ISU Extension: Get your Green on St. Patty's with Kale

By Rachel Wall, ISU Extension Dietitian

Want to be trendy in 2014? Then eat more kale. This dark leafy green vegetable is considered to be a "nutritional powerhouse" and is high on the list of nutrition trends for the new year. All fruits and vegetables are healthy and provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the compounds that protect cells from damage.

However, kale is marketed as one of the healthiest vegetables for humans. It's part of the Brassica family, which includes other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.


Quick Facts:

• MyPlate recommends we eat 1 ½ cups to 2 cups of dark green vegetables each week
• One cup of chopped kale provides:
o 684% of the daily value of Vitamin K
o 206% of the daily value of Vitamin A
o 134% of the daily value of Vitamin C
• Kale's eye health and anticancer benefits are linked to its concentration of two antioxidants: carotenoids and flavonoids.

Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting, but also helps with bone health and acts as an antioxidant. Vitamin K has been shown to help lower the overall risk of getting or dying from cancer. However, the Vitamin K of kale can interfere with blood thinning medications, such as warfarin. Anyone taking a blood thinner should talk with his or her health care professional before eating kale. Despite its many health benefits, kale has oxalates, which can interfere with calcium absorption. So it's important to eat calcium-rich foods at different times than when eating kale.


Tips for Buying, Storing and Preparing Kale:

• Kale is available throughout the year. Its peak time is from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring.
• Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems.
• The leaves should look fresh, be unwilted, and be free from signs of discoloration, such as yellowing. Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves. These are more tender and have a milder flavor than kale with large leaves.
• To store, place kale in a plastic storage bag, removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store kale in the refrigerator; it will keep for five days. The longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes. Do not wash kale before storing, because exposure to water encourages spoilage. Before using, rinse kale leaves under warm running water.
• Chop the leaves into 1/2" slices and the stems into 1/4" lengths for quick and even cooking.


Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
Serves: 6
Cost Per Serving: $.89

Ingredients:
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
• 1 medium carrot, sliced 1/8 inch thick
• 2 teaspoons garlic, peeled and minced (3-4 cloves), or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
• 4 cups water
• 1 cup dry yellow or brown lentils
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced sodium chicken broth
• 1 tablespoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) no sodium added diced tomatoes or 2 chopped tomatoes
• 1 bunch kale (about 7 ounces)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes.
3. Add water to veggies in pot. Heat to boiling.
4. Rinse lentils in colander with water. Add lentils to pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not drain.
5. Add chicken broth, dried basil or Italian seasoning, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.
6. Rinse kale leaves, cut out the main stems and discard. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces.
7. Stir kale, salt, and pepper into lentil mixture. Return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Tips:
• Skip soaking the lentils first for this recipe. It is not needed.
• Use kitchen scissors instead of a knife to cut the kale.
• Make kale chips from extra leaves. Drizzle a little oil on clean, dry leaves. Spread leaves on a cookie sheet. Bake 12-20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Leaves should be thin and crackly but not brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.
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