With the recent focus on Natural health, organic foods and the rise of Organic markets, you would think that there will be diversity in the fresh produce section. My recent trip to Sprouts, however, revealed a limited selection of vegetables. Now, if you go to a Chinese supermarket, you’d find a whole wall of the place dedicated to vegetables. Of course, with the Chinese supermarket you would never know where these things come from, so the best bet for food diversity is still undoubtedly Whole Foods.
Anyways, back to the topic. In the limited selection available in Sprouts, I did notice a variety of veggies in the Brassica family. The Brassica (or Cruciferous) family of vegetables contains phytochemicals that possess antioxidant properties. The most famous in the family being Broccoli, with its cancer-fighting power thoroughly researched. However, for the sake of diversity, the fresh produce I picked up that day was not Broccoli. It was a lesser-known cousin, but filled with nutrients distinct from those in broccoli. Let me explain:
When was the last time you cooked this?? Kale contains a broad spectrum of nutrients, including Vitamin C, K, B6, and minerals such as calcium, copper, and potassium, which is known to combat hypothyroidism and muscle cramps. One research article indicates better absorption of calcium from kale than from dairy products! (Of course, what I mean is not it contains more calcium per gram, it is just more easily absorbed). Notice its slightly rough appearance; it contains abundant dietary fiber. All Brassica veggies contain sulfur, which aids in the liver detox mechanism, enabling smooth processing and removal of toxins. Of course, it is an antioxidant like broccoli, so it prevents unstable chemicals called free radicals to wreak havoc in cells and DNA, preventing cancer.
What sets Kale apart from its cousins is its rich content of Lutein, a kind of carotenoids (carotenoids are a class of plant pigments that also include beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A). Lutein is mostly found in the retina of the eyes, and has been implicated in research studies in preventing/helping macular degeneration. Macular Degeneration (MD) is a condition that involves degeneration of the macula, a central spot of visual perception in the eye. With macular degeneration, central vision is gradually lost, while peripheral vision is still intact. Lutein is the antioxidant that blocks free radical damage to the tiny vessels in the eye, thus preventing MD.
Kale contains 22,000 micrograms/100 grams of Lutein; brocolli comes second, with 2,000. The stats clearly shows who’s the boss when it comes to eye health, and should be a staple in the diet for people with risk factors of MD (smoking, aging, hypertension). Please do not overlook this valuable veggie next time you go grocery shopping, and be sure to get the pill form (ie. Cruciferous Complete from Standard Process) if you are a picky-eater. Sauteing or stir-frying kale with garlic, salt, and red wine vinegar is a good way to cook it, just look up ‘kale recipe’ on Google. Until next time!