Are you looking for a way to eat healthier and get more vitamins in your diet?
Many of us are always looking for ways to improve our diet, eat healthier, and maybe even shed a few pounds. Lately, there’s been a lot of attention given to superfoods and how beneficial they are for us. You may know many of the popular examples of these superfoods such as avocados, blueberries, soy, or green tea.
But one of the most versatile superfoods out there is the leafy green we know as kale.
What Are Superfoods?
Superfoods are foods that have a very high nutritional density, meaning that they provide an incredible amount of nutrients and very few calories per serving. These superfoods contain a high volume of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that can have many benefits for our bodies.
Antioxidants decrease or reverse the effects of free radicals that have close links with many health problems such as the following:
- heart disease
- respiratory diseases
- immune deficiencies
- Parkinson’s disease
But don’t be mistaken by the term “superfood.” While these foods have many fantastic benefits for us, if you’re just eating them as part of an otherwise poor nutritional diet, you aren’t going to gain much from them. It’s like ordering a super-sized cheeseburger combo from a fast food place but getting a diet soda with it: Yes, it could have been worse, but it ain’t exactly healthy!
Instead, you need to include superfoods as part of a healthy, balanced diet overall. Eating a “super diet” rather than concentrating on individual foods is going to maximize the benefits you’ll get from them.
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What Makes Kale So Great?
The popularity of kale has risen in the United States over the last few years, becoming a fixture at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. But kale isn’t some newly discovered vegetable, just one that you may have only recently started hearing more about.
Its use dates back to the Middle Ages, where kale was planted and used to feed humans and livestock. Even Thomas Jefferson experimented with several varieties of kale at his Monticello estate in the early 1800s, according to many history books!
Kale is an incredible source of vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Just one cup of raw kale only contains 33 calories and just 7 grams of carbohydrates, making it a very good vegetable to help with diabetes and weight control.
Kale is a member of the same vegetable family as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnips, and bok choy. These vegetables offer a variety of health benefits, including potentially reducing the risk of various types of cancer.
How to Use and Eat Kale
With all of the great health benefits of kale, you might be trying to figure out how to use it in your menu choices to incorporate it into your diet. Because of its leafy structure, many people think of kale as a lettuce substitute or the main ingredient of a salad, but it’s got a lot more versatility than that!
Kale holds its texture well in cooking, allowing it to be steamed, stir fried, roasted, or eaten raw. The middle rib that runs through the middle of kale leaves can be tough and fibrous and can have a bitter taste when you eat it. When you use kale in your cooking, you should remove the rib by hand or with kitchen shears during your preparation.
When shopping for kale in the store, you should avoid wilted or browning leaves. The leaves and stalks should be dark green and the leaves shouldn’t show signs of any yellowing. You want it to be firm and dry instead of wilted and mushy.
Kale can keep for up to five days if you have it loosely wrapped and stored in a refrigerator. Trying to keep it longer than this can cause the leaves to toughen, making the kale less appetizing to eat.
Kale is a cool-weather and frost-resistant plant that does well in colder climates, which allows it to be frozen to preserve it for future use. If you take the proper steps and blanch your kale, you can keep it in the freezer for up to a year and keep it viable for use.
Great Ways to Make Kale Part of Your Diet
Since kale is such a versatile leafy vegetable, there are lots of options in making it part of your diet. You can use it as part of smoothies, fry it to make kale chips, wilt it into soups, incorporate it into mashed potatoes, or turn it into a pesto.
With the rise of kale’s popularity in recent years, there’s a wealth of great recipes available out there making use of this superfood. To get you started in getting the benefits from kale, here are a few ways to begin incorporating it into your diet:
#1: Kale Juice/Smoothies
Drinking kale juice is like having an ultra-powerful multivitamin loaded with many nutrients for your body. A daily serving of kale juice has been found to help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.
You can make kale part of your smoothies to gain the same benefits as juicing it. Because it’s so high in antioxidants, kale can help fight off the aging process. It helps keep your skin more hydrated and reduces lines and dark circles in your skin, according to dermatologists.
#2: Kale Chips
While you’re not going to fool anyone into thinking they’re digging into a bowl of traditional potato chips, kale’s ability to be fried allows it to become a far healthier snack alternative. It crisps up nicely and you can season kale chips in a variety of ways. Renowned natural foods chef Julie Morris has a fantastic recipe for making kale chips that can help you snack healthier.
#3: Use It As a Soup Ingredient
Kale works great in soups because the long time soup simmers helps soften it up and makes it work like any other green you could include, only with a greater nutritional benefit. Even chain restaurants have caught onto this, as Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana has kale as a primary ingredient.
#4: Put Kale in Your Pesto
A classic pesto is chock full of great ingredients such as basil and garlic, but kale can be a part of a great pesto, too! Instead of using basil and pine nuts, use kale and walnuts instead to get more superfoods into your diet. You can use this pesto for pasta, as a sauce for chicken or fish, or as a dip option.
#5: Kale as a Pizza Ingredient
One reason why pizza is such a popular food is because of how much flexibility it offers. Making a kale-based pesto gives you an alternative to a traditional tomato pizza sauce. You can also use different preparations of kale as healthy pizza or flatbread toppings similar to how you might use spinach.
#6: Mix Kale into Egg Dishes
Most people would agree that eggs are delicious and offer a lot of different uses in cooking. Adding some kale into egg-based dishes is another way to incorporate it into your diet. Kale can be easily included in omelets or quiches or just simply diced up and added into your scrambled eggs.
#7: Use Kale in One-Dish Meals
Kale is a great addition to many one-dish meals like casseroles, pastas, or risottos. Like we mentioned with pizza, substituting kale for spinach in these kinds of dishes gives you added nutritional kick and can help introduce you and your family to kale in a more accessible way.
#8: Kale As a Side Dish
Kale can be a great way to accompany a steak, chicken breast, or seafood dish. Wilting it down and seasoning it gives you a healthy side, or you can even make a creamed kale sauce to put on top. You can also saute some kale in olive oil and add some Asian flavor with soy sauce, ponzu sauce, or simply squirt some citrus into it to give it a bright note.
#9: Kale Salad
Yes, we know we said many people fall into the trap of thinking of kale as the main ingredient in a salad, but sometimes the simplest answer is still a perfectly valid one! The biggest things to take care with in making kale-based salads involve your preparation: Always remember to remove the ribs from the leaves, and you have to massage them to tenderize the leaves so any dressings you use can soak in.
Give Kale a Chance
Hopefully we’ve shown you some appealing ways to make kale part of your menu. It really is a fantastic nutritional choice with so much flexibility in its uses. Beyond the options we’ve laid out here, if you look more into kale recipes, you’ll find ways to use it that might surprise you. From making noodles from it to baking cookies with kale, this is one superfood that is guaranteed to have a way you can use it.
Want to learn more ways to eat healthier and live better? We teach you how to detox from sugar using superfoods here. You can also check out our podcast episode featuring Darin Olien where he talks about how to get in a superfood mindset and change your diet.
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