Benefits of Kale and How to Cook It

Attending the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim several years ago, I had the opportunity to sample numerous snacks that were far more healthful than anything you’d find in your standard aisles in grocery stores unless you’re perusing the health-food sections.

One of my favorite snack treats was raw kale chips with many different flavors.  Some were cheesy, some were hot and spicy and others were covered in chocolate.  Oh yeah.  Now we’re talking.  How can you go wrong with chocolate?

One great thing about samples is the fact that they’re free at health shows.  Bad thing is I can easily get hooked on anything I love.  So I immediately went online when I got home from the Expo to order some of these wonderful raw kale snacks.  Yikes.  At $10+ for 2.2 ounces of chips that I would inhale in a little over a minute, that could cost a few hundred dollars each time I sit down to eat them.  Hmmmm… maybe a bit too pricey for me.

Not to be outdone by pricey snacks, I decided I could make my own for a lot less money.  So I did.  Excuse me while I take a bow – I’m pretty darn proud of the way they came out.  I bought a couple of pounds of organic kale and covered them with flavors I thought I would like.  I loved them.  Then I ran around asking friends to sample them, and got a good reaction from them as well.  Since they all approved, I feel confident about sharing the ingredients I used with you. I hope they’ll be something you’ll consider incorporating into your diet, possibly in place of your commercial potato chips that can cause weight gain and contain many toxic chemicals.

Worse yet, when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, whether baked, roasted, toasted or fried, they create acrylamide – a potentially neurotoxic and cancer-causing chemical as a byproduct of the processing – and they  influence insulin levels in a very negative way.  McKinley County is well known for its horrifically high diabetes rates, and the elimination of foods like these can only help lower the incidence in that area.

Deprivation is bad.

No one wants to be deprived, and I’m certainly one who likes my comfort foods.  But I also don’t wish to spend my time in doctors’ offices while they attempt to figure out what I did wrong when I know that I was the one who brought hand to mouth with toxic foods and drinks.  So, as much as I love potato chips, I’m enjoying my raw kale chips, and I hope you’ll make your own with your own creative flavors.  This is a recipe I’ve both enjoyed making and eating.

Cheesy Kale Chips

1 lb. curly kale
1 cup raw cashews
water as needed to make the cashews into paste
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp. ume plum vinegar
1 tbsp. raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

  1. Wash and cut up the kale into 2” or less pieces, removing stems if they are too large.  Mix the cashews in a blender, adding water until it becomes like a paste.  Add the nutritional yeast, plum vinegar, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice and blend again until smooth.  Add water as needed, but don’t let it become too liquid.  Apply the ‘paste’ to the raw kale pieces by massaging the mixture all over the kale.  Lay the pieces down on a screen or in a dehydrator and dehydrate until dried and crispy.

Ideally, you should consume foods that are raw or minimally processed to avoid these types of toxic byproducts—the more raw food, the better.

Kale, Kale – The Gang’s All Here

  1. Kale is low in calorie, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with so many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium as well as those listed below.
  2. Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.
  3. Kale is high in Vitamin K. Eating a diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers. It is also necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions including normal bone health and blood clotting. Also increased levels of vitamin K can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids help protect against various cancers.
  5. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.
  6. Kale is great for cardiovascular support. Eating more kale can help lower cholesterol levels.
  7. Kale is high in Vitamin A. Vitamin A is great for your vision, your skin as well as helping to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.
  8. Kale is high in Vitamin C. This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism and your hydration.
  9. Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility
  10. Kale is a great detox food. Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.

The dark, leafy green has been on dinner plates since Roman times and has long been common across much of Europe. The vegetable hails from the cabbage family, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and collards. Kale is more popular than ever, and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals.

Types of Kale

Kale can be curly, flat, or even have a bluish tint mixed in with the green. The flavors differ, so try them all.

Many farmers’ markets sell several types of kale, and most major grocery stores should have at least one. If you have a garden, or even just a few containers on a patio, you can grow kale.

Whether you buy kale from the store or pluck it from your own backyard, look for dark, crisp leaves. When you get ready to cook or eat it, remove the leaves from the tougher stalks.

How to Cook Kale

Add kale to pasta sauce, smoothies, or soup. Or try one of these methods:

Saute it: A splash of olive oil and a little onion or garlic are all this veggie needs, and it cooks up in minutes. The leaf is tougher than spinach leaves, so it won’t wilt as quickly in the pan.

Make a kale Caesar salad: You can eat kale raw in a salad. The leaves can stand up to heavy dressings. Kale Caesar salads have popped up on many restaurant menus. You can whip up a homemade mustard-based dressing that has all the thickness of Caesar but fewer calories.

Bake kale chips: Bake kale in the oven with just a little olive oil drizzled over lightly salted leaves. Store-bought kale chips can sometimes be deep-fried or come with a coating of cheese, so check labels to make sure you’re not reaching for a high-calorie snack.

A close relative of cabbage and Brussels sprouts, kale was first cultivated in the 1700s and gained popularity in the United States in the late 19th century. Its tough leaves stand up well to cooking and also yield flavorful and nutrient-packed juice. Juicing kale yields a beverage packed with nutritional value, and even a small serving — a quarter cup — offers all the mineral and vitamin content found in a much larger serving of whole kale. Although intact kale also has a place in your diet, juicing kale allows you to add lots of nutritional value to smoothies and juice blends, and drinking kale juice benefits your health.

Juicing kale also yields a beverage rich in vitamin C and calcium, two nutrients essential for bone health. Your body needs a constant supply of calcium from your diet to maintain bone density, and a low calcium intake increases bone loss as you age. Vitamin C strengthens your bones by supporting collagen production — a process needed to keep your bones resistant to damage — and helps you avoid the joint pain linked to vitamin C deficiency. A quarter-cup serving of kale juice boosts your vitamin C intake by 84.5 milligrams — more than 100 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 94 percent for men — and also contains 106 milligrams of calcium, which contributes 11 percent toward the recommended daily intake.

How to Make Kale Chips in the Dehydrator

Kale chips are sold in health food stores for a lot of money but why pay for them when you can make them at home? If you have a dehydrator, it’s easy. (Check out our list of the 5 Best Food Dehydrators if you want to buy one.)

Here’s how to make kale chips in the dehydrator:

2 bunches kale
1 T. virgin coconut oil or cold-pressed olive oil
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. nutritional yeast
garlic powder to taste
sea salt to taste

  1. Directions Wash the kale, dry it, and chop it into small pieces. You can include the stems or not, depending on your preference.

  2. Put the kale into a bowl and add the coconut oil or olive oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic powder to taste, and sea salt to taste.

  3. Massage the kale for a few minutes until it softens up and all of the flavors are mixed together. Taste it and see if it needs more salt or garlic powder and add if necessary.

  4. Lay the pieces onto the dehydrator sheets.

  5. Dehydrate at 145°F for one hour, then lower the temp to 115°F.

  6. After another hour, check them to see how crisp they are. Check them every hour until they are done to your desired crispness. Depending on your dehydrator and your preference, this could take anywhere from one hour to eight hours.

  7. When they are done, put them in a bowl and toss with extra salt, nutritional yeast, and other spices if desired.

There are a couple of controversial things about kale that are worth mentioning,” says Orceyre, who explains that its large concentration of Vitamin K can be a problem for people taking blood thinners and other medications because it promotes clotting; the green also contains oxalates, which in lab tests have been associated with kidney stones and some gallstones.

Raw kale in particular “can be hard on the digestive system” — meaning it can cause bloating, gas and other abdominal issues — “and also contains a compound that can suppress thyroid function in certain people,” she adds. That’s why she doesn’t recommend eating the vegetable uncooked or juicing it more than once or twice a week, though she says you can eat as much of the cooked veggie as you like.

Finally, Orceyre cautions that kale crops are often sprayed with pesticides, so buy organic if you can manage it, and in all cases be sure to clean vegetables well to wash away any surface chemicals.

“Cancer studies seem to show that raw kale is more beneficial than cooked, while cholesterol studies seem to show that steamed kale is more beneficial than raw,” says Harris, who recommends a bit of both in your diet.

But whatever you do, don’t boil, saute or stir-fry the veggie too long or with too much added liquid.

“When you cook it all the way down or with extra water or broth, you’re losing a lot of the nutrients and enzymes in the actual green,” Ginn says. “If you do, the key is to make sure you enjoy the leftover kale broth, too, because it has a lot of the antioxidants, nutrients and benefits that leak out and will be lost otherwise.”

More Ways to Enjoy Kale

I love to cook, but don’t love to spend entire days in the kitchen, especially during the warmer months.  Quick recipes are my favorites.  This includes green smoothies and salads.

Cleansing Green Smoothie
Large handful of kale
Cut up fruit(s) of choice – mango, banana, pear, apple or other fruit in season
1 inch chunk ginger root
1 garlic clove
1 slice lemon with peel (organic)
1 tbsp. virgin coconut oil
Enough water to mix in blender

Kale-Quinoa Salad
Prepare quinoa (boil for 20 minutes in water)
Grind in food processor a handful of kale

Add juice of lemon (and thinly slice the peel into the salad)
Pinion nuts
Olive oil
Red onions

Kale is a miracle veggie, with so many healthful uses and benefits. If it isn’t already a part of your healthy diet, go pick some up today!

Article originally posted to Bastis.Org.