Kale has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years, but has almost become a forgotten vegetable. The average person has never heard about it, and its hardly noticed at the supermarket. Yet, it is one of natures finest nutrient storehouses available to man. Along with broccoli, kale packs one of the biggest nutrient punches per portion. And that means it's great for MS'ers and your MS diet!
What makes it so versatile is its ability to blend into a variety of dishes (side dishes, combined in main dishes, or in salads). The curly leafed vegetable is getting a lot more attention recently, and so it should.
Kale descends from the wild cabbage which originated in Asia. Kale (also called borecole or "farmers cabbage") is thought to have been introduced to Europe by the Celtics where it remained a staple. Kale belongs to the Brassica family, a group that also includes cabbage, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts. It was an important food item early in European history and a crop staple in ancient Rome times. Kale was eventually introduced to the USA during the 17th century by early English settlers. Unfortunately, we typically see kale used as decoration or garnishes for side dishes and salad bars, and is not common place as it should be, given how much nutrient value it provides.
Kale is a leafy green vegetable with a mild earthy, yet slightly bitter flavor. The ideal season for kale is between mid winter and early spring where it appears most in produce sections of local grocery stores, but is usually available all year round. It is grown mainly for autumn and winter harvest because the cool weather further enhances taste quality. It can't withstand temperatures above 80 degreed Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), however, it can be pushed to low temperatures, even down to 21 degrees Fahrenheit (- 6 degrees Celsius), making it ideal for cooler climates.
Exposure of the kale crop to a bit of light frost is actually a good thing. This helps some of the starches turn into sugars. Kale flourishes well in rich organic soil (as most vegetables do). Its succulent, curly leaves appear “rosette” like and may have dark green to blue-green color depending on the cultivar type.
While harvesting, individual lower leaves may be picked either progressively as the main stem elongates or the whole plant is cut at the stem and packed in bundles. Kale leaves are harvested in bunches. Kale can easily be cultivated successfully on the balcony, in pots and in the shade. Kale should be displayed and stored in a cool environment since warm temperatures will cause it to wilt and will negatively affect its flavor.
Shopping For Kale
When shopping, buy fresh green leaves featuring crispy, crunchy, brilliant dark blue-green color where possible. Look for kale with firm, deeply colored, unwilted leaves free from yellowing, browning and any small holes from pests. The stems should be moist and rigid. Pick kale with smaller leaves as these will be more tender and have a more mild flavor.
Kale is extremely perishable and should be used quickly once harvested - you want to get as many of the nutrients into your body as possible from the time it comes out of the ground. To store Kale, place it in a plastic storage bags, after removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store in the refrigerator where it will keep for 5 days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Do not wash kale before storing as that will speed up spoilage.
You can also freeze kale, for short periods, but some have suggested blanching to extend its life in the freezer, which I am not too keen on as you need to briefly submerge the kale in boiling water and then plunge them into ice water - this destroys the enzymes that cause it to loose its green color, but will help to preserve its taste for up to 8 months.
Types Of Kale
Types of kale are differentiated by color (green, white, purple, or bluish green) and also leaf shape. One of the most common types of kale found in domestic grocery stores, Curly kale is sweet and mild (main image).
Some of the important varieties grown around the globe are Red Russian, Blue curled, Winterbor, Tuscan and Kamome kale.
Tuscan kale, also known as cavalo nero, is a popular winter season greens in the Northern parts of Italy. It features distinctive very long, curly, blue-green leaves with embossed surface resembling dinosaur skin, giving rise to its more common name as "dinosaur kale".
One of the many types of “flowering” kale, Kamome is an ornamental kale prized for its appearance (image on right). It has large blossoming leaves, with quite a distinct purple colour. Although edible, these species are often more bitter tasting than other varieties.
Why Kale Is Ideal For Your MS Diet
There are a lot of nutrients packed into every gram of kale. The following chart shows just how much. The percentage "daily value" [US Food and Drug Administration recommended daily nutrient intake] for kale not only shows a large number of different nutrients, but the high percentages you can get from only one cup of kale:
(click image for larger version)
If this is not convincing enough, here are a few facts on kale's powerhouse nutritional benefits to help motivate you on your quest to add kale to your MS diet, here are some reasons to consider:
MS Specific Benefits
- Kale is overflowing with vitamins A, C, and K and has a good amount of vitamin E and magnesium, all of which are key nutrients to a healthy MS diet
- It also contains some Omega 3 and Omega 6, which are also key nutrients to treat MS
- Kale is rich in chlorophyll which helps remove toxins and calm the immune system
- Kale also contains a host of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonols, such as quercetin, which will help prevent immune attacks on your nervous system
- Kale’s fibre supports a healthy digestive tract to help reduce inflammation in the gut
- Kale has a good amount of sulfur-based glucosinolates, supporting natural detoxification pathways in the liver, reducing the need for an immune response on rouge particles
- Di-indolyl-methane (DIM) found in kale is a effective immune modulator, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent - all reducing the load on the immune system
- Naturally rich in sulfur content, kale helps boost the body's detoxification enzymes, clearing carcinogenic substances in a relatively timely manner, which again helps strengthen the immune and keep it in a calmer state
- Kale's folate and B6 combine to keep homocysteine levels down, which may help in preventing memory loss [as well as cardiovascular problems]
- Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more Lutein [Lutein is a yellow or orange pigment found in some fruits and vegetables that may help to protect your vision], and also has zeaxathin which all help prevent damage to eyes
- Kale provides a dietary source of alpha-lipoic acid, which helps regenerate other anti-oxidants like vitamin C and Glutathione
- Kale, like other members of the brassica family, contains health-promoting phytochemicals, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol that are appears to protect against prostate and colon cancers
- Kale is notably good in many B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, vit.B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, pantothenic acid, etc that are essential for substrate metabolism in the body
- Kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells
- Kale is rich in calcium, potassium, copper, sodium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzymes. Iron is required for cellular oxidation and red blood cell formation. Calcium for which is one of the many factors that may help prevent osteoporosis.
Kale Preparation And Serving Tips
Kale is quite unique in its taste, and there are some excellents methods to get the most out the taste - if you are considering adding Kale to you MS diet consistently, these will sure to come in handy:
Kale should be washed thoroughly in clean running water in order to remove soil, dirt and any pesticide residues.
Just before cooking, remove tough stems, and trash wilted leaves from healthy ones.
To reduce kale bitterness, either steam kale (image on the right) for 30 seconds or marinate in lime juice (or vinegar) and sea salt for at least 30 minutes (you can even extend this overnight if you like).
Mix kale with other leafy greens in salads - it will blend nicely and add a unique flavour to the dish. Fresh young crispy kale goes well with fresh ginger [which helps reduce bitterness and add a little spice to the salad].
Mature leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed - you can try a sautéed side dish of kale, onions, and garlic drizzled in olive oil. Tuscan kale leaves are popular winter staples in all over Mediterranean, and are known to be used in soups, stews, salads, pasta and even pizza!
Juice as much kale as you can. The natural liquid vitamin content from kale is priceless to your body - its one of nature’s best liquid vitamin drinks.
Kale chips (image below right) are a nutritious, easy-to-make snack - I'll do more kale chips recipes, but just to give you an idea of how they are made - all you need to do is simply remove kale leaves from their stems, break kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and add dash of salt, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a 400°F ( 200°C) oven and then drizzle with olive oil!
Kale is gaining attention amongst dieticians and other health care professionals due to its natural and nutrient rich content. It has become a key soldier in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis, and should almost be seen as one of the MS supplements!
Now, remember to rotate through different greens, such as kale, spinach, lettuce, beet greens, mustard greens, and parsley so that you don’t eat just one kind of green.
I'll be doing some more MS healing foods again soon! Please drop me a comment below if you would like me to cover any specific MS healing foods!
I hope you'll be adding kale to your next grocery list! 😉