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Kale: Member of the cabbage family is one of the healthiest vegetables

January 30, 2001

Kale: Member of the cabbage family is one of the healthiest vegetables



By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer
Kale
Click here for Kale Recipes
What other vegetables are on the top 10 healthiest list?


  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Redpepper
  • Broccoli
  • Carrot
  • Collard greens
  • Okra
  • Swiss chard


Kale is more than a pretty garnish.

It is one of the hardiest members of the cabbage family and one of the most nutritious.

With its curly leaves of green sometimes tinged with shades of blue or purple, kale is one of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest's top 10 healthiest vegetables.

All of the high-ranking vegetables have ample amounts of carotenoids, and provide fiber and vitamin C.

Carotenoids are antioxidants - they act as chemical magnets to disarm damaging forms of oxygen in the body. It is believed that they play an anti-cancer role, enhance immunity and may improve heart health.

Vitamin C plays a role in tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function and healthy gums; enhances immunity; helps protect the body from infection; promotes healing of wounds and burns; can help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure; and may help prevent cancer.

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Fiber helps lower "bad" cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar and maintain good digestive tract health, and has been linked to reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

Kale also contains vitamin A, which promotes eye health and helps the body ward off infections, said Nelda Mercer, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for American Dietetic Association in Ann Arbor, Mich.

One serving - 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked - has the same amount of calcium as one-third of a glass of milk, Mercer said.

Also called borecole and curly kale, the cruciferous vegetable also contains copper, an essential mineral that aids in the metabolism of sugar; iron; potassium; and zinc, Mercer said.

"It's got a nice little profile of minerals," she said.

Kale also contains 5 percent to 14 percent of the recommended daily allowance of energy-producing B vitamins, such as B6, niacin and riboflavin, Mercer said.

While it's high in some essential vitamins and minerals, it's low in sodium, calories and fat, Mercer said.

"It is a highly nutritious vegetable," she said.

Despite its health-packing punch, kale is often used as a decoration on plates rather than as part of a meal.

"That's very unfortunate," Mercer said.

According to the Web site Epicurious.com, kale is best during the winter months, though it's available year-round in most parts of the country. It is often used like spinach.

Kale is rarely eaten raw but can add spice to salads if used in moderation, according to "The Visual Food Encyclopedia." It also works well in soups and stews, can be boiled or steamed, braised in a casserole, stuffed or added to a stir-fry.

When selecting kale, go for relatively small bunches, and avoid those with limp or yellowing leaves, according to Epicurious.com.

Store it in the coldest section of the refrigerator for no more than two or three days. After that, its flavor becomes strong, and the leaves go limp.

"The Visual Food Encyclopedia" says kale can be frozen after being blanched for 2 to 3 minutes or until the leaves become slightly soft.

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