Kale is becoming a more popular vegetable as the now trendy kale chips have hit the health food market shelves as a healthy alternative to starchy potato chips. Kale chips may be light on the hips, but they are certainly not light on the wallet!
One single-serving bag of these gourmet kale chips can cost you up to $10 — purchasing fresh kale by the bunch will save you tons of money while sparing yourself the extra calories from added processed ingredients.
Don’t just follow the trend; educate yourself. It’s time you find out exactly why and how you can introduce this super-healthy whole food into your diet.
What is Kale?
A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, kale is a relative of broccoli, cabbage, and many other healthy green leaf vegetables.1 There are a few varieties of kale including curly kale, ornamental kale, and Tuscan or Lacinato kale known as “dinosaur” kale, each offering a slightly different taste and texture. The most common variety is curly kale, available in domestic grocery stores, recognized for its ruffled hardy leaves, and sharp peppery taste.2
Curly kale served an important role during ancient Roman times as a staple food for peasants and it is said that kale was brought to the United States by English settlers in the 17th century². However, both ornamental and dinosaur kale are more recent variations, and didn’t make their debuts until the 19th or 20th centuries.
Kale Health Benefits
Kale contains many important vitamins and minerals including3:
- Remarkably high levels of antioxidants, particularly carotenoids and flavonoids
- Manganese and other essential minerals including calcium, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus
- Vitamins: K, A, C, B
- Essential heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
This nutrient panel provided by kale has been linked to specific health benefits:
- Kale can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation
The high levels of antioxidants found in kale have been linked to reduced oxidative stress and chronic inflammation associated with cancer preventative benefits. Carotenoids such as lutein and beta-carotene, and flavonoids including kaempferol, quercetin seem to play a significant role in these cancer-fighting mechanisms.
- Kale can support the body’s detoxification processes
Phytochemical isothiocyanates (ITCs) metabolized from glucosinolates found in kale, and high levels of sulfur compounds found in kale, help regulate and support detoxification at the cellular level. This cellular detoxification helps the body combat both dietary and environmental toxins.
- Kale can help lower cholesterol
Fiber-related components found in kale bind together with bile acids in the digestive tract and are excreted, thereby lowering cholesterol levels.
Buying & Storing Kale:
Look for kale in the cooled produce section of your local grocery store or health food market. It is recommended that you buy kale that is grown organically, as kale has become one of the newest members of the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the most contaminated foods.
The leaves should be firm and deeply colored with stems that are moist and strong. Make sure that the leaves are not browning or yellowing, and they are free from small holes. If the raw leaves show signs of wilting, it is an indication that the greens have been sitting on the shelf for too long, or they were not properly stored…avoid these wilting leaves that alter the taste of the vegetable and can introduce unwanted toxins into your body.4
To store, keep kale refrigerated in an airtight bag. It can typically be stored for up to 5 days, but you may notice the flavor increase in bitterness with longer storage. Only wash the kale when you are ready to use it as washing before storage will promote spoilage.
How to Fit Kale Into Your Diet
- Steam kale with your favorite vegetables
- Prepare a raw kale salad
- Blend kale and add to your favorite green smoothies
- Bake kale for a healthy snack
Kale Nutrition Information
Notice how 1 cup of Kale is only 33 calories and packs substantial Vitamin A & C. In fact, Kale almost has as much vitamin C as an orange.
If you sauté kale with your scrambled eggs in the morning, mix in some black beans, cherry tomatoes and cilantro it’s delicious and a quick easy way to add kale to your diet.
Yes, that’s what I do with kale. I chop it finely and saute it with eggs, onions, garlic and serve it with freshly sliced tomato and advocado if I have some on hand. It’s so good and healthy. I hardly miss not having the bread.
I love kale! I usually braise or steam it.
Anyone have any “favorite” recipes?
Are there any cleaning methods that are effective at removing these dangerous pesticides from the “Dirty Dozen”? I have been eating the foods on the list like crazy the last 7 and a half weeks, and would like to continue enjoying them “lifelong”. Is organic the only real option?
It’s a favourite of mine as an added vegetable in different curries. (green, red, yellow, indian etc.)
Thanks for putting this article together, Jessica. I’m looking forward to your upcoming Kale recipe ideas.
Kale, along with Swiss chard, is the standard green that I buy at the store. I usually simply saute shredded kale with either garlic or onion. Sometimes I even saute kale together with chard (kale is more bitter while chard is sweeter). Putting in bacon bits also helps pop some more flavor in there. Another option is to cut the leaves very thinly and use/mix the fresh strips as salad.
I enjoyed your article Jessica – I have really come to like Kale and have pretty much used it to replace lettuce in salads, and there is nothing like that ‘sewer’ color you get from a chocolate protein powder and Kale smoothie 🙂
You mention how expensive Kale chips were, let alone the extra ‘shtuff’ that may be in them – do you have a good way to make these without having to get a food dehydrator?
@Barry – Jessica has a baked Kale chips post coming up soon, we will likely put it up in the next 2-3 weeks. Thanks for your comment.
Hello Marc. I did not know a thing about kale and its influence on the diet. i am glad it can be used in a salad. Thanks for sharing.
I have been juicing this along with a tart green apple and it is incredibly good. Throw in a little ginger after a heavy workout to help with inflammation or a beet for added detox. Cheers!
I LOVE KALE……I make kale chips!! They are an awesome treat that the entire family loves. My kids cannot get enough. I break the kale into bite size pieces, add different seasonings to different batches, and bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. BETTER THAN POTATO CHIPS!
I sautee beans, onions garlic and kale in a pan and let it simmer in salsa. sooo good
Why oh WHY do ALL the stores now WATER ALL of their fresh produce??? Even my favorite, Natural Grocers, waters so heavily, I don’t buy their produce anymore, it’s nearly rotten on the shelves, and even if it’s pretty fresh, it rots quickly at home. Kale especially, it cannot take the water. I’ve begged them to please stop this, but to no avail. NOT a happy shopper.
I can definitely identify with your frustrations about the quality of produce at grocery stores. Some stores definitely seem to water pretty aggressively, and not every vegetables needs the hydration. It’s great that you’ve spoken up to your primary market, but you might want to consider checking out a farmer’s market or another grocery store instead. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I hope that helps!
-Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor