If ever a vegetable could be a superstar, kale would be it! Kale is a nutritional powerhouse that provides an abundance of benefits. In fact, it’s one of the most nutritious vegetables that exist. This green, leafy vegetable is actually a member of the cabbage family and is one of the closest relatives of wild cabbage. There are many varieties of kale, such as curly, ornamental, and dinosaur kale, all of which have different tastes, textures, and appearances. Curly kale has ruffled leaves and a fibrous stalk and is usually a very deep green color with a bitter, peppery flavor. Ornamental kale may be green, white, or purple; its stalks are less fibrous; and it has more mellow a flavor. Dinosaur kale has dark blue-green leaves and a slightly sweeter taste than curly kale.
The USDA has a ranking system that they use to determine the antioxidant capability of a food. They look at all of the different antioxidants and phytochemicals that are in the food and then determine how well everything works together as a 'team'—how much ability the 'team' has to fight free radicals. Based off of this data, a score, called an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), is given and the higher the ORAC score, the better that food's antioxidant ability. Kale is ranked number one, meaning it has the highest ORAC score of all the vegetables with a score of 1770. Spinach is the second highest ranked vegetable on the ORAC score and has a value of 1260.
Like other members of the cabbage family, kale has powerful chemicals that prevent and fight against cancer. Kale also has a high amount of sulfur and sulforaphane which helps to aid and boost the body's detoxification enzymes. Its deep green color is due to a high chlorophyll content which helps to cleanse the blood and the body and boost the immune system. Additionally, kale is very rich in enzymes that are important for everyday physiological functioning, such as digestion and immunity.
Kale has more calcium and iron than any other vegetable. In fact, it has almost three times as much calcium as phosphorus, a very healthy ratio since high phosphorus intake has been linked to osteoporosis because it reduces the use and excretion of excess calcium. In addition, a single serving of kale has two times the recommended daily intake of vitamin C which helps the body to absorb and use the vegetable's high iron content. Kale is also rich in selenium, magnesium, and vitamin E, which help maintain heart health. High amounts of vitamin A, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin all help to promote healthy vision. And it’s a great source of vitamins B6 and K, manganese, and fiber too.
If ever there was a vegetable that should be added to a regular diet, kale would definitely be it. Many don't like the strong and bitter taste of kale, but kale can still be enjoyed in fresh juices, smoothies, and other methods that help to hide its bitterness.
Deb’s Kale Salad with Apple, Cranberries and Pecans
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 8 ounces kale (I used regular curly green kale, but Deb recommends Cavolo Nero or Lacinato, Dinosaur or Tuscan Kale)
- 4 to 5 medium radishes
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or cherries)
- 1 medium Granny Smith apple
- 2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste