I REALLY GOT into kale when I was traveling through the USA last year. On my first day in NYC, I visited Whole Foods Market and noticed that the chain uses the ANDI index to rate the nutrition of the food they sell.
ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, which is basically a way to rate the nutrition density of a food on a simple nutrition vs. calorie scale. Junk food that’s loaded with calories but has little nutritional value gets a low score – Cola for example scores a pathetic 1.
Please note that a low score doesn’t always mean that a food is bad for you – just that it’s calorie dense relative to the nutrients it carries – avocado for instance scores a mere 37 points but no-one is saying that avo is unhealthy.
Right at the top of the chart, with a mighty score of 1,000 is where you’ll find kale (and Collard Greens) – a low calorie count plus huge nutrient levels makes kale the grand champion.
Kale was way off my radar before I got to the USA, but after seeing that score, doing a bit of reading and trying this dark green wonder, I was keen. After getting stuck into it on a regular basis from Whole Foods’ salad bars (which are amazing places to grab lunch), or as raw kale chips, or in stir-fries for the next ten weeks, I was totally hooked.
For those who’ve never tried kale, it’s a type of cabbage, more like an age-old wild cabbage than the pale green or red domesticated numbers you’ll find in the supermarket. As expected from something at the top of the ANDI scale, it’s absolutely loaded with the good stuff. Kale contains high levels of carotenoids, vitamins K and C, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and calcium. It also contains sulforaphane, which is said to have strong anti-cancer properties. Kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
There are more than 40 flavonoids in kale, which give both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition, Kale offers cholesterol-lowering benefits (particularly when it’s cooked by steaming). Kale also supports the body’s detoxification system – new research shows that kale can help regulate detoxification right down to the cellular level.
So there’s all that plus the fact that kale isn’t packed with calories, so you can eat heaps of it without worrying (see my article about raw food and fat loss here).
Kale has a strong, almost bitter taste that some people don’t like at all but I find it to be delicious. The only problem is that I’m finding it hard to find any. It’s all over the place in the USA, and I had no trouble tracking it down at markets in Queensland, but it’s a rare beast in NZ.
When I can get hold of kale, most goes straight into a stir-fry, with some ending up in smoothies. If I could get hold of a regular supply, I’d buy a dehydrator and make kale chips, which are delicious almost beyond description. A friend of mine in LA dehydrated two kilos of kale and coated it with tamari sauce – that two kilos lasted just over a day (yes, it was that good).
To make sure that I’m getting some kale when I can’t get the fresh stuff, I tracked down a supply of organic kale powder from Eternal Delights in Christchurch – 200 grams cost me $15.50 plus shipping. I add a big teaspoon into a shake or smoothie every day and that’s a good start, but I’ll keep looking for the real thing. I see that Huckleberry Farms has kale on its website but I must be short sighted because I don’t recall seeing any at my local store – I’ll have a thorough look next time I’m there. If anyone knows where to get kale in Auckland, please let me know by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page.
All greens are good for you but kale is the king (it even tastes healthy). If you can get kale from your local veggie shop or farmers market, I’d urge you to try it. ASHLEY KRAMER