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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle
Kale 1

Kale has Reached "Superfood" Status

Posted by Caitlin Mellendorf - kale

Healthy Eats and Repeat welcomes guest blogger and dietetic intern at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Debra Liu!

It seems fitting for a 21st Century Popeye to be downing a can of kale rather than spinach. This is not an attempt to challenge spinach's nutritional value, but kale has gained Justin Beiber-like celebrity status in the vegetable world. Over the past two years, I am sure you, as consumers, have noticed an increasing abundance of kale products in supermarkets and menu items. At the least, you would've crossed paths with this vegetable via some sort of media outlet. So what is the buzz really about?

The nation is now more aware of the importance of nutrition than ever before. This effort to focus on disease prevention rather than treatment has become a major theme. From a nutritional standpoint, loading your plates up with fruits and vegetables is the way to go! According to WebMD Director of Nutrition and Registered Dietitian, Kathleen Zelman, including kale in our diets can provide health benefits, such as cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.

Kale is part of the Brassica family, which includes other cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Children notoriously despise these plants, and it may largely be due to a natural compound that gives it a bitter taste. However, with a little help from proper seasoning and preparation, the bitterness can be masked. Now bring on the nutrients.

One cup of chopped kale contains only 33 calories, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and an impressive 684% of vitamin K. It is also a great source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus minerals.

Kale gets its reputation as a cancer fighter due to its high antioxidant capacity from the high concentration of vitamins A, C, and K. In addition, carotenoids and flavonoids are other types of antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged.

Lastly, we can't forget kale's high fiber content. The soluble fiber helps lower bad LDL cholesterol by binding to it so it can be passed through your digestive tract. The insoluble fiber also helps with constipation so your gut doesn't always feel bloated. Now is the season to eat more kale. Dark, leafy greens thrive in cooler weather. It's a very versatile vegetable, and the true dilemma is which cooking method to try first.

It can be prepared as a salad, sautéed, baked into a chip, juiced, added to smoothies, or soups. The possibilities are truly endless. Let's start with a quick and easy recipe that even the kids will enjoy.

Kale Chip Dip (Serves 6)

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups rinsed, packed kale leaves
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
2 Tbsp Greek yogurt
1 avocado
1 lemon juiced
Season with salt and pepper (optional)
Handful minced fresh herbs you like (optional)

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add olive oil, kale and garlic. Cook until kale is softened. Remove from stove and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, yogurt, avocado, lemon juice, and salt, pepper, and herbs, if desired.  Blend until smooth.  Stir in kale mixture.
3. Try with a chip, and if salty enough, don't add additional salt. Scrape into a bowl and it's ready to eat!

Nutrition analysis per serving:  161 calories, 10g fat, 3mg cholesterol, 323mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate, 11g protein

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