Oh beloved kale. Seemingly overnight you morphed from a discarded, disregarded garnish to today’s “it” superfood. We’ve all seen devotees pay homage to their beloved kale on t-shirts, hats, mugs, and countless Instagram pics. And get this: Kale can boast an astonishing 400% surge on restaurant menus. So just how did this little known veggie suddenly jet into the limelight?
Nobody knows for sure, but it seems to have started when chefs, who are always reinventing food, adopted kale as a darling. Celebrities then began publicly sharing their kale love. And you may recall that kale gained widespread media attention when a t-shirt maker, who produced an Eat More Kale silkscreen, was challenged by Chick-fil-A, who felt the slogan was too similar to their Eat Mor Chikin campaign.
When the big kale buzz began, nutritionists like me were over the moon. Leafy green consumption had been pretty flat for over three decades, and most Americans were far short of the recommended minimum intake of three cups of dark green veggies per week. Filling that gap immediately ups the intake of several critical nutrients, including vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, and fiber. Plus, kale is loaded with antioxidants and tied to anti-inflammation. This member of the cruciferous veggie family (along with its relatives broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) helps fight heart disease by protecting the bends and branches in blood vessels; areas that tend to be the most prone to cholesterol build-up. Kale’s natural detoxers have been shown to deactivate cancer-causing substances and stop or slow the growth of existing cancer cells. Additionally, recent research found that eating just one and a half extra servings of leafy greens a day lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14%.
Eating more kale is also a savvy weight loss strategy. In addition to being filling and low in calories, published research has tied higher antioxidant intakes to leaner bodies. Plus, the chewing kale requires ups satiety, to help decrease hunger levels and naturally curb eating. One recent study found that just adding green plant membranes to the diets of overweight women resulted in weight loss, smaller waist measurements, and a reduced desire to eat. Pretty powerful stuff!
So regardless of how kale became hip I’m thrilled that it’s not a fizzling fad. Being a regular kale eater (or drinker) is one of the most impactful ways you can protect your health. It’s also one of the easiest. You can enjoy kale in a smoothie or frittata at breakfast, salad at lunch, or sautéed at dinner. Kale chips are an easy breezy and satisfying snack, and you can even bake kale into desserts. Few veggies are as versatile and simultaneously nutrient dense. So I say, “Kale yeah” to this nutrition trend. America, let’s keep on kaling on!