Is kale really that super?

May 12, 2023 at 9:10 a.m. | Updated May 12, 2023 at 9:15 a.m.
Curried Kale is a nutritious and delicious dish.
Curried Kale is a nutritious and delicious dish. Katy G. Wilkens

Foods packed with good nutrition, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, but low in fats and sugars are sometimes called “superfoods.” In truth, they are just whole foods that haven’t been processed with lots of additives so their natural nutrition is not compromised.

Kale is on most people’s superfoods list. Kale comes in many varieties including curly, red and Russian. My favorite is the traditional Lacinato kale, sometimes called dinosaur kale because the leaves are wrinkled and pitted like dinosaur skin. Lacinato kale does well in my winter garden and is great in curried sauteed greens and bruised kale salads.

One challenge with this particular superfood (and most leafy greens) is that you may not be absorbing all of the great nutrition you think you are getting. That’s because of phytates. They are the natural compounds in leafy greens that bind with certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and calcium, and slow their absorption. Your body will absorb only about one-quarter to one-third of the minerals.

If you tried to get all of your iron from a similar, leafy green such as spinach, you would need to eat about 12 cups of cooked spinach each day. The fiber, vitamin A and C and other nutritents you get from kale are real. But you don’t get all the nutrition you need from it.

Though not glitzy or glamorous, the best way to be sure your diet is healthy is to eat a wide variety of foods in moderation. You’ll be off to a good start by cooking up a beautiful dish of kale.

Curried Kale

4 cups of Lacinato or other kale, sliced lengthwise, then chopped.

1 tablespoon oil

½ yellow onion, sliced

1 teaspoon curry powder or garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ cup water or low-sodium vegetable broth

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Dash of sesame oil

Wash kale and cut out the tough, central ribs of the leaves. Slice in long strips, and then cut crosswise about every 3 inches.

Saute onion in oil until translucent. Add curry powder or garam masala and turmeric, and let roast a minute or so. Add kale and water or broth. Cover and watch. If it needs more liquid, add ¼ cup water. Keep covered, and stir occasionally until kale turns bright green and wilts. Don’t overcook (kale will turn very dark). Remove kale from pan, leaving juices behind. Add rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Stir until sauce thickens and sesame seeds start to pop. Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil, pour over kale and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 72, Carbohydrates: 5 grams, Protein: 2 grams, Sodium: 166 milligrams

[Contributor Katy G. Wilkens recently retired as registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards for excellence in education and for significant contributions in renal nutrition. She has also been awarded the Medal of Excellence in kidney nutrition from the American Association of Kidney Patients.]


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