It rarely happens that a vegetable goes from almost total obscurity to practically rock star status in a matter of a few years, but that’s exactly what happened to kale. When I was a waitress back in college, it was kale that covered the ice in salad bars to make it look pretty. Now it’s in the blenders and refrigerators of health conscious people everywhere.
So what’s all the excitement about? Is kale really that great? Well actually, yes, it is.
Kale is high in a variety of nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants), and sulforaphane (lowers your risk of cancer). This explains why Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who created the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), gave it a score of 1,000—his top rating. It is also the top veggie and a “super star” according to the Nutrition Action Healthletter, with a score of 1,389. In addition, it’s a good source of bioavailable calcium. Only 1¾ of a cup of kale is equivalent to one glass of milk in terms of absorbable calcium. That’s good news for people like me who can’t drink milk but want to avoid calcium supplements because of current research that links them to an increased risk of a heart attack (more on that in a future post).
So eat more kale! Try kale chips, roast or sauté it, or put it in soups or smoothies. However, there is one stipulation, buy organic. Why? Because kale as well as collard greens and green beans are commonly contaminated with organophosphate insecticides, according to the latest version of the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Their “Dirty Dozen” list identifies the fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides. Their “Clean Fifteen” list identifies those with the least. This year they have added a “Plus” category due to the use of organophosphate insecticides, which are toxic to the nervous system.
You can see the full list here and at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/guide/. There are also phone apps to make shopping easier. When you can, buy organic versions of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables and the Plus category vegetables.
Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.