Kale: One Easy Way to Add More Superfoods to Your Diet
(Kale image via Thinkstock.)
For locavores, it’s the most wonderful time of year: farmers market season! And, we are in for a good one, thanks to the mild winter here in Boston. Most markets start mid- to late June in Massachusetts, but some have already opened up shop, including the Boston City Hall Farmer’s Market — and just in time for the start of kale season. This vegetable is a worthy recipient of the (often overused) term “superfood” and deserves to make it into your reusable shopping bag this June.
By now, you’ve probably heard about kale, the leafy green nutrition powerhouse from the cabbage family that is among the oldest cultivated vegetables. It was a favorite in ancient Rome and has remained popular in Europe, especially in Scotland and Ireland. Kale has gained popularity in the United States in recent years as a “superfood,” though it doesn’t reach as many plates in America as it does in Europe. Interestingly, the largest consumer of kale in the United States is Pizza Hut — but only to decorate the salad bar. What a waste! This vegetable deserves to be front and center for its nutrient density and flavor.
While all fruits and vegetables provide health benefits, kale really stands out from the pack due to its variety of nutrients. It’s high in beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which support eye health. It’s also high in Vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting, and Vitamin C, which is important for the growth and repair of tissues in the body. Kale is also reasonably high in calcium, with nearly 200 mg of calcium per cup cooked (milk has 300 mg per cup). It is important to note, however, that the calcium in kale and other greens is easier for our bodies to absorb than the calcium found in milk.
Kale has a fresh, sometimes bitter taste and works well sautéed in garlic and olive oil or added to soups, salads, or even smoothies. Here’s one smoothie recipe you can try now:
1 cup of skim milk (or milk substitute)
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
3/4 cup frozen mixed berries
Small handful of fresh kale or 1/2 cup frozen kale
1 tablespoon honey
Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
Nutrition: Calories: 270. Protein: 14g. Fat: 0g. Fiber: 4g.