Written by Dianna Beaulaurier
CWU student interning with North Star Lodge Nutrition Services
Kale is classified as being the most nutritious cruciferous vegetable or member of the cabbage family. A few other super nutrient veggies in this family include: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bokcChoy, arugula, horseradish, radishes, and even wasabi. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, some studies have shown kale to possess the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells that form tumors in the breast, uterine lining, lung, colon, liver, and cervix. And studies that track the diets of people over time have found that those diets high in cruciferous vegetables such as kale are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer. Some reasons for kale to aid in the prevention of cancer is because it’s a vegetable high in antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin K, A, and C, folic acid, and manganese. Furthermore, kale is known as being beneficial in reducing oxidative stress, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases because of its adequate fiber content, and its anti-inflammatory properties.
It is recommended that at a minimum you include kale and other cruciferous vegetables in your regular diet 2-3 times per week at a serving size of 1-1/2 cups to adequately receive the health benefits of this family. Eventually, increase your serving size of kale and related vegetables to 4-5 times per week at a serving size of 2 cups.
When selecting kale, look for firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems. Small sized kale leaves tend to be tenderer and have a milder flavor than those with larger leaves. Kale should be housed in a cool environment since warm temperatures often cause wilting of the leaves and a bitter taste. Also, avoid leaves that have signs of browning, yellowing, and small holes. Kale is available all year long but its peak season is the middle of winter through the beginning of spring, since it is a vegetable that thrives in cooler weather.
To store kale, place in a plastic, sealable storage bag and remove as much air from the bag as possible. Only store kale in the refrigerator for about 5 days because the longer it is stored the more bitter its flavor becomes. Also, do not wash kale before storing because exposure to water encourages spoilage. A tip found to reduce the bitter taste if noticed in kale, is to freeze the vegetable before preparation for eating.
Tips for preparing Kale:
Before using kale, rinse leaves thoroughly under cold running water, massage the vegetable for roughly 5 minutes and let rest for another 5 minutes to ensure maximum health benefits. It has been shown that sprinkling the kale with lemon juice before resting can enhance its valuable health properties further. Chop the kale leaves into 1/2” slices and the stems into 1/4” lengths for quick and even cooking. Steaming kale is best method of preparation to receive the maximum health benefits and it is recommended that it only be steamed for 5 minutes, than rest for another 5 minutes before serving.
Few Quick Serving Ideas
- For healthy steaming, fill a pot so that about 2 inches of water are in it and wait for it to boil. When a rapid boil appears in the pot, steam kale for about 5 minutes and add dressing or favorite toppings such as olives, tomatoes, onions, feta cheese or chicken.
- Braise chopped kale and apples. Before serving, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped walnuts.
- Combine chopped kale, pine nuts, and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil.
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