They have become the rage in the health industry. Eat more Kale. Eat more chard. But what are they exactly. Here’s an overview along with a few recipes to help jump start the ideas that will help make a healthier you this 2013!
Brassica oleracea acephala is a green leafy vegetable of the cruciferous, or cabbage, family and may, in fact, be the closest relative to the wild cabbage. Kale and collards are essentially the same vegetable, with kale’s leaves being curly about the edges and less tolerant to heat. (Other greens in this family include mustard greens, turnip greens, kohlrabi, and watercress, and offer similar benefits so as to make them easily interchangeable with kale in recipes.) Thought to have originated in Asia Minor, it was brought to Europe around 600 B.C., and to America in the 1600’s, and has been cultivated into several varieties including curly, ornamental, and dinosaur.
Kale is among the highest nutritional vegetables, being an excellent source of carotenes, vitamins B6 and C, and manganese, in addition to dietary fiber, minerals (copper, iron, and calcium), and the vitamins B1, B2, and E. One cup of kale supplies more than 70% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin C, with only 20 calories! It also has three times as much calcium as phosphorous, a beneficial ratio for bone health.
It also exhibits the same anticancer properties of other cabbage family members. In other words, the higher the intake of these vegetables (i.e. cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard greens, radishes, rutabaga, and turnips), the lower the rates of such cancers as colon, prostate, lung, and breast.
Select produce that is fresh, tender, and dark green. Smaller leaves are easier to handle, are more tender, and possess a milder flavor. Kale’s peak season is mid-winter through the start of spring.
- Add kale to a dinner salad
- Lightly saute kale with fresh garlic and sprinkle with lemon juice to serve
- Add kale into a morning green juice
- Puree cooked kale and potatoes together with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and cumin for a delicious soup, adding vegetable stock if needed
Beta vulgaris cicla belongs to the same family as beets and spinach. It has a thick, crunchy stalk and wide fan-like leaves that might be smooth or curly. Both the leaves and stalk are edible with a taste that resembles the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty of spinach leaves. Of the varieties, some of the most popular include bright lights, rhubarb or ruby chard, Vulcan, and White King.
Native to the Mediterranean region, chard has been honored for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. For example, the leaves were said to neutralize acid and have a powerful laxative effect. Among its other benefits, it is rich in carotenes, vitamins C, E, and K, dietary fiber, chlorophyll, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese.
Due to its combination of phytochemicals (carotenes, chlorophyll, and other plant pigments) and soluble fiber, Swiss chard is a powerful anticancer food especially for the digestive tract. Some studies have found that it significantly reduces precancerous lesions in the colon. Additionally, the high amount of vitamin K maintains bone health.
When purchasing, look for leaves that are vivid green without brown or yellow spots and holes from insects. The stalks should look crisp and unblemished. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Sprinkle chopped walnuts over braised Swiss chard and top with a little freshly squeezed orange juice
- Toss penne pasta with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, navy beans, and shredded Swiss chard
- Include in omelets and frittatas
- Substitute for spinach in vegetarian lasagna
Here are some other links with which to find out more about kale and chard:
Murray, Michael, N.D.; Pizzorno, Joseph, N.D.; and Pizzorno, Lara, M.A., L.M.T. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, 2005, p. 177, 209-211, 238-240.