Baby Baby Baby Kale, It Makes Me Feel So Fine!
I feel like crap this week. Part of the territory of being a doctor is that people who are contagiously sick come to me for help. For the most part, I’m pretty immune; however, every now and then someone will come to me for help whose cold or flu sneaks under my immune-system’s radar.
This week, the culprit is a vicious cold.
My body is responding as it should. It has raised my body temperature to kill the bacteria; it has inflamed all my mucosal linings in battle of the pesky buggies (I call cold bacteria and flu viruses “buggies” — its a hangover from my young mother days). it has diminished my appetite and made unhelpful, acidic and heavy foods like marinara sauce and stroganoff absolutely disgusting to my nose and stomach. It has made foods like broth and tea a yummy treat. It has made me exhausted so that I sleep a lot and lie down often – in this way, it can devote most of its resources in killing off the cold perpetrators. It has made my throat sore and my voice froggy so I don’t interact very much verbally and thus spread the buggies.
In other words, my body is healthy despite the fact that I feel like crap. And if you were wondering, no; I’m not sorry I didn’t get the flu vaccine. For one thing, it’s not a flu, it’s a cold that I’m battling. I can tell, because my mucous is thick and opaque as opposed to clear or non-existent. Secondly, I’m not convinced that flu vaccines help at all (see my blog post, “Someone Forgot To Tell Us,” Jan 19, 2013) so why am I going to subject my body to the junk in the vaccine when I don’t have to?
Thirdly, my body needs to learn how to deal with the buggies that are around these days if I am going to stay healthy for my long life. George Carlin (St. George) had it right: we have to give our immune systems something to do once in a while to keep them in shape! However, although I’m not a germaphobe, I must admit; I’m not going to take a swim in the East River anytime soon, and I do wash my hands every time I go to the bathroom!
Like anyone, I am eager not to feel like crap anymore. I will do as my body asks. I will stay secluded and close to my bed, I won’t film or record my podcast, despite the fact that I just launched it last week (damn!). I will only take medicines if I absolutely have to when the pain is just too much. I will take immune-building supplements and drink immune-building tea, and I will eat immune-building light food that is not too difficult to digest.
I made my way to the store yesterday and bought a few things, including some organic baby kale. Yum.
I’ve known about the health benefits of kale since the 80s when I went on a Macrobiotic diet for a few years. It’s amazing the things you learn about food when you curtail you’re eating so dramatically. The Macrobiotic way of life is very beneficial but not very easy. While on it, I never felt better, I never thought more clearly, my body never looked or worked better in my young life, and I was never more miserable. It was more than my 19 year old self could bear; I snapped four months into it and ate a pizza a day for three months. Ah, college…
For years I’ve been advising my patients that kale should be make regular visits to their dinner table. I received wrinkled noses in return until in the past year or two. Kale seems to have come into its own these days; it is a fashionable veggie to eat now. Lots of stars and athletes are now advocating its use. Luckily, they are right in this instance.
Kale is a cruciferous veggie that sweetens when frost strikes, so it’s a perfect green leafy veggie to eat in the winter. The brighter and richer the color of the veggie (provided it is NATURALLY colorful), the better it is for you. Kale is about as green as a leafy green veggie can get, so there’s the simple math right there. Put that white iceberg lettuce back in the bin. It’s useless.
A 1-cup serving of cooked kale has as much Vitamin C as an orange and the same amount of calcium as a 1/3 cup of milk. It is low in oxalic acid, unlike spinach or chard, so the calcium is very available for the human metabolism. It’s packed with lutein, which is good for the eyes and associated with reduction in cancer activation. It has lots of magnesium, which is good for the muscles and for many body processes. It has lots of iron, vitamins, bioflavonoids (45 bioflavenoids in kale – wow!), antioxidants, fiber…what’s not to love?
All of these things are great for the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, anti-aging, the pleasure centers, and the immune system. If you’re worried about Vitamin K and your blood thinner medicine, if you eat a steady diet of cruciferous veggies week to week – which you should – you needn’t worry. It is a mistake to stop eating cruciferous veggies while on blood thinners (see http://my.clevelandclinic.org/drugs/coumadin/hic_anticoagulant_medication_warfarin_coumadin.aspx).
Time for some kale!
Baby kale is less bitter and softer than grown kale, so it is much easier on the palate and on the jaws. If you eat grown kale, cut the middle stem out and just cook/juice the leaves. Just a heads-up: although a rarity, raw kale contains a compound that can interfere with thyroid function in some people, so don’t eat or juice it raw more than one or twice a week. That’s not bad, though.
You can eat as much cooked kale as you want. Cooked kale admittedly destroys the beneficial enzymes, but it’s easier on the digestive system than raw kale and appropriate for winter eating. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine says that you should avoid cold foods in the winter if you can. Being a chiropractor, I can’t explain that, but sometimes 4,000 years of health wisdom is worth following; and intuitively, it makes sense to me that a nice cup of hot steamed kale in free-range chicken or veggie broth is more appealing in the winter than a cold kale salad. Steaming is most healthy for you; however, if you sauté, stir-fry, or add kale to soup, make sure you drink the broth because many of the nutrients will have seeped into the liquid.
For goodness sake, buy organic. Conventionally grown cruciferous vegetables absorb pesticides in their leaves and flowers and have very limited nutritional value. Even so, wash all vegetables thoroughly before cooking and eating, because gods know where they’ve been before they reach your mouth!
Here’s what I did, and it was reaaally guuuud…
Dr. Claire’s “I Needs Me Ma Kale” Recipe
- One 5 oz. package Earthbound mixed organic baby kale
- One cup free-range organic chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you want)
- Two teaspoons dry basil
- One teaspoon dry thyme
- One teaspoon dry parsley
- Four cloves chopped garlic (I love garlic)
- Two tablespoons organic extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
Put the dry basil, thyme, and parsley into a stainless steel sauté pan. Cover with the olive oil and turn the heat on low until the herbs infuse the oil (don’t heat it so much as to let the oil give off smoke). Add the garlic, coat the garlic with the oil/herb mixture and turn off the heat. Let it sit for five minutes to let the garlic infuse the oil.
Turn the heat on medium, add ½ cup of the broth, and add the washed baby kale. Sauté until the kale is bright green and beginning to soften, about one and a half minutes. Add the rest of the broth, cover and cook for three minutes.
This makes about three main-course servings of kale and four side dishes of kale.
I always forget to take pictures of my food – unlike many people I know – so I found a nice picture online as to what it looks like:
I served it with ½ a cup of prepared organic brown basmati rice. I love basmati’s nutty flavor. I ate the nourishing, healthy meal, making sure I took my supplements, drank the broth, and drank plenty of water.
Then I promptly took a nap. I feel better already.
Until next time: good health!
- Chicken and Kale Burgers (deuxchicago.wordpress.com)
- Kale Chips. (maryneumannphotography.wordpress.com)
- Karma’s Kale Pesto (karmasdogma.wordpress.com)
- Beauty Food – Kale (savilebeauty.wordpress.com)
- All Hail Kale (kiefferscooks.com)
- An Alternative to Fat Shrove Tuesday Pancake (cherylbrandreth.com)
- Asian Inspired Side Dish of Garlic and Ginger Kale with Sesame Seeds (simplysophisticatedcooking.wordpress.com)
- citrus kale salad with cranberries and toasted almonds (delightblog.com)
- Five Super-Foods for Dark Winter Days (savoo.co.uk)
- 12 Ways to Cook Kale (vegetarianist.com)