(BeWellBuzz) Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and anti-inflammatory nutrients; kale is known to be the king of cruciferous vegetables. This vibrant, verdant green member of the cabbage family can be steamed, fried, sautéed, blended to make smoothies and soups or simply sprinkled like confetti over food. Moreover, kale contains more iron per calorie than red meat. This means vegetarians or those having plant-based diets, need not worry about iron deficiencies. These are just some of the reasons why kale is called the ‘beef’ of a plant-based diet.
Why kale and not meat?
In recent times, not only have meat processing procedures been questioned but so has the sustainability of the entire meat producing industry. Thus, as a society, we must look at other options. Kale takes mere 2 months to grow in addition to being nutritious, whereas, cattle farming takes up a lot of vital environmental resources – that are both scarce and could be put to better use – such as water and land.
Nutritiously, Kale is the better option when compared to beef. As stated above, it not only contains as much iron as beef, it has other tremendous winning qualities too. Kale is brimming with anti-cancer nutrients such as glucosinolates, in addition to having anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, while consuming beef can cause heart diseases, increased cholesterol and autoimmune diseases, kale actually does the opposite – it provides the body with nutrients that actually defend against and even reverse such diseases.
Most Americans consume more meat than greens and thus end up with insufficient fiber in their diets, which causes diseases such as digestive disorders and heart disease. One cup of kale provides 5 grams of fiber which is 5% of the recommended daily intake.
Antioxidants are known to prevent diseases such as cancer. Kale is an especially vital source of antioxidants. It is, in fact, the number one vegetable that contains the most carotenoids, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, all nutrients which have become such a critical natural health marvel that the USDA has invested huge sums of money trying to fund a project that is researching on exactly how much Kale contributes to human health.
In addition to fiber, antioxidants and iron; kale provides equal (if not more) amount of calcium and omega3 fatty acids than meat products. A cup of kale provides 15% of the daily requirement of calcium which is even more calcium per calorie than – you guessed it – milk! Thus, during an era when calcium deficiency related ailments such as arthritis and osteoporosis are becoming commonplace, we must endeavor to include more calcium-rich foods such as kale in our diets, whether we are vegetarian or not. Moreover, with significant percentages of omega3 fatty acids, which one traditionally associates only with meat and fish products, kale is definitely the healthier option when compared to meat.
So how can you add kale to your diet?
This nutritious yet inconspicuous member of the cabbage family can be stored and cooked in several different ways. Always wash kale well and shake to dry. It freezes well and can be thawed and used as if one were using raw kale. However, it is a good idea to chop it finely before freezing. It can be refrigerated for 3-4 days in a plastic bag or an airtight container in the crisper of your fridge though if stored for longer, it can get bitter.
There are numerous recipes one can follow in order to prepare kale, but in a nutshell, kale can be fried to make chips, steamed – in which case, it provides the maximum amount of nutrients, sautéed with other veggies for stir fries, blended with yogurt to make smoothies, mixed into soups, blanched for eating on its own or simply raw in a salad. Due to its curly leaves and vibrant color, kale can also be chopped up finely to make confetti for garnishes. The dinosaur Kale variety is a particular favorite in case you have never tried kale before.
So, the next time, you are tempted to opt for its meat counterpart beef, give kale a chance. Full of vitamins – get this, it has 200% per cup of the RDI for vitamin A and 130% of vitamin C – not to mention anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant nutrients, kale is inarguably the better option. You will not only be eating healthier, but you will also be helping the environment by eating this member of vegetable royalty. Kale is indeed the new beef.