If you blinked, you may have missed National Kale Day on October 2. I did. The brainchild of Columbia University psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, Huffington Post offered a spate of kale recipes, and kale was deified, criticized, and satirized in the media. You could click to “Become a Kale Hero” or get an earful about how dangerous it is to “fixate on individual foods as curative sustenance, because your diet’s influence on your health is an incredibly complex equation” (NPR). Ramsey is convinced that eating kale promotes good mental health (Fifty Shades of Kale).
All sides have a point. I personally would argue that you should consume kale 3–5 times weekly for three reasons.
1. Kale’s nutritional profile is unmatched. Without getting into all the science here, kale lowers cancer risk, acts like the detox police in your cells, and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. I’ve been reading a lot about chronic inflammation as the underlying cause of most American disease, and the research is convincing. Start with Dr. Barry Sears. Don’t let his cheesily named “Zone Diet” put you off. I’ll post more on this shortly, please stay tuned.
2. Kale can be prepared so you don’t gag on it. Even a mostly plant-based eater like myself sometimes gets grossed out by kale. I’m not a goat, and I don’t enjoy having to chew the nearly indestructible leaves 100 times. But I’ve landed upon some ways to make it palatable. Aside from the ubiquitous kale chips, blend a big leaf into smoothies where it quickly disappears, or use a food processor to chop the leaves finely to sprinkle on foods and incorporate into soups, salads, and any other recipes as you would parsley. Kale tabbouleh, for instance, tastes great. I keep a container of minced kale in my fridge for this purpose and replenish it twice a week.
3. Kale’s symbolism is powerful and motivating. Epictetus said: “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” We all know intuitively that we need to eat better and that Hippocrates wasn’t messing around when he declared, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We have poisoned ourselves with the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet), and making the decision to say, “Yes, I am a kale eater,” and then to eat kale frequently, even if at first it’s hard, is like forcibly smiling when you’re down—the action creates a kindred feeling, and soon the feeling becomes authentically you. Eat kale as much as you can manage—and as though you enjoy it—and soon you may. I’m not promising, I’m just saying. . .
If eating kale truly disgusts you, then skip it. But the underlying theory is valid, so try to find some close substitutes and see how your body feels after a few weeks. Food is not fast medicine, but it will help you heal if given the chance.