M. Rabelais might now be in the minority with that opinion, but from a health standpoint, he’s spot on. Cabbages have been cultivated for at least 6000 years, probably originating from wild, non-head forming greens (acephala), of which modern kale is perhaps the truest descendent.
Our forebears may not have known why kale and cabbages are so fiercely good for us, but historical figures have thought well enough of it to pass comment: Pythagoras praised it as an all-purpose remedy; Hippocrates (who else) declared it “the vegetable of a thousand virtues“.Through the ages, and from China to Greece to Scotland, cabbages have been used to treat illnesses and disorders as diverse as deafness, gastrointestinal problems and gout. Interestingly the Roman statesman, Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder, 254-149 BC), a powerful man who distrusted doctors, believed cabbages to be a direct line to the fountain of youth. Today, cabbages – and kale in particular -are widely touted as a top anti-ageing food, slowing collagen decline and aiding digestion (which is key to most nutrient absorption).
Nutrition Alert: Cancer-fighter and more
More acutely for many of us, kale and cabbages have form as anti-cancer foods of the highest regard. Consuming cabbages – and all cruciferous vegetables – has recently and consistently been observed to help prevent breast, lung, gastrointestinal and prostate cancers. Those are just the diseases that have been studied; doubtless other cancers are at least indirectly prevented or hindered by regular kale and cabbage consumption. Cabbages are now seen as more effective than tomatoes at preventing most forms of prostate cancer. For cancer prevention, more is better when it comes to all vegetables, including cabbages and kale. But within the context of a wide-ranging, plant-food based diet, of course. No super-sizing, please: too much can be harmful for those with hypothyroidism.
I’ve covered cabbages previously, but before I get to today’s recipe I will just tell you that kale in particular features an abundance of nutrients and anti-cancer compounds, including numerous phytochemicals (indole-3-carbinol, sulforaphane and allyl isothiocynates being the biggies), beta-carotene (150% per 1/2 cup), Vitamins C and bone-building K, folate, calcium, manganese, potassium, magnesium and iron. And of course fibre – some 5 % per half-cup. For the most part we benefit from it being steamed or simmered (save the water) for about five minutes, and this small step makes it a safely eaten vegetable for those with thyroid issues.
Kale also racks up a hugely impressive ORAC score of 1700. ORAC stands for ‘oxygen radical absorbance capacity’, and basically it measures the free radical-neutralising capacity of the tested substance – how effective it is as an antioxidant food. If you were to be populist about it you might call it a plant food’s ‘anti-ageing points’. As stated in the book,The Color Code(Joseph, Nadeau and Underwood, 2003), “the evidence is clear that people with the greatest amounts of antioxidants in their diets show the fewest effects of aging.” I will stick my neck out a fraction to append “and disease“.
Kale and cabbages are tricky vegetables to promote. What makes them so healthy for us is also what makes them so ‘distinctive’ in taste – or disgusting to some. A goodly proportion of folk do seem to really loath this group of vegetables. These people may be labelled as ‘super-tasters’, meaning that they have inherited more taste buds. This group hyper tastes everything – sweet, salt, bitter, tart, savoury -so may have a fairly limited diet. Green vegetables in particular are super-tasted, and are therefore very likely to be avoided. Which is a huge shame.
This little recipe may not change the mind of a true super-taster, but it could convince some of you medium-tasters (we really need a snazzier name here) to give this deeply coloured, deeply nutritious green the respect it deserves. Unless you are a super-taster the fruit and seed butter will do a sterling job masking the kale. I love kale in all its bitter, savoury forms, but I don’t want it bulldozing its way through my morning juice or smoothie. If you think you or your child is a super taster/ picky eater, look at this interesting Harvard Medical School site for more information.
Product Review: Cherry Active Concentrate
Another drink that may be good for some of us – but for different reasons – is sour cherry juice. Sour cherries are well-known in folklore, but now also clinical studies, to help with sleep. They are naturally high in melatonin, the hormone that helps us get to sleep and stay asleep.
There is also some evidence that it helps with joint pain, and more especially the pain from gout. The great thing about sour cherry juice – aside from the taste and the massive amount of naturally-occuring antioxidants – is that it doesn’t have the side effects of taking medications such as NSAIDS or off-the-shelf melatonin. But it isn’t always easy to get sour cherry juice, unless you live where such trees grow.
I have previous positive encounters using Cherry Active concentrate, so when I was recently asked to review it I was more than happy to do so. I rarely do product reviews here on food to glow, but as it is something that I use occasionally for both joint pain and insomnia I wanted to pass on my own experience. I was first introduced to it by Conner of Nutrelan who, upon hearing I was really quite unwell with a lung infection a few years ago, kindly sent me a big bottle of it with a pump dispenser. Along with daily turmeric I drank diluted Cherry Active everyday. The above pictured product is the handy 30 ml packets – the ‘dose’ recommended.
Of course I have no idea if that combination is what sorted me out, but I certainly improved much more quickly than with antibiotics alone (I was on strong antibiotics off and on for 5 months). And I have also used it to help reset my somewhat rubbish sleep pattern. Again, it is hard to know whether it, or just the thought of it (placebo effect), helps but as it tastes so darn good (and no added sugars, etc..), it is my go to when needing a bit of shut-eye. That and my lettuce soup!
I use turmeric, sour cherry, ginger (tummy upsets) and kiwi fruit (slow bowel) to help with occasional health niggles. Which natural food remedies do you reach for? How well do they work for you?
Simple Kale Smoothie – breakfast in a glass
3 de-ribbed black kale leaves OR 1 packed cup chopped kale leaves (any kind) – raw or steamed
1 apple (or pear), deseeded and roughly chopped
1 tbsp sunflower seed butter OR other seed/nut butter of choice
2 Medjool dates, stones removed
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp chia seeds OR flax seeds
1 cup water (can use kefir, but that makes it a very different drink)
5 ice cubes
Optional add-ins: ½ tsp ground turmeric; ½ tsp matcha green tea; 1 tbsp maca powder
1. Whack everything in your blender (I am hooked on my Froothie Optimum 9400 “super blender”)
and pulse to initially blend, then whiz on ‘high’ until smooth. Garnish with extra chia seeds if you like.
This filling and surprisingly tasty smoothie gives you protein, healthy fats and delicious, gut-friendly carbohydrates to start your day. We sometimes have it as a snack or light lunch.
I have quite a few more smoothie recipes and other kale recipes here on food to glow. See the Index for links and inspiration 🙂
Last year: Linguine with Spring Herbs, Chilli and Crab
Two years ago: Forager’s Fritters
Three years ago: Tuna and Creme Fraiche Pizza
Miss R’s track of the week: Sunlight, Easy Yoke and Throne – 3 magical ambient-ish tracks from Favela
Note: Excerpts from a previous post appear in this post.
Disclaimer: I was sent a sample product but I was not paid for a review. My opinions are entirely my own. I really only ever review things I know I will like or have used and liked previously.
Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Froothie and some links in this article may be affiliate links. However, as always, all product reviews are based on my honest opinion. If you’d like to know more about Froothie products, or this machine in particular, please visit the Froothie website for more details. Any purchases made through this/these link(s) are at no extra cost to you but give Food To Glow a small bit of money to keep the site afloat and developing healthy recipes to share. Thanks!