Kale

Benefits of kale

KaleIf you have not tried kale until now, you are absolutely missing out! Kale, also known as one of the main superfoods, is packed with nutrients. Even spinach cannot come close to the amount of nutrients which are found in kale. Kale provides a range of health benefits. These health benefits, as well as the history and the regional culinary uses of kale will be addressed in this article.

Description

Kale is a unique vegetable. Besides the fact that it contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals, kale also has the ability to thrive through the cool seasons. Also, kale grows wild on various continents. This especially happens in countries which border the Mediterranean Sea. It is said that the cool season in which kale grows is also reflected in its flavour. When kale is exposed to frost, it can have a sweeter taste. This is due to the conversion of kale starches into sugars. However, the taste of kale can vary a lot. Depending on the type of kale, it can have a bitter taste, more of a peppery taste or it can be rather plain. Some types of kale can also be slightly sweet. The types of kale which we can buy in the supermarkets now are domesticated versions of wild plants. While might one think that kale has always looked like this, it has actually taken farmers hundreds of years to develop. There are three main types of kale. The first type of kale is characterized by being flat and having wide leaves. The types of kale which belong to this category are Beria, Red Russian, Smooth German and Black Magic. The second type of kale is darker compared to the first type and is also called Napus. The types of kale which are considered to be part of this category include Toscano, Dinasour Kale and Tuscan Black. The third type of kale is also called Scotch and is characterized by having curly and tightly formed leaves. The types of kale which belong to this category are Starbor, Darkibor, Winterbor and Dwarf Blue Curled. While these three types of kale are probably the most commonly found types of kale, this does not exclude the fact that a blend of these types can be found as well. All types of kale belong to the Brassica genus of plants. Other vegetables which belong to this same genus of plants include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and collards. In all of the three abovementioned categories you can find different colours of kale. However, the majority of types have a light to dark green colour. Some types might also have more of a lavender colour. Another type of kale which you will be able to find is kale which has green leaves but it has a purple stem. Some people also refer to kale as “cole crop”. This term is sometimes also used to refer to cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. This term is derived from the Latin word “caulis”. This term means stem and since all of the abovementioned vegetables have a stem, they are referred to as cole crop.

History

The first time kale was cultivated is said to have taken place in the Mediterranean region. It is estimated that this process took place about 2000 years ago. Kale played an important role during the time of the Roman Empire as well as during the medieval period in Europe. It was especially important in the food supply in Europe between the fifth and fifteenth centuries. While this has not been confirmed, it is said that European colonizers were the first ones to bring kale to North America. It is suggested that this took place in the 1600s. The first ones to bring kale to Canada were Russian traders. The Russian traders only brought kale to Canada about a hundred years after it had been introduced to North America. Currently, there are thousands of farms in the United States which grow kale. This kale is grown for commercial purposes and it grows in Texas, New Jersey, California and Georgia. However, kale acreage is low compared to a vegetable such as broccoli. For example, the total kale acreage is between 5,000 and 7,000 acres. Broccoli, on the other hand, has a total acreage between 130,000 and 150,000.

Detoxification

One of the main health benefits of kale is that it functions as a natural detoxifier. It helps the body to eliminate as well as remove toxins from your body. The specific component which is responsible for this is called isothiocyanates (ITCs). This component is made from glucoinolates. Studies have found that these compounds help to remove toxins from your body at the cellular level. The ITCs are a powerful protection mechanism against free radicals and toxins. Our body is continuously exposed to toxins. Toxins can be found in our environment, in medicine as well as in processed foods. It is therefore important that we consume foods which help us to remove these toxins from our body. The compounds which destroy toxins first are called antioxidants. After they have been destroyed by antioxidants, they are then removed by glucosinolates. The process of detoxification is said to happen in two phases, namely Phase I detoxification and Phase II detoxification. This process is further explained in an article which was published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. This same study also suggest that the health benefits of kale are most potent after they have just been harvested. This is due to the fact that the glucosinolates are easily diminished after they have harvested. They are often lost when the vegetable is stored. The components are not only leached during processing but they can also be degraded. Thus, if kale undergoes any radiation treatment, then it is very likely that the number of ITCs are decreased. It is for this reason important to purchase your kale from a responsible source. This can be from an organic supermarket or from a local farmer.


Cardiovascular benefits

Another health benefit of kale is that it has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Due to the many healthy nutrients found in kale, the vegetable is said to support heart health. The main nutrients which are to be found in kale include fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. According to a clinical professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt Medical School in Tennessee, the most important thing one can do to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is to increase one’s potassium intake. The increase of potassium should be combined with a lower intake of sodium. This dietary change is considered to be the most important change in order to prevent heart diseases. In a study which was conducted among people who consumed almost 4 grams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from heart diseases. This is in comparison to people who consume less than 1 gram of potassium a day. Another health benefit of potassium is that is can help preserve bone mineral density. Also, it protects the body against the loss of muscle mass. Also, potassium plays a role in the reduction of the formation of kidney stones. Another important nutrients which kale contains is called alpha-lipoic acid. This nutrient is an antioxidant which has been associated with lower levels of glucose. Also, it has been associated with preventing oxidative stress among patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes. Thus, all in all one can say that kale provides various health benefits with regards to the cardiovascular system.

Regional culinary uses of kale

While kale might have been found in the Mediterranean region, it is now used in different countries all over the world. For example, in the Netherlands kale is considered part of a traditional winter dish which is also known as “boerenkool-stamppot”. This dish is a combination of kale, mashed potatoes and mashed carrots. Sometimes this dish is also combined with fried bacon as well as with a smoked sausage. In Italy, kale is also used. The vegetable is known as “cavolo nero” and it is used in the Tuscan soup which is known as ribollita. The vegetable also features in dishes such as polenta and casseoula, which is a pork stew. Kale also plays an important role in northern Germany. Especially in the towns Hannover, Oldenburg and Bremen has kale become increasingly popular. Many of the communities in this region have a yearly kale festival. At this festival different dishes are consumed which include kale. In the Scandinavian countries, kale is also important. In Sweden, for example, kale is often served around Christmas time. It is often served in combination with the Christmas ham. The kale is prepared by separating the leaves from the stem. The leaves are then cooked together with the stock. Once the leaves have been cooked, the leaves are pressed and drained so that any access liquid is removed. The kale is then finely chopped and cooked with pepper, syrup and cream. Kale is also commonly eaten as a soup in Sweden. The base of the soup is onion, pork sausages and ham broth. In Montenegro, kale is considered to be a popular vegetable. Kale, which is locally known as rashtan, is often eaten during winter time. During this time of year, it is cooked together with potatoes and mutton. The Turkish kitchen also uses kale in various dishes. Especially in the Eastern Black Sea region of the country, kale soup is a popular dish. Kale sarma is another popular Turkish recipe which is served throughout the country. Kale tursu and kale kavurma are also common dishes which are consumed throughout Turkey.

How to select and store

When buying kale in the supermarket or from a local farmer, make sure that you pay attention to the kale you are buying. When buying the vegetable, look for kale which has firm leaves. Also the leaves should have a deep colour. The stems of the vegetable should be moist hardy. When buying kale, the vegetable should be stored in a cool environment. This is due to the fact that warm temperatures can cause it to wilt. Also, warm temperatures can negatively influence the flavour of kale. Besides the fact that the leaves should be firm and have a deep colour, they should also be free from signs of browning and they should look fresh. When choosing kale, try and pick those which have small leaves. Kale with small leaves is usually more tender and it has a milder flavour compared to kale with larger leaves. The vegetable is available throughout the year. However the main season is from winter until the beginning of spring. When storing kale, make sure you put it in a plastic bag. Also pay attention that as much air as possible is removed from the bag. Kale should be stored in the refrigerator. In the refrigerator it can last up till five days. When kale is stored for longer, the taste becomes more bitter. Moreover, kale should not be washed before it is stored. This is because exposure to water can cause the vegetable to spoil.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 494x
Added: 01-02-2017 23:30
Last modified: 17-04-2017 14:23

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