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Hail to Kale!

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Hail to Kale!

It’s turning other veggies green with envy!
Greta  Podleski
Greta Podleski More by this author
Aug 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM

It’s all over the headlines: “The New Beef!” “One of the Most Potent Healing Foods in the Produce Aisle!” “A Nutritional Powerhouse!” What’s this incredible edible that’s turning all other veggies green with envy? Let’s hear it for kale!

Health experts are tooting kale’s horn big time for a number of good reasons: One cup of cooked kale contains two grams of protein, all the essential amino acids your body needs, plus 9 non-essential ones. And kale’s protein and amino acids are easier for your body to extract and use than the protein in meat. Why? Well, when you dig into a T-Bone, your body needs to expend a lot of energy and resources to break down the meat’s intricate and complex protein structure, releasing all kinds of “icky and sticky” metabolic wastes in that process. Not so with “Special K.” Although kale, on paper, contains far less protein than meat, your body is very efficient at using and optimizing even the smallest amount of plant protein. A little goes a long way. Good news for vegetarians!

Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef and more calcium per gram than whole milk. Holy cow! In fact, a calcium bioavailability study from 1990 showed that the calcium from kale was 25% better absorbed than the calcium from milk. Mooove on over, Elsie, cuz this green wonder’s got another leg up on you—fiber! Yup, kale’s fiber (or “roughage,” as Grandma called it) acts like a Swiffer mop in your intestinal tract, scrubbing up suspicious, disease-promoting substances so they don’t spend time loitering in your body’s deepest, darkest, nether regions. While that fiber is helping to transport wastes out of your body, it’s also a natural appetite suppressant, keeping you fuller longer on fewer calories and minimizing the blood sugar highs and lows that make you crave sweets. Eat your fiber and fat will be gone with the wind!

As if that wasn’t enough, kale contains more health-promoting omega-3 essential fats than omega-6 fats, almost unheard of in nature. Too much omega-6 promotes inflammation. Unfortunately, we already consume far too much Omega-6 fat in our diets because refined oils like soybean, canola and vegetable oil are ubiquitous in packaged foods. The antidote is to eat MORE omega-3 fat! With a cup of cooked kale, you also get 10 times your daily requirement of vitamin K, making it a bona-fide bone-builder. Kale is a king of carotenoids, too, an eye-saving superfood rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that’ll help keep your body’s cells young and healthy.

We know what you’re thinking: “What the heck do I do with it?” and, more important, “How can I make it taste good?” Try finely chopping kale and adding it to a salad with other leafy greens or lightly sautéing it with olive oil, garlic, sea salt and black pepper, much like you would sauté spinach. Slice it up with a bunch of other colorful veggies for a dee-lish stir-fry or sneak it into stews, pasta sauces and soups (like our hearty, nutrient-filled Tomato, White Bean and Kale Soup recipe below). If you own a juicer, throw some kale leaves into the rotation. Their dark green, living energy from the sun (chlorophyll) will make your cells sing and dance with joy. Promise! Need a crunchy substitute for potato chips that won’t go from your lips to your hips? Try kale chips, store-bought or homemade, which are currently all the rage. (We can’t get enough of them!) Can you tell we’re kookoo over kale? Go on and give it a try, K?

Italian Tomato, White Bean and Kale Soup with Fresh Basil

Warm up on a chilly day with this healthy and hearty vegetable soup! It’s a good source of protein and fiber, thanks to the navy beans and nutrient-packed kale leaves. Bonus: It’s gluten-free and vegan (if you omit the Parmesan).

1 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 cups chopped sweet onions

1 cup each diced carrots and diced celery

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning

½ tsp dried fennel seeds

4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth

1 can (28 oz/796 mL) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, well drained

¼ cup tomato paste

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar (any kind; we like coconut sugar)

½ tsp each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 can (14 oz/398 mL) navy beans, drained and rinsed

3 cups (packed) chopped fresh kale leaves

8 whole basil leaves, chopped

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Add Italian seasoning and fennel seeds and mix well. Add broth, drained tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add navy beans and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, purée soup until it’s about 50% puréed (still kinda chunky). Stir in kale, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat and stir in basil. Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if needed. Top each serving with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional but yummy).

Makes about 8 cups soup

Per cup: 132 calories, 2.3 g total fat (0.3 g saturated fat), 6 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate, 6.2 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 278 mg sodium

About Author
Greta  Podleski
Sisters Janet & Greta Podleski are the authors of three #1 bestselling cookbooks: Looneyspoons, Crazy Plates and Eat, Shrink & Be Merry! The fun-filled books are best known for their unique combination of great-tasting, healthy recipes, useful Continue reading