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Kale a truly super superfood

Juiced, chopped, sautéed, added to soups or baked into chips, kale has taken the spotlight as a super ‘superfood.’ And it deserves the title as a nutritional powerhouse. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, it can be easily added into many dishes or even baked into an afternoon super snack such as a kale chip (recipe to follow)

Kale is a descendant of wild cabbage in the cruciferous family. It is a tough hardy green and comes in many varieties such as curly, rape, plain, spear and dinosaur, ranging in colours from dark green to a bluish hue.

The leaf can be tough and somewhat bitter but don’t let that stop you from eating it – the bitterness can be reduced by marinating it with lemon juice and oil. Gently kneading kale leaves in the hands before tossing into a dish can also help release enzymes that will further reduce any bitter taste.

Kale is truly a powerhouse of nutrition. It contains more than 45 different flavonoids such as kaempferol and quercetin, known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and carotenoids such as beta carotene and lutein, vitamins such as K (almost twice the level of other cruciferous veggies), vitamin C and minerals such as calcium and iron. It is also high in fibre (seven grams per 100 calories). And if that weren’t enough, it contains sulphoraphane, which is a potent anti-cancer chemical.

When buying kale look for a uniform colour and leaves that contain no holes or yellow patches. Generally the smaller leaves tend to have a more tender texture and a milder flavour than the larger ones.

Organic kale should be purchased if possible. According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group, kale is a heavily sprayed crop and often contaminated with organophosphate insecticides. They rate kale as one of the “dirty dozen” crops in their 2013 data. To avoid the pesticides and obtain the best nutrient value, organic is the way to go.

Once purchased, kale will stay freshest in a sealed bag in the fridge, for up to five days. But it can become increasingly bitter the longer it sits, so it is best to buy it as needed.

Kale is a fantastic addition to most people’s diet. However, if you have a thyroid condition or are deficient in iodine, raw kale consumption should be monitored. The hydrolysis of specific glucosinolates found in cruciferous veggies – such as kale – can produce a compound called a goitrogen. These chemicals can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones in an already compromised thyroid gland.

On the other hand, cooked kale can help lower the goitrogenic effects on the thyroid. Adding sea vegetables or other foods that are rich in iodine and selenium into the diet, such as eggs and Brazil nuts, can help to counter the goitrogenic effects and assist with overall health of the entire body including the thyroid gland.

This fabulous cruciferous can be added into the diet in so many ways, but for those trying it for the first time, crunchy kale chips are a tasty place to start. The following is my recipe for Ranch kale chips:

Wash and dry well one bunch of kale. Remove the tougher stems with a knife. Set aside. In a high speed blender, mix together until smooth 3/4 cup of raw cashews (soaked overnight and drained), 1 tsp onion powder, sea salt to taste, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried dill, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp honey, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Pour over kale and, using hands, gently scrunch together kale to cover all leaves. Sprinkle 1/8 to 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast over top and place on a lined baking sheet. Bake on the lowest possible convection setting (high heat will destroy enzymes) for about one hour, turning over as needed, until crispy. Enjoy!

 

Sheila Ream, CNP is a certified nutritionist in the Beach  ~  sheilaream@sympatico.ca

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