Kale is the “it” food of the year– and for good reason. A single one cup serving of kale has just 36 calories yet delivers a payload of 5 grams of fiber, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, 45 different antioxidants and 10x the RDA of vitamin K. I think that kale can legitimately call itself the ‘beauty green ‘ since it offers so much fiber and vitamin C, the two nutrients linked to lower levels of wrinkles in the landmark NHANES study.
But wait there is more. Kale, a cruciferous veggie like cauliflower and broccoli, also contains sulfur compounds that are linked to reduced risk of lung, breast, colon, bladder and prostate cancer. There is even some evidence that these sulfur componds, called glucosinolates, inhibit the spread of cancer cells. For example one study showed that non-smokers who ate cruciferous vegetables have more than a 70% lower risk of bladder cancer.
The Dark Side of Kale
With all of these benefits, it is startling to learn of potetial health problems of kale. Cruciferous vegetables including kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage contain goitrogens which can interfere with thyroid gland activity. If you have existing thyroid problems, kale can cause an increase in symptoms.
Two other common medical problems can pose probems to a kale lover. If you take the blood thinner warfarin it can alter vitamin K levels and kale is already high in this blood thinning vitamin. FInally kale also contains oxalates which can be a problem if you have a history of kidney stones. That’s the bad news. The good news? The potential problems with kale can be controlled if the kale is cooked such as sauted or steamed. Rather than using kale in salads and smoothies, get your nutrition packed kale in stir -fry combos or filling soups. My new favorite way to eat to eat kale is saute that can be easily turned into an incredible soup or a crostini topping. It even contains protein packed chickpeas! I first had it last year at a little tapas place in Old Town Madrid. In January I was thrilled to see a recipe for it in the New York Times and it became my go-to dish all winter.
Kale Saute with Chorizos and Chickpea ( adaped from New York Times)
Ingredients: one can of chickpeas, large onion, chopped, 2 tablespoons Spanish olive oil, 4 ounces of chorizo, chopped, one clove of garlic, chopped, 1/4 teaspoon of smoked Spanish pimento, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, one pound of Tuscan kale, slivered into thin strips, 1/2 cup chicken broth or water.
Directions: Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook until golden. Add chorizos and cook for two minutes, then add paprika, cumin and garlic. Sitr ingredients together and then add chickpeas ( Don’t let the garlic brown or it will turn bitter). Add broth and water, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes until the greens are tender.
You can serve it over brown rice or quinona or turn it into a soup. Just ladle the kale into a soup bowl and pour on rich homemade beef or chicken broth. Now that its too hot for a steaming bow of soup, I pile the kale and chorizos on a crisp crostini for a quick lunch or serve these bits with a cold soup for a perfect hot weather dinner.