Thursday, August 1, 2013

Super Kale!

There are certain ‘super foods’ that have an amazing and incredible array of health benefits that go well beyond their nutrient values.  Some of the more commonly known super foods are blueberries, green tea, quinoa and dark chocolate (yay!) And….did you know that kale is also widely regards as one of the world’s most powerful of super foods?

Kale is a member of the Brassica family of vegetables that includes cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga and turnip.  Kale is much like a non-heading cabbage and differs a bit from collards in appearance and taste.  Most kale varieties have upright, green to deep blue-green leaves with fringed or wavy edges and long petioles (the stalk of the leaf, attaching the blade to the stem.)  Vegetables in the Brassica family are known for their richness in anti-oxidants and for their phytonutrients.  And kale is the leader of the bunch when it comes to those awesome nutrients!

Some of the most important nutrients present in kale include the glucosinolates and methyl cysteine sulfoxides.  These particular super-nutrients help to activate detoxifying enzymes in the liver that play an important role in neutralizing carcinogenic (cancer causing) substances.  One such glucosinolate, sulforaphane, is formed when kale is either chopped or chewed. Sulforaphane has been shown to alter the genetic expression of the liver thus allowing the liver to effectively use its detoxification enzymes. 

Another glucosinolate phytonutrient present in kale is isothiocyanates.  Isothiocyanates have been shown to inhibit carcinogenesis (the production of cancerous cells) and to cause cancer cell apoptosis (cancer cell death.)  When kale is broken (chopped or chewed) an enzyme, myrosinase, interacts with glucosinolates to release isothiocyanates.

It’s been theorized that vegetables in the Brassica family require cooking to unlock the nutrient content yet the truth is that all vegetables can be eaten raw and that cooking at temperatures over 118 degrees often destroys valuable enzymes.  Studies have shown that the body’s absorption of isothiocyanates is actually lower from cooked kale than from raw kale.  Boiling kale a mere 9-15 minutes can result in a decrease of 18-59 percent of total glucosinolate content.

Kale is also an especially powerful source of anti-oxidants.   Kale ranks the highest among all vegetables in its concentration of carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, pigments which are critical for the plant’s defense against excess solar radiation.   Interest in these carotenoids has become such a phenomena that the USDA has invested over $800,000 into a four year “Carotenoid Project ”, a study that also analyzed twenty-three varieties of kale!
Brought to you by Raw! Raw! To Go!

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