You really can’t ‘beet’ kale.
As one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth, the mighty kale leaf won’t be wilting away any time soon. Kale hails from the cabbage family along with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and of course, cabbage. Kale is considered a cold-weather crop and grows well in fall and spring. In case you were wondering, National Kale Day is observed on the first Wednesday of October.
There are multiple varieties of kale (16 to be exact). These include curly leaf kale, dinosaur kale (a.k.a. lacinato kale), white kale, red Russian kale, Siberian kale, Chinese kale, baby kale, black kale, sea kale, redbor kale, premier kale, walking stick kale, Portuguese kale, Brazilian kale, purple kale, and ornamental kale.
So much kale, so little thyme!
This post continues our series on affordable and nutritious veggies.
Kale is seriously popular among health enthusiasts for good reason. In addition to being very low in calories (roughly 35 calories per cup of chopped kale), kale provides beta-carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin C. It’s also a good source of potassium and calcium and provides a small amount of iron and other micronutrients.
Kale also adds fiber to your diet. Don’t just eat the leaves! The woody stalks can be chopped up and sauteed to be used in soups and stews --their flavor is similar to celery.
Health Benefits from “Start to Finish”
As part of the cabbage family, kale is a source of sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, two powerful antioxidants that may be beneficial in reducing the risk of cancer.
A systematic review of studies on fruit and vegetable intake and bladder cancer risk was conducted and showed that while fruit and vegetable intake show inconsistent data on prevention of bladder cancer, subgroup data on specific fruits and vegetables indicates that green leafy vegetables (like kale) may help prevent bladder cancer.
Did you know that leafy vegetables like kale may also play a role in mental health?
A systematic review of studies analyzing intake of fruit and vegetable intake and mental health was published in Nutrients. The study focuses primarily on depression in addition to sleep, quality of life, mood, self-efficacy, curiosity, creativity, optimism, self-esteem, stress, nervousness, happiness, and anxiety. Data suggested that a high total intake of fruits and vegetables, including green leafy vegetables, may lower psychological stress, reduce depression, and foster well-being.
Ways to be Kaleful:
Kale is inexpensive and easy to work into your diet. Here are a few tips:
- Add chopped kale to frittatas or omelets.
- Substitute part of your salad greens with chopped kale.
- Use chopped kale stems in stir-fries and soup stock.
- Try roasted or air-fried kale with a drizzle of oil and a dusting of garlic salt.
- Add massaged kale to your favorite grain bowl. Massaging kale for a few minutes improves its texture and taste.
By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
- 16 Different Types of Kale Varieties (With Pictures) - AMERICAN GARDENER
- G??bska D, Guzek D, Groele B, Gutkowska K. Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 1;12(1):115. doi: 10.3390/nu12010115. PMID: 31906271; PMCID: PMC7019743.
- Xu C, Zeng XT, Liu TZ, Zhang C, Yang ZH, Li S, Chen XY. Fruits and vegetables intake and risk of bladder cancer: a PRISMA-compliant systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 May;94(17):e759.
PDF Handout: Kale and Your Health
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/