Kale is a superfood that is unfortunately sadly misunderstood by many people who complain of its acrid taste. Given the amazing health benefits of kale (a close relative of broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and cabbage), enjoying this incredible leafy green comes down to knowing how to prepare it, to make it as delicious as it is beneficial.
We promise, after you’ve read this, you’ll give kale another try!
Why Should You Eat Kale?
Kale’s nutrient profile is nothing short of impressive. It contains (in alphabetical order) calcium for healthy bones and teeth; carotenoids for youthful skin; fiber for healthy digestion; flavonoids (quercetin and kaempferol) with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties; iron for a healthy cardiovascular and respiratory system; potassium for a healthy nervous system and optimal muscle functioning; Vitamin A for healthy skin, teeth, bones and soft tissue; vitamin C for a strong immune system; and vitamin K for healthy heart and bones.
One cup of (raw) kale gives you over 20% of your daily recommended dose of vitamins A, C, and K. Most importantly for long-term health, kale has powerful anti-cancer and immune-boosting properties. Kale is also a source of fiber, which supports the digestive system and helps keep you feeling full (so yes, kale is a perfect weight-loss food).
Shopping for Kale
Your kale experience begins with choosing the right kind. Each has a different look and taste, so experiment with them all, because they are all wonderful in their own way.
This is the most common kale type. It’s typically under-used as a garnish, but it’s SO much more than something to lay the meat on! This type of kale is dark green or a gorgeous purple, with ruffled leaves that make it look bigger than it is. When you see this type of kale, opt for the youngest you can find, because these leaves can become bitter the older they get (one of the reasons people shy away from kale is the bitterness that comes from eating ‘old’ kale!).
Who can resist a name like that? Also known as Lacianto kale, Tuscan kale, black kale, or cavolo nero. This variety hardly resembles its curly cousin. It has large, somewhat leathery leaves that don’t curl. It has a much sweeter taste than curly kale, especially when cooked.
Somewhat true to its name, this less tasty version is grown for its appearance (rather like a large, leafy cabbage, with bright white and purple tones in the central leaves). Edible, yes. Sought-after as a culinary delight, no.
Red Russian Kale
The central vein of the Red Russian Kale leaves has a reddish-purple appearance similar to chard. The leaves are sweet, tender, and delicious – but the tough fibrous stalks are bitter. Be sure to remove the stalks before using Red Russian kale!
This hardy kale grows in Siberia. Which makes it virtually indestructible as a plant – and speaks to its life-giving properties. Its massive leaves, white central veins and incredible tenderness makes it a favorite in salads and raw cuisine.
You can find heirloom kales and kale crosses in specialty shops and farmer’s markets. In the USA, though, dinosaur kale and curly kale are the most widely available.
Kale will stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of days.
Making Kale a Delicious Part of Your Day
All the health benefits in the world won’t make you eat something you don’t enjoy. Here are some wonderful ways to prepare kale, that are delicious and easy. You’ll wonder how you got along without it for so long!
- Bake it! Kale chips are a truly healthy snack that’s super easy to make. Preheat your oven to 300F. Toss kale leaves in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Lay the leaves out on a baking sheet and bake uncovered until the leaves are crunchy – about 15 minutes.
- Smoothie it! You can really disguise the taste of kale by blending it in a green smoothie (we recommend using a Vitamix Blender) with fresh fruit to sweeten the deal and some protein powder thrown in – and you’re set until lunch!
- Sautee it! In a large skillet, heat up a little olive oil and/or broth, add kale, some fresh garlic and onion, spices (salt-n-pepper or something more exotic like cumin) and saute until the leaves have wilted. This brings out the sweetness in kale and it goes with just about everything.
- Steam it! Add a little water to a saucepan, and add kale to the steamer basket. Sprinkle the kale with a little salt, cover the pot, and steam the leaves for a few minutes until the kale has turned vibrant green and the leaves are just shy of wilting.
- Soup it! Add kale to any soup that calls for spinach, including creamed soups. Delish!
- Eat it raw! If you’re looking at kale thinking, “I’m not a goat…” just rub lemon juice or some light salad dressing (oil and vinegar types of dressing, not the creamy kinds) into the leaves and let them marinate for a bit in the fridge. Toss with your favorite salad veggies, a hard-boiled egg or cubed chicken, some nuts and crumbled cheese, and you have a super healthy and delicious salad!