Is it just me, or have you been wondering why kale is so popular these days? Sure the super clean eaters and green smoothie drinkers are very into it. They even have blogs written about how to massage your kale! And Whole Foods Market gives it a perfect score of 1000 on its ultra-confusing ANDI food scoring system (for the record, Andy and I are not fully in support of the ANDI system because otherwise healthy foods, such as chia seeds, that are higher in calories are automatically given a lower ANDI score.)
But back to the kale. This is not just a food fad with the health crowd either. I mean this super green superfood is now being served at the finest of restaurants. Celebrity chefs and foodie magazines like Bon Appétit and Food & Wine are showcasing mouthwatering recipes all centered around the leafy green culinary superstar. Cauliflower and Kale Au Gratin anyone? Or how about Mashed Potato and Kale Cakes?
What gives with all the kale?
Why is Kale So Popular?
Believe it or not, entire books have been dedicated to answering this question, including Dr. Drew Ramsey’s 50 Shades of Kale and holistic health coach Stephanie Pedersen’s Kale: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Popular Superfood.
The kale craze is probably here to stay, mostly because kale truly is one of the most versatile superfoods on the planet. I decided to catch up with Kale author Stephanie Pedersen and let her share how the hottest vegetable on the food scene earned its spot in the limelight….
Interview with the Author of Kale: The Complete Guide to the World’s Most Powerful Superfood
Clean Cuisine: Can you start by giving us a few kale tidbits that might motivate someone who isn’t totally into kale to get a little bit excited and want to start eating it?
Stephanie Pedersen: Sure thing! I bet most people don’t realize how amazing kale can make your skin look. Thanks to its high content of skin-beautifying omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E, adding kale to my own diet got rid of my monthly breakouts, softened my crow’s feet and helped fade my sunspots.
Kale can also help joints feel better and promote faster healing between sessions of heavy exercise thanks to its outstanding number of anti-inflammatory flavonoids as well as omega-3’s.
Most important to my own life, kale is a powerful detoxifying food. Pregnant during the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks; I was exposed to a massive amount of toxins that were passed on to my son, who was born with off-the-charts levels of heavy metal poisoning. Kale puree was one of the mainstays I used to rebuild his immune system and naturally detoxify his small body. I hid it in smoothies and marinara sauce. I made green eggs and mashed potatoes. I minced kale leaves into soup and meatballs and pots of brown rice, millet and quinoa. Kale truly is gloriously versatile!
Clean Cuisine: Wow! That is an incredible story about your son’s detox. What is it about kale that makes it such a powerful detoxifying food?
Stephanie Pedersen: Kale is rich in glucosinolates, which are a sulfur-containing phytonutrient compound with strong detoxifying effects. Plus it is rich in fiber, which is always detoxifying.
Clean Cuisine: Do you have any special tips for buying or storing kale?
Stephanie Pedersen: First, don’t wash your kale before storing it. Washing kale before storing it encourages spoilage and hastens nutrient loss. The best thing to do is wrap it or bag it and place it in the fridge. It is best to use kale quickly because it will lose important nutrients the longer it hangs out in the fridge. If you notice the leaves yellowing, toss it; not only will the flavor be too strong, the nutrients will be almost nill.
Clean Cuisine: I am guessing you are not a big fan of buying those big pre-prepped kale bags?
Stephanie Pedersen: You are right about that! Pre-prepping kale is a nutrient no-no. Cooking magazines, mommy blogs and television chefs champion the practice of prepping veggies in the fridge to encourage healthy nibbling and easier weeknight cooking. In theory, the idea is awesome but in reality pre-cut fruits and veggies lose between 10 to 25 percent of their vitamin C and carotenoids. That’s because oxygen destroys antioxidants. When kale (or any produce) is cut, the cut area is instantly exposed to oxygen and nutrients instantly start to breakdown.
Clean Cuisine: Let’s talk a little bit about the versatility of kale. In my opinion, I think the reason kale is taking the culinary world by storm is not just for the health benefits, but for the fact that it has such tremendous culinary range. Despite its rich green color, kale can keep a very low flavor profile and manages to hide out in super diverse recipes. Can you give us a rundown of the different kale recipe ideas you have in your book?
Stephanie Pedersen: Sure! Here are just a few kale recipe ideas:
- KALE SMOOTHIES: Blending kale into a smoothie along with fruit makes it easy to create your own health bar-style beverages at home. This Choco-Kale Health Shake recipe is from page 34 of my book and takes just minutes to make.
Choco-Kale Health Shake
1 tablespoon chia seed
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups raw baby kale
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 ice cubes
Stevia to taste
- Add all ingredients to a high speed blender (such as a Vitamix) and process until smooth and creamy. Drink immediately.
- KALE FOR BREAKFAST: Kale pairs beautifully with any number of egg recipes including breakfast casseroles, quiche, frittatas, scrambled eggs and omelets. Blanched kale can also sneak into muffins (such as the Savory Carrot and Kale Muffins recipe on page 67 of my book) and kale puree is delicious in whole grain pancakes and whole grain waffles.
- KALE SOUPS, STEWS & CHILIS: Boost the nutritional value of almost any soup, stew or chili by adding a large bunch of deribbed and coarsely chopped kale to the broth and then wilt it for about 10 minutes or so.
- KALE SALADS: The key to making a great kale salad is to cut the leaves very thin. I like to chiffonade them. To do this, derib the leaves, stack five or ten of them on top of each other, roll them up into a tube, and cut the tube of leaves into super-thin slices. They are easy to make, pretty and ready to use in salads, or to sauté or steam.
- KALE DIPS: Instead of spinach dip, why not try kale dip?
- KALE DINNER ENTREES: You can also work kale into any number of dinner entrees including pasta dishes, stir-fry, pilafs, etc.
- KALE CHIPS: Who doesn’t love these?!
- KALE DESSERTS: Kale in desserts? Yes! Kale desserts can be super healthy, super easy and (yes!) super tasty! In my book I have all kinds of kale desserts including frozen popsicles, cocoa-dusted kale chips, pudding, kale cookies, kale brownies, etc.
Clean Cuisine: I love all of your amazing recipe ideas! You are clearly fabulously creative in the kitchen. Have you always been such a healthy and adventurous eater?
Stephanie Pedersen: Actually yes, I have always been a naturally clean eater. My mother was a junkfood addict and she didn’t know how to cook, so we grew up on a lot of canned-soup-casseroles, boxed foods, and so on. However, I was lucky enough to grow up with a lot of kids who were first generation Americans, so I used to hang out at their houses so I could eat the Korean, Indian, Chinese, Polish, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Iranian, German and Israeli food. Plus, my dad is Danish, so I used to hang out with his family and eat all those wonderful Scandinavian dishes. In getting to eat all those wonderful foods, I realized that most cultures eat close to the earth. They have created systems of eating based on the plants, animals, spices and even ways of food preservation, immediately available to them.
All that said, I cleaned up my diet even further after giving birth to my first son. As I mentioned earlier, I was pregnant during 9/11 and inhaled a lot of toxins that day and my son was born with severe heavy metal poisoning. I was pretty sick myself, too. To heal us both I went on a four-year journey of extremely clean, alkalizing eating, during which time I got very into kale and started to experiment with it many different ways in my cooking.
Clean Cuisine: You also recently organized an amazing online Superfood Superheroes Summit. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Stephanie Pedersen: Yes! I’d love to tell you more. The Superfood Superheroes Summit was an online cooking party and nutrition classroom—the fun kind! I invited 11 of today’s hottest superfood cookbook writers—Ivy included, everyone!—to speak about superfoods. These are some of today’s hottest health authors. I am blown away by how smart and funny and incredibly generous these rock stars are–the information they shared with people is life-changing. How it worked: You tuned in and listened to each of the presentations on your computer and came away with enough information to meaningfully impact your health. All by making just a few small tweaks to what you are currently eating. How is that for amazing?
Though the event has ended, you’ve got a chance to own the recordings (plus the bonuses that a few of the speakers added in!) right now, simply by going to www.SuperfoodSuperheroes.com and purchase Superfood 101: Choose, Use and Heal with Today’s Power Foods. This product is an automatically-delivered, digital library of all the classes in the Superfood Superheroes Summit. It’s a fun resource and a great gift for foodie friends. You own the recordings and are free to load them to your mp3 player, phone, tablet or keep them on the computer, so you can listen to them while driving, commuting, exercising, cleaning the house, in the kitchen. You get the idea!
Clean Cuisine: I love the idea of the Superfood Superheroes Summit and introducing people to a few key diet changes they can realistically make. Small diet changes that become a regular habit, such as drinking a SuperGreen Smoothie every day, can be the gateway to a total lifestyle makeover. But how about you—what does a typical day of eating look like for you?
Stephanie Pedersen: I love this question! I wake up with stretching and a glass of room temperature water with a splash of vinegar. I find this really alkalizes me and wakes me up. Plus, it’s detoxifying. I live in NYC, so I am mindful of my need to constantly be detoxifying. I can’t eat first thing in the morning, so I’ll typically walk the mile to school with my third son (my oldest two sons go to a boarding school), then I’ll walk back home and make a huge glass of green juice.
Lunch is usually a bean and veggie dish–sometimes Mexican-inspired or a chickpea-spinach curry. Or something similar. Snacks are a handful of nuts or a glass of veggie juice. Dinner is typically a very large mixed veggie salad with some type of protein. Sometimes I have a stir fry or a bowl of veggie chili or some type of soup. I don’t do pasta or pizza or other gluteny things as I tend to get headaches if I eat a lot of wheat.
Clean Cuisine: What are your sons’ favorite foods?
Stephanie Pedersen: Truly it depends upon the son. They are all so different. So, I have three sons: In 6th grade, 4th grade and 1st grade: It pains me to say this, but my oldest is picky. This is the one who was born so sick. He knows the importance of healthy eating because he gets eczema badly when he strays. But he loves sweets, chips, meat. He’ll eat fruit and veggies but he doesn’t love them. He is at a boarding school so I am not there controlling his food. Fortunately, the chef does use organic food and has a farm outside of NYC where she gets all of her produce. Plus, the school has a “you must have two veggies per meal” rule, which is good.
My second son is in the same boarding school—it’s a boys’ choir school here in NYC—and he gets so excited when the chef (her name is Heidi) makes seafood or roasted pumpkin. I’ve got to say that my second and third sons are very open-minded eaters. They are so fun! They both love beans of all kinds, quinoa, millet, salad, coconut, avocado, chia, all kinds of veggies. And, being New Yorkers, they also are very comfortable with foods of all ethnicities, from Indian curries to falafel to sushi.
Clean Cuisine: Thank you so much for all of your time Stephanie and for the great kale tips! I know our Clean Cuisine readers learned a tremendous amount.