If you had to pick just one vegetable as your main source of nutrition, what would it be? French fries don’t count.
I’d have to go with a vegetable that the Greeks and Romans started cultivating over 2,000 years ago. It’s a member of the cabbage family and during World War II the British government urged its citizens to grow it in their Victory Gardens.
This hard working vegetable has amazing health benefits and is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But here’s the real reason I use it as my go-to vegetable – this green has been called the “new beef.” I’ll tell you why in just a bit.
In case you haven’t guessed yet, my pick for number one vegetable has to be kale.
Is Kale The New Beef?
Most of us rely on meat and dairy – not leafy greens – for our protein. In fact, you may have heard that vegetables don’t contain all of the essential amino acids that your body needs to build protein.
That’s true of most vegetables but not kale. It contains all nine essential amino acids plus nine more of the non-essential aminos. That’s an exceptionally high amount of protein for a vegetable.
And in some ways, the amino acids you get from health benefits of kale are better than the protein from meat.
When you eat meat, you have to break down the protein into amino acids and then use the amino acids to rebuild your body’s protein. Using kale bypasses the first part of that process letting your body put the amino acids right to work building protein.
We also think of vegetables as being mostly fat-free.
But kale provides a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fats.
Your body needs both omega-6 and omega-3 fats but they have to be in the right balance. That means you should get equal amounts of each or no more than a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats.
Unfortunately, the standard American diet is swimming in omega-6s (e.g., corn and soy oils, grains, seeds and beans) and deficient in omega-3s (e.g., fish, olive oil and walnuts). In fact, the typical American diet has 40 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3s. That’s one big reason for our epidemic of heart disease.
But kale gives you slightly more omega-3s to help balance the excess omega-6s that you might be eating.
Here’s an Easy Way to Add the Health Benefits of Kale to Your Lunch or Dinner
The amazing health benefits of kale are endless. Here’s a great recipe that’s quick, easy, and so delicious it may make kale your number one vegetable, too.
Just remember to buy organic kale.
It’s one of those crops that can be heavily sprayed. According to the USDA Pesticide Data Program, conventionally grown kale contains 55 known pesticide residues, including carcinogens, hormone disruptors, neurotoxins and reproductive toxins. You’ll definitely want to be safe and hold out for the organic version.
Recipe: Kale with Cranberries and Pine Nuts
- 3/4 pound organic kale (about 6 cups, chopped)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- Unrefined sea salt to taste
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nut
Strip kale leaves from the stalks and roughly chop the leaves. Cook kale in boiling water in a covered pot over high heat until tender (about 8 minutes).
Drain kale. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cranberries and sauté for 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant and cranberries are slightly plumped.
Add kale and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste and cover for a minute until greens are heated through. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.
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