In an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables and encourage you to do the same, I’m introducing a new series on my blog called “Fresh Now”, where I will highlight a fruit or vegetable that is in season.
You’ll get all the details about the health benefits as well as info on how to cook with and use the fruit or vegetable so that you will find it easier to eat it more often.
In this first Fresh Now post, I’m going to highlight kale. Exciting, right? Ha, ha! I know vegetables aren’t the most exciting topic in the world, but WE ALL need to be eating more of them for better health!
If you didn’t catch my article last week about the 3 steps you can take to make eating more fruits and vegetables a lifelong habit, you can read it here!
Kale may have been the darling vegetable several years ago, when it seemed like all we heard about or talked about in the food and nutrition world was kale, but just because it’s no longer in the spotlight doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a regular in our meals and snacks!
Health Benefits of Kale
Kale is a leafy green that is part of the brassica family of plants. You may also see these vegetables labeled as cruciferous vegetables. Other vegetables in the brassica family are:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
The health benefits of these cruciferous vegetables could take a while to go over because there are so many of them! I’ll highlight the main benefits below!
- Kale is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, especially beta-carotene, lutein, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folate (a B Vitamin). You can thank them for improved skin and eye health as well as higher energy levels and reduced risk for depression.
- The high antioxidant levels in kale protect against oxidative damage in the body, which is good because oxidative damage in the body contributes to the development of many common diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
- Eating more cruciferous veggies, like kale, decreases the risk of death from heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.
- Eating more cruciferous vegetables like kale can help lower inflammation in the body. Higher levels of inflammation are associated with a higher risk for diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, and infectious diseases.
- Kale is high in fiber, which promotes a healthy digestive system and can help improve blood sugar control, improve cholesterol levels and lower the risk for heart disease.
How to Use Kale – Raw or Cooked?
Kale is one of the most versatile greens when it comes to being able to use it in a variety of ways. Sure, you can use kale in salads, just like any other salad green, but you don’t have to stop there!
Because kale is such a hearty green, it holds up really well when cooked. So, you can choose whether to eat it cooked or raw and this opens up a wide variety of recipes to make with kale.
Check out this list of ways to use kale if you need some inspiration!
- Soups and stews
- Lettuce wraps
- Kale chips (great for snacking!)
How to Prep Kale
The most common varieties of kale in grocery stores in the United States are:
- Curly kale
- Red Kale
Each of these varieties of kale can be used in recipes that call for kale, so choose whatever kale looks best when you’re picking it out.
The only time you may need to be more selective of what variety of kale to choose is If you are using kale in place of a tortilla to make wraps. Then, the Lacinato kale is the best variety to use because it’s flatter and will roll up more easily.
Preparing kale is very simple. If your recipe calls for torn or chopped kale, use a sharp knife to cut out the tough stem or rib that runs down the center of each kale leaf.
Then you can use your hands or a knife to tear or chop the kale leaf into the size pieces you need.
Rinse the kale with cold water to wash the kale. I prefer to use a salad spinner for this job so that I can more easily dry the kale before using it.
If you’re making salad with the kale, one simple extra step that makes the kale a bit easier to eat is to massage the kale. To do this, drizzle the torn kale leaves with a very small amount of olive oil. Use your fingers to gently massage the kale leaves until they have darkened and look slightly wilted.
This will make them more tender to eat. You can add your dressing and eat the massaged kale right away, or you can store the massaged kale in the refrigerator for several hours before eating it.
Here is a great salad recipe that uses massaged kale. Hand-Wilted Kale Apple Salad with Honey-Roasted Pecans
How to Cook Kale
Cooking kale doesn’t require a lot of effort. The method for cooking cake will depend on what you are making with it.
Listed below are several ways that you can use kale in recipes as well as links to recipes that use kale in each way.
- Maple-Mustard Chicken with One Pan Roasted Veggies and Crispy Kale
- Crispy Kale and Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Chickpeas
Now that you know how versatile kale is when it comes to cooking with kale and how healthy kale is, I want you to plan a couple of times to eat kale in the next week. Let me know what you plan to make by leaving a comment below! And, if you have any questions about kale, please let me know that too!