Kale: Love it, Buy it, Eat it!

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What the Kale?!

Kale is a member of the Brassica Oleracea species which includes cabbage, collard greens, cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts just to name a few.  In the wild, it is assumed to have originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe or in Asia Minor, and is a ‘primitive’ cabbage that is known to have been around for at least 2,000 years.   Wild Kale was the beginning of cabbage as we know it but over centuries of cultivation the other more popular forms such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, were born.

kale image

Image by The Daily Kale

Until the middle ages, Kale was the main vegetable put on the table.  It is frost-hardy, which gives it its best flavor and does not grow well in hot weather.  It was a staple in Northern Europe and Britain, until the potato was introduced.  During World War II, the cultivation of kale in the U.K. was encouraged by the Dig for Victory campaign as it was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a ‘normal’ diet due to rationing.  It is interesting to note, that with our increased knowledge about nutrition, kale is coming full circle and is now replacing the potato.

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As many of us know, eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables is best for our health.  Kale, however, is considered by many experts as the number one super food on the planet, running second only on some lists to spirulina, (seaweed).   Why is kale a super food and how is this determined?

Nutritional density is a measure of the amount of nutrients a food contains in comparison to the number of calories.  A food is more nutrient dense when the level of nutrients is high in relationship to the number of calories the food contains.  An ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,) score shows the nutrient density of a food on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content, 1 being the lowest and 1000 the highest.  ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.

In the Comparison of raw kale versus raw spirulina, you can see why Kale could easily take the number one spot on the list of super foods.

Kale is high in many nutrients! 

Fiber:  Fiber is associated with lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, lowering risk of heart disease and type II diabetes.  Fiber aids in digestion, prevents constipation, and reduces the risk of diverticular disease, coronary disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity.  Some research has shown it can also reduce the risk of some cancers.

Iron:  Iron is a part of all cells in our body and does many things.  It is a part of many proteins and enzymes that maintain good health and is essential for the regulation of cell growth and differentiation.  It is part of the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies.

Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene):  Vitamin A is essential for normal growth, bone development, reproduction and vision.  It helps maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes which protect against infections in the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts.  There is also some research to support prevention of cancer.

 Vitamin C:  Protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health issues, eye diseases and wrinkles.  Vitamin C is also used to prevent and treat various cancers.

 Vitamin K:  Scientists have discovered that vitamin K regulates several biochemical processes that require exquisite balance to function normally, including blood coagulation, bone mineralization, and vascular health.

Calcium:  Less than 1% of the body’s calcium is required for critical metabolic functions such as vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion. The remaining 99% is stored in the bones and teeth where it supports their structure and function.

Manganese:  Manganese aids in the manufacture of enzymes necessary for metabolism of proteins and fats.  It is necessary for normal immune function, regulation of blood sugars, production of cellular energy, reproduction, digestion and bone growth.  It also works with vitamin K to support clotting of the blood.  Manganese also has antioxidant properties, is essential for the absorption of calcium, and the utilization of thiamin, vitamin B-1 and vitamin E.

Antioxidants (Carotenoids & Flavonoids):  Antioxidants protect against damaging free radicals in the body.  Free radicals are capable of attacking healthy cells in the body leading to damage, disease and severe disorders such as cancer, heart disease and immune system decline.

Anti-inflammatory:  Persistent, systemic inflammation is the cause of practically all known chronic health conditions.  Inflammation is your body’s response to stressors from your environment, lifestyle and diet.

Kale is considered one of the planet’s healthiest foods.  By eating the healthiest foods, you’ll get all the essential nutrients that you need for excellent health, including vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, fiber and more, for the least number of calories.  This will aid in maintaining a healthy weight, boosting immunity and disease prevention.

As with anything in life, moderation is the key.  Please keep in mind that too much of any nutrient can also cause adverse effects in the body and a healthy, balanced diet is always recommended.

You can find nutrient data for thousands of foods as provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 25, last modified Dec 7, 2011.

Another great resource is the World’s Healthiest Foods website. They provide a list of 127 foods that can serve as the basis of your healthiest way of eating, with links to articles about these foods and their nutrient content.  The World’s Healthiest Foods have been selected because they are among the richest sources of many of the essential nutrients needed for optimal health based on nutrient density as explained above.

World’s Healthiest Foods, article and nutrient profile on kale.

See What the Farmers are saying about Kale…

Visit Six Boots Growers Collective online!

Recipes

Kale Salad:

-1 bunch kale
-1 lemon
-3 cloves garlic
-1/3 cup olive oil
-salt
-raisins (organic)
-slivered almonds (organic dry toasted or raw and soaked or toasted)
-grape tomatoes

Mince the garlic and place it in the bottom of a large bowl.   Add the juice of one lemon.  Next add about 1/3 cup of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt.  Stir it all together.

Remove the hard stem from the middle of the kale and chop or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Toss the kale into the bowl and massage it into the dressing.   Really work it in there, don’t just toss it to coat, give it a vigorous massage!

The acid from the lemon, and the salt, help break down the kale so it isn’t so hard, chewy and bitter.  The massaging helps a lot as well.   If there isn’t enough liquid for your taste, add more olive oil.   Let it sit as long as you can, it gets better the longer it sits.

Toss raisins, almonds and tomatoes on top before serving.

Another Easy & Delicious Kale Salad Recipe

Sautéed Kale

Kale Soup

Kale Chips

Kale & Almond Pesto

Notes

-We recommend buying organic and local whenever possible to avoid pesticides, herbicides and fungicides

-When sautéing kale, remember to use oils that can be used at high heats without turning rancid such as organic coconut oil.  If you don’t like the coconut taste it adds to the food, you can try expeller pressed coconut oil or an organic broth, or both.

-Of course with any of the recipes contained in this article, experiment!!!   We often add whatever vegetables and fruits we have in our fridge or pantry to add additional flavor or nutrients.  Enjoy!

Where to Buy Kale in Nashville 

Kale Vendor Flyer

12 South Farmers Market

East Nashville Farmers Market 

Local CSA’s like Delvin Farms, Long Hungry Creek Farms with the Barefoot Farmer, Real Food Farms and MORE!

West End Farmers Market

West Nashville Farmers Market

Turnip Truck in The Gulch or East Nashville

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