A little while ago, we had a light supper with old friends. In years past, a ‘braaibroodjie’ (toasted cheese and tomato sandwich prepared on the fire) or baked potato or sweet potato would no doubt have been on the table to compliment the usual chicken, lamb chops and perhaps ‘wors’ (meat sausage) and salad. This evening however, it was clear that things have changed. No toasties. No potato. No sweet potato. Wilted kale, spinach salad and meat.  That’s it.

A mention was made of ‘banting’ and the family’s newfound habit of having wilted spinach or kale every night. The latter, when they could find it.  From the conversation, I got the impression that the spinach and kale was now a regular on the table as a result of an associated attribute that would promote weight loss.

mixed seasonal vegetables

People’s opinions and perception of nutrition are so easily swung in the right direction for the wrong reasons…

Make no mistake. Kale is a great food to have! Regardless of the merits of the associated claims. It’s indisputable that green leafy vegetables are imperative as part of anyone’s healthy eating pattern.

Kale provides an abundance of Vitamin A and Vitamin C and folate  as well as a little calcium to mention those nutrients of which it may be regarded a good source. When eaten raw, one would benefit from the latter 3 nutrients in particular (although it’s going to take a lot of chewing) and cooked, the plant Vitamin A will be more available for absorption . It is also ultra low in carbs and kilojoules…like most leafy vegetables.

Of equal value is a phyto chemical called sulforaphane found in abundance in kale. This phyto nutrient is powerful! Anti-cancer, nerve health, hormonal balance, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol lowering and fat burning! These are but some of the attributes associated with this active ingredient. Some of these attributes have been thoroughly investigated scientifically whilst the significance of others and practical applicability in the human body -as opposed to a test tube – are not yet completely clear. For  example, more research is still required to help us understand exactly how sulforaphane might influence weight loss.

It’s easy to grow yes! And more available nowadays. That said, South African’s are not that familiar with kale and this can present somewhat of a challenge for the cook in the family kitchen.  Unfortunately by the time the kale is cooked as per the package instructions, made into chips, baked or prepared in any way other than eating it raw, the goodness – the sulforaphane –  is heat sensitive and therefor destroyed.

Does this mean all the cost and trouble to buy it, make it and for some, eat is, is in vain?

As with all nutrition recommendations, there’s always an alternative.  It’s a great food – but not a magic bullet. No food or single attribute of a specific food or food broccoli-sproutscombination is.

How to get it right

  • Opt for a variety of vegetables and a variety of food preparation methods for maximum nutritional benefit.
  • Wherever possible, always have a large proportion of your vegetable foods raw.
  • Kale’s cousins broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are also exceptional sources  of sulphoraphane. In fact broccoli sprouts are the best source and in my opinion, also the one that’s easiest to sneak into salads…

I’ve included a very nice quiche recipe using kale as ingredient. It might not provide huge amounts of sulpurophane or folate due to the longer cooking time but it does contribute substantial amounts of convenience and ease and other healthful ingredients e.g. plant vitamin A or  carotenoids which also contributes remarkable health benefits. In addition, this quiche is a great source of fibre and the bulky serving full of flavour means tummies get filled. It’s also easy to prepare.

It does make perfect sense to make this great green leafy plant part of your regular shopping but there’s no need to get stuck in  misconceptions and diet dogma.

There needn’t be any fear that without any single particular food on your table, health success will elude you!

Kale quiche with your choice of meat Kale Quiche Small