It took time, but kale became my green hero

This kale dish is a representation of Hardin County Farmers Market with kale, onions and garlic from Modern Heritage Farm with ground beef from Living Water Ranch.

I have a confession. I am involved in an obsessive love affair with the crispy, dark-green, leafy vegetable kale.

Yes, I admit if there are leftovers, I hide them in the back of my refrigerator with hopes I can get another bite. Crazy as it sounds, I just can’t get enough sautéed kale.

It’s kale season and I think I may have a problem. Sorry, not sorry.

Kale has the reputation of being one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It’s the super-green of the vegetable league. I laugh at this Superman, Justice League analogy, but it’s true. Kale has super powers to heal and keep you healthy.

Some of its powers include:

• Kale has more vitamin C than an orange, keeping your immune system strong during cold and flu season

• Kale is high in calcium, magnesium and other vitamins that keep bones healthy. It outpaces a glass of milk when it comes to calcium absorption.

• Kale is high in several antioxidants which protect from heart disease, eye degeneration and cancer. These antioxidants also keep our brains functioning optimally and guard against depression – even seasonal depression.

Kale is one of the those super foods that because it is so super healthy, we all just inherently know it is good for us. Again, crazy right?

A note of consideration about kale: If you are taking a blood thinner, such as Coumadin or Warfarin, talk to your doctor before adding kale to your daily diet. Some adjustments may have to occur to your medication before you fully can enjoy kale.

I have a second confession. My relationship with kale hasn’t always been so great. Yup, now you know.

I struggled for years to include kale into my diet. I first started dating kale by adding it to my green leafy salads but found it dense, difficult to chew and bitter in flavor. However with some time, my taste buds got on board.

Despite my happiness with eating raw kale at any meal, I couldn’t figure out how to cook it and enjoy it. I struggled to find a recipe for cooked kale and it was embarrassing because I am suppose to a “food know-it-all,” right?

My last confession, and probably my most painful one – I am not a perfect eater. Wow, it feels good say it and for you to know. A dose of vulnerability and transparency almost are as healthy as kale, right?

As a nutrition professional, I strive to be a better eater to stay healthy and reflect a healthy example but I am far from righteous via eating. I have found the road to better eating involves some research, lots of courage and sometimes a little help from our friends.

For example, the kale recipe I enjoy several times a week came from a dear friend, Ivy Jones. You see, I had been searching various recipes for sautéed kale but didn’t have the courage to try one. Then one day, my friend invited me for dinner and she prepared sautéed kale.

I watched her intently with hopes to finally find a breakthrough and when it was time to eat, I was hooked. It was like she took my hand to gently teach and walk me through the entire wonderful process.

The lessons I learned from my kale journey: We all are like those picky kids who won’t eat their vegetables. We know they are good for us, but we avoid them for some reason.

Perhaps a boost of courage is needed or inspiration from a new recipe will help take you a step forward.

Another tidbit about kale that may help: It is super cheap.

Yep, it’s only $1 to $2 per bundle – based on organic kale from grocery and/or Farmers’ Market. Vitamins can’t compete with the nutrition density per price of kale.

Kale is calling for you, so take the leap.

Enjoy sautéed kale by itself or use it as a meal staple. For instance, sautéed kale is a fantastic base for main course meat or meat alternative for vegans or vegetarians. Think of it like the bread, noodles or rice for your favorite burger, fish, stir fry, etc.

Kale also pairs nicely with other vegetables of the season including roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

My plates bring sunshine to my day. May your plates bring you sunshine as well, my friend.

Mary E. Ray works as a registered dietitian nutritionist helping people improve their relationship with food and with themselves. She can be reached at Family Healing Healthcare in Elizabethtown at 270-737-1215 or lizbethray@yahoo.com.

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