Kale suddenly has star power

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Kale suddenly has star power

Just as perplexing as the rising star of one actor over another who’s just as talented, who knows how a food once in the back row of the chorus ends up on center stage?

Such is the story of kale. If you’ve crunched on kale chips, one of the Internet’s recipe darlings, you know what I mean.

Kale, once a humble hero, is a cruciferous vegetable and cousin to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and collards. A dark leafy green, kale comes in curly, ornamental and dinosaur varieties. It’s known as a winter green, but is actually available pretty much year-round.

Look for more kale creations as restaurant menus morph from summer to fall. It can be braised as a side dish or tossed raw into salads. Those superpopular kale chips are created by chopping the relatively tough leaves into bite-size pieces, drizzling with olive oil and baking until crunchy.

Kale Caesar!

Thought to be originally from Asia, the ancient Romans ate kale, and it was a staple of the peasant diet throughout the Middle Ages. But chances are the Romans didn’t dine on a salad called Kale Caesar. A foodie play on the salutation “Hail Caesar!” this healthier version of the classic salad usually made with romaine lettuce is on the hip-meets-homemade menu at Butcher & Bee in Charleston, S.C.

Knockout nutrition

It’s a side. It’s a salad. It’s super kale. Noted for its antioxidant content, anti-inflammatory effects and cancer-prevention power, this queen of greens reigns when it comes to nutritional content. With only 36 calories in one cup of kale, you get the benefit of 5 grams of fiber, 15 percent of the daily requirement of calcium, 40 percent of magnesium, 180 percent of vitamin A, 200 percent of vitamin C and 1,020 percent of vitamin K. It is also a good source of the minerals copper, iron, phosphorus and potassium.

Kale is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important nutrients for eye health.

Too much of a good thing.

Vitamin K, which is highly concentrated in kale, is important for normal blood clotting and promotes bone health. But too much vitamin K is a problem for anyone taking anticoagulants to treat blood clots, so they are advised to avoid or limit intake of kale.

Another nutrition negative, kale is loaded with compounds called oxalates, which can interfere with calcium absorption. So if you’re a big kale consumer, make sure to up the ante on calcium-containing foods and beverages in your diet.

Kale creations

Kale adds flavor and texture to soups such as minestrone. The vegetarian restaurant World Peace Café in Sandy Springs serves a kale-based soup every day. MetroFresh on Monroe mixes raw kale with jicama, sweet peppers and white balsamic dressing. Chef Ian Winslade at Murphy’s in Virginia-Highland serves braised kale with grilled Georgia trout. Kale salad is the sidekick for flat iron steak at South City Kitchen.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” Email her at carolynoneil@aol.com.

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