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Kale: A super food that packs a punch

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TRIBUNE PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Tobi Page is a registered dietician in the Portland area who promotes the benefits of eating kale.Kale is one of those vegetables that produces a strong reaction.

Either you enjoy the nutritious benefits of this “super food” or you turn your nose at the sight of the dark-looking veggie gracing your dinner plate.

Tobi Page, a registered dietitian (eatingisalifestyle.com) in the Portland area, said, “People generally do like kale because it’s a sweeter green, as compared with collard or mustard greens. Those can tend to be pretty bitter and have quite a bite to them.”

Looking at spinach, as an example, Page noted that kale is a little heartier than spinach, but a bit sweeter. “It’s a lot better accepted, sometimes, as a new green,” she said.

There are many ways to prepare kale, but Page prefers the vegetable cooked.

“I prefer it cooked to raw, but they’re doing lots of raw salads and prepared salads in the stores,” Page said. “A lot of people are using it in their smoothies.”

You may have heard of kale referred to as a “super food.” According to Page, “The term ‘super food’ is really just a marketing term that somebody thought of as a way to sell their products. It doesn’t actually have a definition in science or anything like that.”

She added, “The connotation is that a Super Food is a food that has high levels of nutrition. So, kale gets to be a super food because it is exceptionally high in some of the vitamins and fiber.”

Kale can be grown in the Portland area and packs a much more nutritious punch than, for example, iceberg lettuce.

“You really do get more vitamins the darker a fruit or vegetable is,” Page said. “Iceberg lettuce really is like water, just barely held together with plant cells. Kale has a whole lot more fiber and a whole lot more vitamins and minerals.”

Kale, according to Page, can lower cholesterol, especially when first steamed, and lower the risk of certain cancers, including bladder, breast, ovary, prostate and colon. It’s high in Vitamin K, which helps blood clotting, and Vitamin A, in kale, is necessary for good night vision.

She added, a cup of kale provides 10 percent of your daily value for fiber.

Kale can be prepared in many ways, including as salads.

“Kale itself is a lot tougher than, say, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce or spinach. I would just use kale as the base of the salad,” Page said, noting the vinegar in the dressing will break down fibers and make it more palatable and easier to digest. She recommends putting dressing on the kale and letting it sit for a few minutes before serving.

You can also cook the kale.

“I just put it in a pan with olive oil, saute it up — I serve it just like that,” Page said. “I’ve also added it to soups — it can hold up in brothy soups.”

If you still don’t like kale, Page said, “It’s not like you’re going to not survive if you don’t eat kale.”

NEW SEASONS MARKET KALE AND CARROT SALAD

Salad ingredients:

1 large bunch curly kale, stems removed, leaves thinly sliced

3/4 cup grated or shredded carrots

1/3 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds

Dressing ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon tamari

1 1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt, to taste

Preparation:

In a large salad bowl combine carrots, kale, and sunflower seeds. In a small bowl whisk together dressing ingredients.

Pour over kale mixture; toss well to combine. Add salt to taste.

Recipe courtesy of New Seasons Market