Nutrients in Different Types of Kale, Explained

WWhen it comes to nutrient richness, kale is one of the most controversial of the dark leafy vegetables. Some people absolutely love it, while others avoid it at all costs — and I’m an active, dedicated member of the kale fan club. I always opt for green when making my salads and I usually buy a different type of kale than the one I made before just to mix things up. But lately, à la Carrie Bradshaw, I can’t help but wonder: Are the different types of kale nutritionally similar or do their nutrients differ from one type to another?

In search of clarity, I ended up taking a master class on everything from kale from Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD, owner of Delish Knowledge and an expert on plant-based eating.

Why kale is a nutritional powerhouse

Caspero begins by saying that while she’s not a fan of the term “superfood,” kale deserves the title because of this 100-gram packet of good-for-you greens:

  • 254 mg calcium (approximately a glass of milk)
  • 95 mg of vitamin C
  • 1.6 mg of iron
  • 348 mg of potassium

Caspero continues: “Kale also provides carotenes, antioxidants (like lutein, which are good for eye health), vitamin E, vitamin K, etc. Although she doesn’t count calories or suggest clients should do so. like that, but she calls kale “the perfect example of a nutrient-dense food” because it includes all of these micronutrients — plus 4 grams of gut-friendly fiber — with just 43 calories per fruit. service.

Popular types of kale

There are many different varieties of kale to choose from, and hopefully you’ll have access to different varieties wherever you buy your greens. In case you’re new to kale or need help deciphering which might best suit your taste or a certain recipe, Caspero has you covered.

1. Kale

When we think of kale (and we all do, don’t we?), kale will probably be the first thing that comes to mind since it’s the variety most commonly found at grocery stores. Caspero likes to cook with this one, or else finely chop it before adding it to a salad. If you don’t love kale as much as I do, you’ll want to pay attention to her insights. “Because kale and other cruciferous vegetables can have a bitter taste, the smaller you chop it and the less you chew it, the more palatable it will be for those still learning to like kale,” explains Caspero. “Adding a little salt — or a salty flavor, like parmesan cheese — will also reduce its bitter compounds.”

2. Dinosaur Kale

Next is dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan kale or lacinato kale), which is characterized by dark green pigmentation, narrow leaves, and a bumpy texture resembling dinosaur skin; it also tends to be a bit sweeter than kale. True to its other nickname, you can find it in Tuscan cuisines that call for this dark green leaf, whether raw or cooked. “Dinosaur kale is my absolute favorite type of kale,” says Caspero. “I like to remove the stem and thinly slice the kale into strips for salads, soups or stir-fries.”

3. Baby Kale

Often found in prepared salad packages, baby kale has small leaves and is very versatile. “It’s pretty soft and great for salads or smoothies,” Caspero notes. You can also add it to bread to easily increase your micronutrient intake.

4. Redbor Kale

My personal favorite is redbor kale, which you can identify by its deep purple/magenta color; it also tends to be lighter in taste. Caspero mentions that redbor kale—like Russian kale, which has purple/red stems and green leaves—can really be used in any recipe. With their unique color, these types of kale “can be a fun addition to a salad or make a delicious kale dish,” she adds.

So do different types of kale provide different types or amounts of nutrients?

As far as my original question goes, Caspero shared that kale will generally contain the same nutrients across the board, with just a few minor caveats. “Most kale has the same nutrients, but different colors of kale leaves — whether it’s a darker green or purple — affect different antioxidant levels,” she explains. . For example, Caspero shares that purple kale provides higher concentrations of carotenoids and anthocyanins, the latter of which give their bold color as well as “antidiabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-fatigue effects. obesity, as well as preventing cardiovascular disease,” according to a 2017 review in Food & Nutrition Research.

Additionally, the nutrient content of kale—no matter which variety you choose—can vary if you choose to cook the greens. Caspero continues: “Water-soluble nutrients are always broken down by the addition of heat, but there are techniques to limit nutrient loss. “For example, steaming retains more nutrients than boiling.”

However, at the end of the day, she says these considerations are pretty minor. Above all, it’s important to include more nutrient-dense produce in your diet — and if it’s any kind of kale, prepared in any way, that’s great. . “If you just love sautéed kale with garlic and a little olive oil, [it’s not a big deal if you] Caspero concluded. “The vast majority of Americans—about 90 percent, according to the latest CDC data—do not consume enough fruits and vegetables each day. The bottom line is to always eat whatever veggies you can and enjoy, including kale with whatever you like. And just like that, my kale curiosity was put to rest.


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