By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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“Kale has received a lot of attention in recent years for its powerhouse nutritional benefits, making kale one of the so-called Super Foods.”
Kale, also known as borecole, is a vegetable with green and purple leaves, and can have a smooth or curly shape. Varieties of kale are grown all around the world, in a number of different climates, and the plant is able to grow well into the cooler winter months. The vegetable hails from the Brassicaceae (cabbage) family, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and collards. The vegetables of Brassicaceae family contain phyto-nutrients that promote health.
Kale is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Dietary Fibre, Protein, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese (1).
Types of Kale: (3)
- Curly Kale
Curly kale is probably the most recognizable kale. It is usually bright or dark green or purple in colour has tight ruffled leaves and fibrous stalks. It has a noticeable pungent flavour with peppery and bitter qualities, so seek out younger looking leaves for less bitterness.
- Lacinato Kale
Lacinato kale is a kale variety that features dark blue-green leaves with a slightly wrinkled and firm texture. The hearty leaves are tall and narrow, and retains its firm texture even after it has been cooked. It has a slightly sweeter and more delicate taste than the curly kind.
- Red Russian Kale
Red Russian Kale has flat, fringed leaves that resemble big outer leaves of a mature cabbage. Its leaves can have a red tinge and a reddish-purple tinge to the stems, and has a great flavour that is described as sweet and mild. Be sure to remove as much of the stems as possible before cooking as it has incredibly tough fibrous stems that are difficult to chew.
- Redbor Kale
Redbor kale is beautiful and dark red in colour that can look a deep purple. Redbor makes a great addition to a meal, or even as edible plate decor.
Uses of Kale: (2)
- Use of kale in traditional medicine is very similar such as other Brassica crops that have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, mostly to cure gastritis and gastric ulcer.
- In addition to relief of symptoms of gastric ulcers, Kale has been reported to use for treating diabetes mellitus, rheumatism, bone weakness, ophthalmologic problems, hepatic diseases, anaemia, obesity etc.
- Kale leaves are usually consumed fresh in salads and as kale leaf juice, and cooked as diverse soup dishes, omelettes, and stir-fry.
- In a Europe, kale is often served with the smoked pork.
- Some plant parts are occasionally prepared as pickles.
- Recently, dried kale or so-called ´kale chips´ became very popular, although draying significantly decreases its nutritive and phytochemical content
Health Benefits: (2)
- Effective against GI Disorders
Kale contains glucoraphanin, which is sulforaphane precursor, therefore, antiulcer activity of kale may be related with the sulforaphane anti- Helicobacter pylori activity. Kale also possesses antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Bacillus subtilis and Moraxella catarrhalis.
- Powerful Anti-Oxidant
Kale contains compounds such as polyphenols, carotenoids, glucosinolates hydrolysis products, vitamin C and E that show antioxidant activity. It is widely accepted that food high in phytochemicals with antioxidant activity can help with the protection against free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), and therefore in prevention from chronic diseases.
- Cancer Prevention
Several epidemiological studies over the last decades supported the fact that Brassica vegetables are promising in cancer prevention. Meta-analysis that combined results of different authors showed an inverse relationship between cruciferous vegetable consumption and the risk of cancers of the reproductive system, urinary system and lung. Mechanisms underlying anticancer activity have been attributed to the decomposition products of glucosinolates, which are also present in kale.
- Promotes Heart Health
Presence of compounds such as polyphenols, glucosinolates, carotenoids, Vitamins E and C in food are associated with the cardiovascular protection. Bioactive compounds of cruciferous vegetables help in heart health mainly through their ability to reduce LDL, to combat free radicals and up-regulate GST activity (reduction of oxidative stress). Kale methanolic extract possess protective effect on the oxidation of very low density (VLDL) and low density (LDL) lipoproteins.
- Good For Eye Health
Kale is rich in lutein which is a carotenoid that protects against macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in old age people.
Kale Recipe Ideas: (3)
- Mix it in a salad
- Pair it with nuts
- Throw it in the soup
- Put kale in a burger
- Put it in a green smoothie
- Use kale as a burrito shell
- Just sauté it
- Make kale chips
Kale has antioxidant and anticancer potential, very similar as other cruciferous vegetables. Kale and collards are higher in Ca, folate, riboflavin, vitamin C, K and A content than other cruciferous vegetables.