I wish I could tell you that I’ve always liked kale. The healthy-leafy-green vegetable that now seems to be everywhere from smoothie bars to every menu across America.
For the first 30+ years of my life, I didn’t know kale existed. My introduction came about five years ago, when I started to juice, the flavor was “grassy” almost “metallic” like, I just couldn’t take it. I wanted to like it. But it caught me off guard. Kale was not part of my grocery list.
But when you love to eat, and the latest food trend catches up with you, it is almost impossible to avoid this grassy green. So I started to try it in different dishes. I would cook it, use it raw, puree it, and now… I can’t get enough of it.
One of my favorite restaurants in Washington State serves it simply sautéed in olive oil with garlic, golden raisins and pine nuts. That’s it! So simple, it’s impossible not to like it. Now, I feel somehow responsible to defend kale, the misunderstood child of the vegetable family. With its thick, curly leaves, it can easily seem intimidating, as though you’d have to wrestle it into submission before it agrees to be cooked.
Around the United States, everyone is talking about kale. So what’s all the kale hype about? Flavor aside, I love kale for three fundamental reasons: Kale tops the charts of nutrient density, possesses incredible culinary flexibility, and is easy to grow almost anywhere, which means you can enjoy local kale just about anywhere when it’s in season. I recently learned about its power to support brain health, and will be sharing that with you on the Klesick Farms blog.
As explained by doctor Drew Ramsey, author of Happiness Diet, the power of phytonutrients do amazing things.
Sulforaphane is one of the reasons that cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli are on everyone’s “superfoods” list. Its antioxidant action helps fight high blood pressure, while its ability to stimulate natural detoxifying enzymes reduces brain inflammation as well as the risk of breast and prostate cancer. These protective effects may also be responsible for the observation that sulforaphane helps improve learning and memory abilities following brain injury. It can kill the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, which is responsible for stomach ulcers and gastric cancer risk.
Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
ALA is an omega-3 fat found mainly in plants. It is an essential fatty acid, meaning your body can’t produce it and you must obtain it through your diet. Plants use this fat to convert sunlight into energy, making it vital to our planet’s energy production. In the brain, ALA is converted to the longer omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are particularly important for brain and heart health. Higher intakes of ALA are linked to a lower risk of depression and may decrease anxiety and the effects of stress.
Plant-based diets are key to brain health, and one reason are folates. At least eight forms of these water-soluble B-complex vitamins exist in food. Folic acid is the synthetic version. Folates, also known as vitamin B9, are needed for a healthy brain and good moods as they keep brain cells healthy, ward off heart disease (drastic risk reductions), and even fight cancer.
So what are your thoughts on Kale? What is your favorite way to enjoy this leafy vegetable?
Kale, Apple and Parmesan Cheese Salad with Roasted Garlic-Lemon Dressing
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch kale, ribs removed, thinly sliced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Add the kale, toss to coat and let stand 10 minutes.
While the kale stands, cut the apples into thin matchsticks. Add the apples and cheese to the kale. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.