I just read an article that was actually entitled 7 Reasons Kale is The New Beef. It caught my eye because for the better part of a year, I have developed a love affair with its leafy goodness. I drink a kale/spinach smoothie every morning and I sauté its international sister, Swiss chard, to enjoy with salmon for dinner. Funny enough, though, I have discovered that people do not show kale the respect that I believe it richly deserves.
I have spent a good amount of time lately reading about the benefits of food, balanced with exercise and sleep. You know...all the good stuff that's supposed to keep you from getting sick and feeling fuzzy headed. In a nutshell, here are the bullet point positives in kale:
~ A Natural Anti-Inflammatory: Inflammation is the main culprit of arthritis, heart disease, and many autoimmune diseases. Kale has been known to prevent and, in some cases, reverse many illnesses caused by inflammation.
~ An Excellent Source of Iron: Most Americans do not get enough iron. Kale is an excellent source of iron, and has just as much as beef with fewer calories.
~ Calcium: While dairy and beef products are excellent sources of calcium, kale contains more calcium per calorie than milk and is absorbed easier.
~ Fiber: One serving of kale has 5% of the daily recommended intake of fiber, which many Americans lack. Did you also know that our fiber deficiency can be the cause of other digestive disorders, cancer, as well as heart disease.
~ Omega Fatty Acids: We all hear about the importance of the omega family. Kale is a rich supplier of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
~Immunity Health: Kale will give you a super duper boost of immune-boosting antioxidants of vitamins A and C.
~Kale is Sustainable: Kale grows to maturity in just 60 days in most climates.
Aside from the obvious benefits outlined above, it is basically the best all around brain vitamin you can take. Consuming dark leafy veggies is a must in every diet, much to the chagrin of my teenage daughter. As a country, we have become uber dependent upon a primarily high carbohydrate diet. Specifically complex carbs, which are made up of rice, pasta, bread, and cereals. Simple carbs being made up of fruit, veggies, and milk products. We need both but not to the degree that we have become accustomed to in our country.
As it turns out, a high intake of complex carbs basically turn into sugar. We all know sugar fuels the brain, but did you know that too much sugar can basically overwhelm the brain? Over time it can even cause the brain to lose its ability to function properly. Now add that to the refined sugar we add to our diets, and you are getting a call from Dr. Oz to join him for a sugar intervention. According to the American Heart Association, we should be consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily, but the average American eats 22.2 teaspoons. That is 3.2 cups per week, which is the equivalent of 27 candy bars. I call that a holy crap statistic!
According to some studies, there is also a glaring correlation between disorders that affect the vascular system during the middle age years like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity and the ultimate onset of dementia. While there are just as many arguments stemming from environment, head trauma, and genetics being the cause of dementia and Alzheimer's, the studies linking glucose are irrefutable. I have a feeling that in the years to come researchers will definitively find the majority of cases to be due to excessive amounts of sugar and it's unpleasant friend, corn syrup.
Have I convinced you? Tell you what...I am going to give you my recipe for my very own morning boost of brain power and you be the judge.
Fill the blender (and I mean fill) with kale and spinach. You can find kale and spinach pre-washed in your veggie sections. I buy mine at Trader Joe's. Add about a cup of milk (I use vanilla soy). Add 2 TBSP of Chia Seeds (chia seeds can also be found at Trader Joe's and in some local markets. A single serving of these flavorless seeds pack more of a punch than flax seed and also give you protein, fiber, calcium, and zinc. Not to mention an excellent antioxidant.) Now blend it down to a liquid. Add one banana and any other fruit you like. I usually spend one day preparing individual bags of fruit and freeze them. That way I don't have to cut up fruit every morning. I fill a baggie with organic frozen blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. I also add a few slices of pineapple, apple, and pear. Prepare the fruit in advance and then all you have to do is pull it out of the freezer before you go to bed and it's all ready for morning. A blender of this smoothie will fill you up until lunch and you will basically have most of your fruit/veggies consumed in case you accidentally (on purpose) hit the wrong button on the vending machine later in the day!