Recently, if you weren’t tipping back a kale smoothie, slipping kale into a salad or steaming it for a side, you weren’t ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. But now there’s a new kid on the block: kelp. And it’s kicking all the right nutrient goals. We take a deeper look.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating kale; it’s incredibly good for you. If you’re not all that familiar with it, it belongs to the Brassica family – a group of vegetables that includes cabbage, collard greens, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Kale is particularly rich in carotenoids, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Just one cup of chopped kale provides you with more than 200 per cent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Two of the carotenoid sources in kale are lutein and zeaxanthin, which play an essential role in eye health. In fact, a high dietary intake of these is known to reduce the chance of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Other possible health benefits of kale include fostering healthy skin, hair and bones, as well as healthy digestion and a reduced risk of heart disease. It may also improve blood glucose levels and lower the risk of cancer, blood pressure and the risk of developing asthma. So, are you hailing kale yet?
Ok, enough about kale. It’s time to meet and sing the praises of kelp (seaweed). If you’re not a fan of dairy, then this is the calcium source you’ve been looking for – kelp contains the highest natural concentration of calcium in any food: 10 times more than milk. It is also a natural source of vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D and E, as well as minerals including zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and calcium. Talk about nutrient-packed!
As a terrific source of iodine, kelp can aid weight-loss and even slow down that anti-ageing clock, as was found in a 2008 study. It showed the type of iodine found in kelp effectively removed free radicals – those nasty chemicals that accelerate ageing – from people’s blood cells.
While kelp is no doubt an amazing food, you do need to make sure you are purchasing the good-quality stuff, which is lower in the heavy metals often found in polluted sea areas. Therefore, you probably should be wary of it if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have health issues such as liver or kidney problems. Perhaps you could talk to a health expert about taking kelp in a quality supplement form instead.
Naturopath Carolyn Simon (ND, DipMedHerb) encourages her clients to get a dose of these ‘sea vegetables’ on a daily basis. How? ‘You can add a small handful of dried seaweed to rice as you cook it, or to stir-fries, soups, casseroles etc. Make sushi using nori, or soak dried arame and add it to salads,’ she says. ‘If you haven’t yet acquired a taste for edible seaweed in its natural state, kelp powder is another easily available way to optimise your seaweed nutrition. Use it as a condiment to replace salt. The important thing is to get into the habit of having a small amount every day in some form, so you are meeting your iodine needs.’
Need a little more kelp-cooking know-how? Try this delish salad recipe, using Wakame kelp, which is popular in Japanese cuisine. It makes a great side salad for a seafood main.
WAKAME SEAWEED SALAD
40g dried Wakame seaweed
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 apple, peeled and finely diced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbs chopped coriander
Sesame seeds and a slice of lemon, to serve
- Soak the seaweed in a medium bowl of tapwater for 5 minutes to soften. Drain seaweed and return to the bowl.
- Combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, garlic and ginger in a jug, then stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Pour soy mixture into the seaweed, then add the apple, spring onions and coriander. Toss well to combine.
- Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds and a slice of lemon.
Tell us, are you a fan of kale and/or kelp, or would you willing to try them? Let us know in the comments below.