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Kale: the New Beef?

While some people stay busy tracking trends in fashion or business, I have to admit I love tracking trends in nutrition.

Just as in the past when people believed the world was flat, it amazes me that we can believe a food is healthy one day and going to kill us the next. What’s going to cure cancer this week might only make us fat the following month!

Depending on who is funding the study, you can pretty much “prove” anything when it comes to the science of nutrition.

When I first heard it said that “kale is the new beef” I just cracked up! While it’s filled with iron and vitamins C, A and K, and has an impressive resume on paper, does it really stack up to a bloody steak?

Gone are the days of Wendy’s TV commercials with little old ladies asking where their beef is. We have apparently entered a new era when we know the health benefits of anti-inflammatory foods and essential omega fats.

Inflammation is the No. 1 cause of arthritis, heart disease and a number of autoimmune diseases, and is triggered by the consumption of animal products. Kale is an incredibly effective anti-inflammatory food and plays an important role in our health, unlike the saturated fats in meat. A serving of kale contains 121 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, potentially preventing and even reversing these illnesses.

When I teach my clients the importance of reading food labels, we always look at vitamins such as iron and calcium, which people often lack. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef, and while dairy and beef both contain calcium, the U.S. still has some of the highest rates of bone loss and osteoporosis in the world.

Kale contains more calcium per calorie than milk (90 grams per serving) and is also better absorbed by the body than dairy.

Many Americans don’t eat nearly enough fiber, and the deficiency is linked to heart disease, digestive disorders and cancer. Protein-rich foods such as meat contain little to no fiber. One serving of kale not only contains 5 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber, but it also provides 2 grams of protein.

It isn’t even an issue to talk about sustainability, since kale grows to maturity in 55-60 days versus a cow raised for beef for an average of 18-24 months. Kale can grow in most climates and is relatively easy to grow at home or on a farm. To raise one pound of beef requires 16 pounds of grain, 11 times as much fossil fuel and more than 2,400 gallons of water.

Another trend featured in the September edition of Bon Appetit magazine is that “granola is the new crouton.” Really? This brings to mind all sorts of mental images of combining your morning muesli with a Caesar salad.

But I understand what they’re saying; these days, nobody wants to admit to liking croutons, which are basically just stale white bread with some salt and garlic powder and, if you’re really lucky, some added MSG and yellow dye No. 5.

Finally, my all-time favorite: “Chia is the new flax.” When I say this (jokingly) to my wellness classes, I tend to get blank stares and tilted heads until someone has the courage to ask me if that means they should eat their Chia Pet.

Remember, it was only recently that flax became the gold standard of essential fatty acid consumption, so much so that we’re feeding it to our chickens to infuse the eggs with extra EFAs.

Chia seeds have an amazing profile of omega-3, 6 and 9 and tend to get stuck in one’s teeth less often than flax seeds. Both chia and flax seeds are touted for their healthy fat content.

The most common reason to include omega-3s in your diet is to help control cholesterol levels. Specifically, they help lower triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol, as well as act as an anticoagulant, or blood thinner.

Other sources of omega-3 fats are walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola and flaxseed oil, and fish, including salmon, sardines and herring. A 2 tablespoon serving of ground flax seed has 2,600 mg of omega-3 and a 2 tablespoon serving of chia seed has 3,000 mg of omega-3.

So, it appears that for those of us concerned with health and wellness and excited about the news that 40 is the new 30, we can happily rinse off our Chia Pets, sprinkle on some granola and trade our red meat for some dark green veggies. We can do all of this in the knowledge that in spite of food trends, in this instance, there are some solid nutritional facts to support the case that kale really could be the new beef.

Do you want an easy way to incorporate kale into your dinner tonight? Visit allrecipes.com/recipe/baked-kale-chips.

To get that crunch and salad combo, try looking at www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/09/grape-and-watercress-salad-with-caraway-and-granola.

Whether you decide on chia or flax, both products are a great addition to a healthy diet. They’re heart-healthy and helpful in digestion because of their fiber content.

Try this great recipe to incorporate a little seed into your life:

ENERGY SMOOTHIE

Serves 1

8 ounces vanilla soy milk

1 tablespoon chia or ground flax seed

¼ cup frozen blueberries

¼ frozen banana

¼ cup raw spinach leaves

 

Blend thoroughly and enjoy. This smoothie is great for energy and keeps you full all morning or afternoon.

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