Spotlight on Kale

Thu, 6 June 2013 - 1:38 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

Kale looks and cooks a lot like spinach, but examining its nutrient-packed green leafiness up close reveals a versatile, delicious vegetable offering many benefits to make it a smart dietary staple. 

A nutritional comparison of kale to Popeye’s old stand-by, spinach, might surprise you. Kale outpaces spinach in all but two categories. For starters, one cup of chopped spinach is only 30 grams in weight; one cup of the much bulkier kale is 67 grams in weight (also chopped). You’d have to eat over double the amount of spinach as kale to put it in the same nutritional context. But, as illustrated in the chart below, even tripling the amount of spinach doesn’t give it a win in several significant categories. Indeed, a serving of kale has ten times the vitamin C of spinach. Let’s look at the nutrient numbers provided by the USDA National Nutrient Database for raw, chopped kale by the cup vs. one cup of raw, chopped spinach:

Kale vs. spinach, chopped raw, by the cup

 

Nutrient

Spinach

Kale

Weight

30 g

67 g

Calories

7 kcal

34 kcal

Protein

0.86 g

2.21 g

Fat

0.12 g

0.47 g

Carb

1.09 g

6.71 g

Fiber

0.7 g

1.3 g

Calcium

30 mg

90 mg

Magnesium

24 mg

23 mg

Phosphorus

15 g

38 g

Potassium

167 mg

299 mg

Vitamin C

8.4 mg

80.4 mg

Folate (vitamin B9)

58 mcg

19 mcg

Beta Carotene

1,688 mcg

6,181 mcg

Vitamin A

2,813 IU (141 mcg)

10,302 IU (515 mcg)

 

 

Spinach just edges out kale in grams of magnesium. The real win for spinach, though, is in the amount of folate it contains. Folate is in the vital B-vitamin family of nutrients that help produce and maintain new cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth, such as infancy and pregnancy. In addition, folate also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer. For these reasons, both adults and children need folate, which can help produce normal red blood cells and prevent anemia. As we shall see, however, broccoli is a better choice for your folate intake than spinach—not due to the amount of it per serving, but because they are comparably B9-rich, and broccoli surpasses spinach in a number of other nutrient categories. 

Overall, then, it looks as though Popeye was, if not quite mistaken, at the very least not consuming the most nutrient-efficient green leafy vegetable available. But a toe-to-toe contest between kale and the more substantial wonderfood broccoli also might surprise you:

Kale vs. broccoli flowerets, chopped raw, by the cup

 

Nutrient

Broccoli flowerets

Kale

Weight

71 g

67 g

Calories

20 kcal

34 kcal

Protein

2.12 g

2.21 g

Fat

0.25 g

0.47 g

Carb

3.72 g

6.71 g

Fiber

-

1.3 g

Calcium

34 mg

90 mg

Magnesium

18 mg

23 mg

Phosphorus

47 g

38 g

Potassium

231 mg

299 mg

Vitamin C

66.2 mg

80.4 mg

Folate (vitamin B9)

50 mcg

19 mcg

Beta Carotene

-

6,181 mcg

Vitamin A

2,130 IU (106 mcg)

10,302 IU (515 mcg)

 

 

The USDA does not provide the amount of fiber in broccoli flowerets. Raw whole stems and flowerets contain 4 grams, which outpaces kale handily. More significantly, broccoli is higher in phosphorus (though not by much). Phosphorus helps you absorb folate, and so this gives broccoli a decisive victory over kale in the B-vitamin department. This is because broccoli contains much more folate. In addition to its folate-absorption help, phosphorus is necessary for bone growth and for overall bodily energy. Some nutrition experts also warn of a general decrease in the phosphorus content of the American diet. Though broccoli is an even better choice, a cup of chopped kale still contains a good amount of phosphorus—far more than a cup of chopped spinach. 

The USDA does not provide a number for broccoli’s beta carotene content, and floweret-specific numbers are not so easy to come by elsewhere. The vitamin A content, however, is roughly five times lower in broccoli flowerets than in kale. Since vitamin A is obtained through beta carotene in fruits and vegetables, we can extrapolate that broccoli does not offer near the whopping 6,000-plus micrograms of this uber-nutrient that kale does.

Next let’s look at kale’s culinary versatility with three very different recipes. One is a perfect starter in the form of soup, the second a hearty yet heart smart vegetarian meal, and the third a snack that substitutes crispy, oven-baked kale for deep-fried potato chips.

Kale and Chorizo Soup

 

Ingredients

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  1 1/2 pounds chorizo sausage, sliced in 1/2-inch slices
  •  1 cup chopped onions
  •  2 tablespoons minced garlic
  •  2 large white potatoes, peeled and diced
  •  3 quarts of chicken stock
  •  4 cups kale, rinsed, stemmed, and cut into 1-inch strips
  •  2 bay leaves
  •  1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  •  Pinch of crushed red pepper
  •  1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 6 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh mint
  • Small loaf of crusty bread

Directions

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chorizo and onions. Saute the mixture for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock and kale and bring the liquid up to a boil. Stir in the bay leaves, thyme and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and skim off any fat. Stir in the parsley. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls and garnish with the fresh mint. Serve the soup with crusty bread.

Serves 4 large servings or 8 starters

 

 

Kale and Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps, sliced
  • 1 1/4 pounds kale, rinsed, stemmed, and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1/2 cup dry Italian red wine

Directions

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add mushrooms and cook until dark and tender. Add kale and turn with tongs to wilt. Season the mixture of mushrooms and greens with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add wine and deglaze the pan. Reduce heat to low and cook greens 5 minutes longer then serve.

Serves 4 for dinner

 

Kale Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 sliced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon juice to taste

Directions

Tear the leaves off the bunch kale. Toss on a rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 sliced garlic cloves, and salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degrees F oven until crisp, about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Squeeze some lemon juice on top.

Serves 2 to 4 for snacking

 

 

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24 (2011), Kale,

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3050?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=kale

 

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24 (2011), Spinach, 

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3233

 

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24 (2011), Broccoli Flowerets, 

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3423

 

Food Network, 2012, “Kale and Chorizo Soup” by Emeril Lagasse,

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/kale-and-chorizo-soup-recipe/index.html

 

Food Network, 2012, “Kale and Portobello Mushrooms” by Rachael Ray, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/kale-and-portobello-mushrooms-recipe/index.html 

 

Food Network, 2012, “Kale Chips,” http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/kale-chips-recipe/index.html

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® March / April 2012 • Volume 30, Number 2)




Latest News
Luxury Cruise Fitness: It Can Be Done
Luxury Cruise Fitness: It Can Be Done

Aug 02 1:02 p.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables

Comrades Ultra - Loose and Fun = Success
Comrades Ultra - Loose and Fun = Success

Jun 04 12:26 p.m.

Article by: Rick Ganzi, M.D.

Young Milers in Anaheim CA love running
Young Milers in Anaheim CA love running

May 15 3:03 p.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables

Catch Them If You Can
Catch Them If You Can

Apr 08 7:22 p.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables

New Roles of Sports Chiropractic
New Roles of Sports Chiropractic

Feb 21 11:15 a.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables