Till not so long ago, very few people in South Africa were familiar with kale. A positive spin-off of the ‘Banting’ and Keto movements has been the introduction of this leafy vegetable to our supermarkets. Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that eating kale is a prerequisite for weight loss.

Perceptions of nutrition are so easily swung in the right direction but for the wrong reasons…

Kale is a great food to have and it’s indisputable that green leafy vegetables are imperative as part of anyone’s healthy eating pattern. However, there are some do’s and don’ts to consider.

How can you benefit from eating Kale?

Kale provides an abundance of nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate as well as a little calcium. On the calorie front, it’s a winner – it’s low carb, low kilojoules, low fat -like – most leafy vegetables.

In addition to the important vitamins abundant in kale, it is also considered an important source of a phytochemical called sulforaphane. This phytonutrient is powerful! It upregulates inherent mechanisms in the body that promotes health on many fronts amongst them nerve health and hormonal balance. Sulforaphane also improves inherent anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, fat burning, and anti-cancer capacity.

Kale is also easy to grow! and more available in supermarkets nowadays. That said, South Africans are not that familiar with kale, and this can present somewhat of a challenge for the cook in the family kitchen.

When you get it wrong…

The ideal way of ensuring maximum availability of the nutrients found in kale is to eat it raw. This might prove to be somewhat of a challenge to most of us. Eating raw kales requires a lot of chewing. In addition, the flavour might prove to be somewhat of an acquired taste for many individuals. When you cook it, Vitamin C and folate levels will drop. On the other hand, Vitamin A will be more available for absorption if you prepare it using oil or other sources of fat.

By the time kale (or any vegetable source of sulforaphane) has been cooked, baked, fried, dried – exposed to heat for more than 4 minutes, the sulforaphane will be less available for absorption.

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

Absolutely not! As with all prudent nutritional recommendations, there’s always an alternative. Kale is great food – but not a magic bullet. No food or single attribute of a specific food or food combination 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 close relatives broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, rocket and Brussel sprouts are also excellent sources of sulforaphane. Cabbage salad is an excellent sulforaphane opportunity! Consider replacing iceberg lettuce with the herb salad leaf rocket. Pair homegrown or store-bought broccoli sprouts with avo, hummus, seed crackers, olives and Mediterranean style tomato relish?

It’s about variety!

Making green leafy vegetables a regular on your dinner table makes perfect nutritional sense! That said, there’s no need to get stuck in misconceptions and diet dogma. Your motivation should be to include a wide variety of vegetables as part of your daily food choices – AND IT SHOULD BE ENJOYABLE!

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