Many people know the name and shudder at the mere thought of it. Kale, the tough leafy green that is touted to have so many health benefits and nutrients in it that it is considered a “super food”.
What is it really? Where did it come from and how come we are only in the past 30 years being told to include it in our diets? What are the health benefits of kale and how can I include it in my diet?
What is Kale? Kale is usually described as a dark leafy green or a type of cabbage that doesn’t grow into a head. It actually comes in both green and purple varieties depending on what you have available in your area.
The most common kind you can find is the green variety, and I have seen it still whole in the produce section as well as chopped in the frozen food section.
Both fresh are frozen are great to use in your cooking as kale is a tougher vegetable and can hold up to being frozen. Even after cooking, many times kale still has a bite to it.
The nutritional value of kale is astounding! IT has 206% of your Vitamin A, 648% of your Vitamin K, and 134% of your vitamin C intake. That’s not to mention the Vitamin B6, Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Magnesium that it contains. OF course all of this is based on a standard 2000 calorie diet with the serving size being approximately 1 cup chopped or 67g.
Kale is thought to come from the Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas where it was cultivated as food around 2000 B.C. Many varieties of cabbage existed at that time and included both curled and straight varieties.
Kale was considered to be a medicinal food that was used to treat many ailments including those of the bowl.
It was a very popular crop to grow in Russia as it was cheap and actually could desalinate the soil. Kale came to the Americas via Russian traders. Here it was mostly used in the 19th century as a decorative element for floral displays until around the 1990s when its nutritional value become more well-known.
Kale really can become a part of anyone’s diet. It is a great leafy vegetable that can withstand various cooking methods and flavor profiles. One of my favorite ways to use kale is to add it as a veggie into almost anything that you would normally use spinach in.
I have used it in omelets, in marinara sauce and pesto, on pizza, in soup and even as a side dish sauteed up with some garlic and olive oil. How much of a bite(mouth feel) you want it to have will depend on how long you cook it for. If you want it more tender, cook it longer.
Kale fresh from the produce section does need to be cleaned first. You want to go through your leaves and rinse them off with cool water. You have the option of removing the leaves from the stem or not, again depending on how much bite you want the kale to have.
I recommend to always cut kale up into bite sized pieces whether you are keeping the stem or not. This will help prevent pieces that are too tough to chew and swallow and will help allow for an even cooking time.
Frozen kale is one of my go to freezer items as the variety I purchase comes already chopped. I just portion out how much I want to use and pop it in the microwave for 1 minute. This helps defrost as well as start the cooking process as I have people in my household who are not big fans of kale and prefer it to be more soft.
Another great way to consume some kale along with other delicious veggies and fruits is in a smoothie.
Smoothies can be any mixture of vegetables, fruits, yogurt, milk, nuts and liquid. They can be personalized to your taste and preferences.
Don’t like yogurt? Use some silken tofu instead. Lactose intolerant? Use almond, cashew, or soy milk in its place. Like your smoothie to not be as thick? Add more liquid to thin it out. The choice and possibilities are endless.
With that in mind, here are some really good base flavor combinations to try out. I highly encourage you to try as you go and add more or less of the ingredients to suit your taste.
Again, feel free to add what you like! Have some extra blueberries on hand then throw those in. A little extra banana is alright and a little less kale is fine too. IF you want it a little sweeter I suggest adding some sort of natural sweetener such as honey or agave. Start with a small amount, 1 tsp., taste then adjust.
This is for YOUR benefit, so make it something that you will enjoy eating and will want to eat again and again.
As it stands, kale is not the big scary ingredient that many people perceive it as. Yes, it might take a little extra work to get it into your diet on a regular basis, but considering the health benefits that come along with it I see it as completely worth it.
Just keep in mind that most any recipe that calls for spinach can be substituted as kale. This will help you expand your ideas on what you can use it in and find old recipes that you can revamp and make healthier for you and your family.
If you have any comments or questions, or just want to share how you are using kale in your life and recipes you have used, please feel free to comment below. I would love to hear from you and learn what you are doing.