The Making of A Proper Kale Salad

April Dawn Reigart is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach who offers 3 and 6 month coaching programs for busy folks who want to implement dietary changes for healing, increased nutrition or lifelong weight-loss.  Her new book, Dinner Rush: A Busy Parent's Guide to Better Nutrition (with recipes), is available through Amazon.

I’ve read so many headlines naming some vegetable the “new kale”—cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, watercress, broccoli leaves, kelp, spirulina—until I finally found one calling kale the new kale. Seriously? These popularity contests generally start with marketing campaigns, but, trend or foe—kale is good for you!  End story -  whatever headline you read, there’s no need to give up on kale.

Kale—master of the brassicas.  High in fiber, vitamins C, K, A, B1, B2, B3, B6, rich in minerals and iron…kale even offers up a good dose of protein and omega-3 fatty acid.  But, here’s the rub—and that’s going to be a great pun in a minute—just because kale is super nutritious does not make it right for you.  It might be okay for her, but paying attention to your body on kale will help you figure out if it’s REALLY working for you.

I cringe when I see big bouncy looking raw kale salads on salad bars, and I have such mixed emotions about raw kale smoothies that I just leave them alone.  While cruciferous veggies are some of the healthiest veggies you can eat, one thing they all have in common is that they are goitrogenic.  What that means is that they can disrupt thyroid hormone production.  This may not be a problem for some people, but if you have any thyroid issues (slow, fast, Hashimoto’s, etc.)—it’s best to not mess with that, in my opinion (though not an uncommon opinion).  Raw kale is also high in oxalates, which can lead to kidney stones.

That being said, kale is still a super-food, and you can still enjoy it.  You just need to know how to handle your kale—another good pun!  Lightly steaming or sautéing kale completely removes concerns of goitrogens and oxalates.  However, if you are a lover of raw kale, take it easy and consider a massage.  

You don’t want to eat multiple servings of raw kale for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  (You know—too much of a good thing…)  And when you do consume raw kale, your best bet is to massage it first.  Now, all joking aside, massaging your kale is not some hippie way to treat your vegetables with kindness.  It’s a culinary term in this case—an important one.  Massaging the kale acts as a partial maceration, which makes the kale more digestible.  

In its raw state, kale is tough, bitter and can wreak havoc on your digestive powers.   Working the kale with your hands, using a kneading motion (see? massage is an easier way to describe this), starts to break down the tough cellulose fibers that actually prevent us from accessing all the good nutrients kale has to offer.  Toss deveined, torn leaves with some olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice, and work with your hands until the leaves become bright green and have reduced in volume by almost half (5 minutes ought-a do it).  

So, if you’re a kale lover at heart—no worries.  While you want to avoid raw kale all day, every day, you can certainly enjoy steamed or sautéed kale all you like, and an occasional raw kale salad or smoothie.  All good things in moderation…

MY GO-TO KALE SALAD:

  • 1 bunch curly kale

  • generous drizzle of EVOO

  • moderate sprinkling of Celtic sea salt

  • juice of half a lemon

  • handful each of: goji berries, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted and sprouted walnuts and hemp seeds

Directions:

Wash, drain and devein your kale leaves.  Pat dry or use a salad spinner to remove excess water.  Tear or chop the leaves and place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and lemon juice—to taste (1 or 2 tbsp of oil should do it).  Massage the leaves with clean hands until everything is well-distributed, and the leaves have softened and turned bright green.  The volume will reduce significantly.  Garnish with the nuts, seeds and goji berries.  The great thing about this salad is that it tastes even better the next day!

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