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Kale, the King of the Winter Crop! - Irene Ní Fhlannúra

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When it comes to eating your greens, it doesn't get much greener than eating kale.  Kale, majestic in its standing among the superfoods, is abundant and at its best right now.

The recent cold snap has enhanced the homegrown varieties, particularly Curly Kale - making the leaves sweeter and more flavourable.  Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family, nice family the Brassicas!  This group of vegetables, which include cabbage, collards, broccoli and brussels sprouts, are gaining attention due to the cancer-fighting potential of their sulphur-containing phytonutrients. When these cruciferous vegetables are chopped or chewed, they release compounds that researchers believe activate detoxifying enzymes in the liver. In turn, these enzymes may neutralize free radicals thereby reducing the risk of breast, ovarian, colon and other cancers. While all vegetables are advantageous in maintaining health, cruciferous vegetables appear to have an edge in preventing cancer. A recent study conducted in the Netherlands found that those who regularly ate vegetables had a 25% lower risk of colorectal cancers, but those who consumed the most amount of cruciferous vegetables had a 49% drop in their risk. Studies on prostate and lung cancers have yielded similar results. It seems that both the sulphurous nutrients together with the type of fibre in cruciferous vegetables are key to their power against malignant cells. Kale is king of the crop when it comes down to the nitty gritty among its own family, and an absolute super power compared to non-cruciferous vegetables.

Among the brassicas, kale is the family prodigy. It is particularly rich in beta-carotene a major antioxidant noted for preventing diseases of the eyes and lungs. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli, its nearest cousin.  Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in kale are responsible for its vivid green colour.  These two nutrients are famed for their protection against macular degeneration of the eye and cataracts.  More recent research has also found that lutein and zeaxanthin can also prevent clogging of the carotid artery thus reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and strokes. One cup of raw kale has 20-25mg of lutein and about 1.5-2.5mg zeaxanthin, providing an abundant supply of these two invaluable nutrients. Kale’s vitamin content is also exceptional. Just one cup of raw kale contains 15% of the recommended daily value of calcium and Vitamin B6, 40% of the magnesium, 180% of the Vitamin A, 200% of the Vitamin C and a whopping 1020% of the Vitamin K. The boost in immune support and antioxidant protection provided by these vitamins could help ward off the colds and flus of the season, not to mention more serious diseases. 
While some of its vitamin C and carotenoid content may be lost through heat, you can retain much of it by shortening the cooking times. It is worthwhile to note that the vitamins A and K as well as the mineral content remain unchanged during cooking and absorption is increased when eaten with some healthy fats. Vitamins A, K, E and D are “fat-soluble” vitamins which mean that these vitamins dissolve in fat, making them more absorbable.  Also, being fat-soluble means that they can also be stored in our fat stores for use when required. For this reason, it’s good to serve kale with some healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts or seeds. 
Many well-intended folk go to the trouble of buying kale as it looks so fresh and bouncy in the veg aisle only to come home and wonder what to do with it!  First give it a cold wash and pat dry with a clean tea towel or give it a spin in the salad spinner. To retain freshness, only wash kale before use. Cut away the tough stalks and roughly chop the leaves.  To eat kale raw, it’s best to wilt it a little by rubbing a little olive oil and unrefined sea salt or lemon juice into the leaves.  This helps breakdown its tough cell walls, helping you to the goodness that lies within.  Wilted, slightly steamed or a quick toss in the sauté pan is the best way to eat kale and don’t forget to accompany with some healthy fats.
If you would like to see, taste and learn more about kale and all the other amazing foods available to us why not join our “Cooking for Health” classes in the Dingle Cookery School on Monday evenings.  RENEW, a 28-day cleansing menu and seasonal boost is currently running but it’s not too late to join in.  BLESSED CELL, BE WELL (anti-cancer nutrition) begins February 23rd. Contact information below.

 

Irene Ní Fhlannúra, Nutritional Therapist at Ré Nua Nutrition Clinic & Health Food Shop, Dingle 086 1662562 - Website: www.renuanaturalhealth.com  

•Get Your New Year off the to the best Start with a Personalized Nutrition Plan or FITFOOD Programme for weightloss and sports performance

•Lab testing – Food Intolerance, Vitamin D status, Candida and much more

•RENEW Yourself in 2015 – seasonal detox & cleanse with weekly food demos, tasting and recipes starting January 19th (4 wks) at Dingle Cookery School

•BLESSED CELL, BE WELL (anti-cancer nutrition) starting 23rd February (4 wks)

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