From our July 26, 2010 newsletter:
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that has gained recent widespread attention due to its health-promoting, sulfur-containing phytonutrients; which promote detoxifying enzymes in the liver. Kale has also emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of traditional nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese; and is a very good source of dietary fiber, calcium, copper, and potassium. Kale is well known for its carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. These act like sunglass filters and prevent damage to the eyes from excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. This combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients makes kale a health superstar!
So how does this superstar affect your health? Just 3 to 5 servings a week can make all the difference in the world! For about 20 years, we've known that many phytonutrients work as antioxidants to disarm free radicals before they can damage DNA, cell membranes and fat-containing molecules such as cholesterol. Now, new research is revealing that phytonutrients in crucifers, such as kale, work at a much deeper level. These compounds actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds. The natural synergy that results optimizes our cells' ability to disarm and clear free radicals and toxins, including potential carcinogens, which may be why cruciferous vegetables appear to significantly lower our risk of certain types of cancers.
Kale an excellent source of vitamin C; is primarily a water-soluble antioxidant, disarming free radicals and preventing damage in the aqueous environment both inside and outside cells. Free radical damage to other cellular structures and other molecules can result in painful inflammation, as the body tries to clear out the damaged parts. Vitamin C, which prevents the free radical damage that triggers the inflammatory cascade, is also associated with reducing the severity of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Free radicals also oxidize cholesterol. Only after being oxidized does cholesterol stick to artery walls, building up in plaques that may eventually grow large enough to impede or fully block blood flow, or rupture to cause a heart attack or stroke. Since vitamin C can neutralize free radicals, it can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol.
Kale is also very good source of calcium, one of the nutrients needed to make healthy bones. Kale is not a highly allergenic food, nor does it contain any saturated fat - plus, a cup of kale supplies 93.6 mg of calcium for only 36.4 calories. In contrast, a cup of 2% cow's milk provides 296.7 mg of calcium, but the cost is high: 121.2 calories and 14.6% of the day's suggested limit on saturated fat.
That same cup of kale will also provide you with 27% of your daily manganese needs. This trace mineral helps produce energy from protein and carbohydrates, and is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids that are important for a healthy nervous system.
Kale's health benefits continue with its fiber; a cup of kale provides over 10% of your body's daily need for fiber, which has been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels thus helping to prevent atherosclerosis. Fiber can also help out by keeping blood sugar levels under control, so kale is an excellent vegetable for people with diabetes.
If you have noticed a trend here, guess what - you are right! Kate is a superstar! It provides the body with a well balanced, low calorie, powerhouse of nutrients, package.
Kale should be wrapped in a damp (not wet) paper towel, placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator crisper. It should not be washed before storing since this may cause it to become limp. Kale can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, although it is best when eaten within one or two days, since the longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes.
Before eating or cooking, wash the kale leaves thoroughly under cool running water to remove any sand or dirt that may remain in the leaves. Both the leaves and the stem of kale can be eaten.