Going green (deliciously) with kale

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer

Whenever I visit my mom in Chicago, I always take a few minutes to leaf through her stack of “Good Housekeeping” magazines. Lately, so many articles seem to be focused on what nutrition experts are referring to as “super-foods,” those edibles that are replete with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Last year, blueberries and walnuts topped the list of must-haves in your grocery cart. This year, the color has shifted to green, and kale is quickly emerging as the vegetable that reigns supreme.

Kale, also known as borecole, is one of the healthiest options to be found in the produce department. A leafy green, kale is available in curly, ornamental or dinosaur varieties. A member of the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, kale is relatively easy to incorporate into your current meal plan.

What makes this green machine so unique? Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to its high concentration of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K. One cup of chopped kale offers 206 percent of the U.S. recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 134 percent of vitamin C, and a whopping 684 percent of vitamin K. It is also an excellent source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus….all that for just 33 calories a cup.

Throughout the summer, it is easy to come by a variety of fresh produce.  However, when the temperatures begin to drop, kale becomes more readily available, as dark leafy greens thrive in cooler weather. While this super-food does pack a bit of a bitter punch on its own, when combined in a salad or with other produce, it definitely shines.

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Here are some ideas for adding kale to your weekly menus:

• Make a simple salad with a bunch of thinly sliced kale, red pepper, onion, raisins, and your favorite salad dressing.

• Braise chopped kale and apples, garnish with chopped walnuts, and add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

• Toss whole-grain pasta with chopped kale, pine nuts, feta cheese and a little olive oil.

• Cover and cook a pound of chopped kale with a few garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons olive oil for 5 minutes; season with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar.

• Make kale chips by slicing kale into bite-size pieces, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees in the oven.

As you learn to embrace and love this hardy green, you will soon discover that Popeye and his spinach now have a mighty powerful ally.