By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
What It Is
All hail kale! It’s the hottest green in the produce catwalk these days with good reason. Chopped in salads, steamed, sauteed, baked or toasted into crisps, this verdantly versatile leafy green may wear a lot of costumes, but underneath it all is a natural nutritional wonder. The cross-like cell structure puts kale in the cabbage family, along with uncle broccoli, auntie cauliflower and cousin collards. You’ll find it in purple and green, curly and wavy, but mostly find it en route to your lips, because the hottest green can bring out your hottest you.
The Dirty Deets
Kale is a warrior that fights against heart disease, cancer, inflammation and toxins. To make the most of all it has to offer, chow down on 1 1/2 cups a few times a week. At 33 calories a cup, that is a really strong nutritional investment. There are some other things you may not know:
- Kale has 134 percent of your daily vitamin C needs (twice as much as an orange), 206 percent of your vitamin A recs and 684 percent of your daily vitamin K. It has more calcium per serving than milk and is loaded with ALA, an important omega 3 fatty acid that keeps your brain sharp and heart throbby. Bonus: All of the nutrition in this catwalk wonder is super easy for the human bod to absorb.
- I’ve implied kale is a supermodel and called it a natural wonder, but sadly it is linked to some legit bad press. The Environmental Working Grouphas found a spot for this leafy green on it’s dirty dozen list because the pesticide residues found on kale are toxic to our nervous systems. There is no sugar-coating this one, we actually don’t know how much of this residue can be washed off and how much becomes systemic to the leaf. Buy organic when possible.
- Detox. D-whaaat? Yeah. You don’t need a pill, liquids or an enema. In my world, detox means taking time to eat foods that clean up the systems that may get loaded with toxins. Enter kale. It helps take a scrub brush to the liver, kidneys, colon, skin, lungs and lymph. Flush that, toxins!
How to Chow Down
If you think our new supermodel natural wonder is the panacea to what ails you, I’ll remind you not to overdo it. Everything in moderation, my friends, as too much kale (in smoothies or daily loading) can slow your thyroid, and you don’t need that. (Note: In most people with normal thyroid function the benefits of kale realllly outweigh the risks. People with existing thyroid conditions should check with their doctor, but most can enjoy kale as part of a healthy diet.)
Here’s How To Roll
- Want to follow the trends? Move over, iceberg! Replace shredded and super finely-chopped kale for your usual salad green. Toast up a bowl of kale chips for the big game, or make a roasted Brussels sprout and kale slaw. Keep in mind that the little bit of fat in your recipes helps the nutrients in kale work their magic.
- If you are looking to stick with classic, old school recipes, go for a smoothie, soup or sauteed side to compliment your entree.