello@carolinaholistichealth.com.





**Reminder: This is an educational article that does not constitute medical advice. It is always recommended to speak with your healthcare provider before implementing any of the above recommendations, especially if you have pre-existing conditions or are taking medications.