What Makes Broccoli and Kale Superfoods?
It’s that time again. With back-to-school and holidays around the corner, we’re getting back into routines. You may have joined a gym, started a new eating plan, signed up for coaching or joined a weight loss program. I love this! I think of the Fall season as a kick start for revving up my healthy routine. I especially love enjoying healthy and hearty soups, roasts and baked goods.
You may have heard me talk about superfoods in the past. I’ll admit, they are one of my passions, and when we’re talking about getting back into routines, they should definitely be a part of yours. There are so many available to us that range from common to unusual. Today we’re featuring our old stand-by’s – Broccoli and Kale! These guys are often touted to be “superfoods.” Superfoods have unique qualities. They are:
- Especially high in dense nutrients
- Have higher than average levels of antioxidants
- They posses medicinal values often higher than regular foods
These green bad boys really are amazingly healthy for you. If you’re wondering what exactly is in these (common) powerhouses that makes them so “super,” I’ve dived into the research to give you some nerdy reasons to make these a staple in your diet.
To start, they’re both considered cruciferous vegetables related to each other in the Brassica family. This family of super plants also includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts. These superfoods have a ton of nutrition, and other health-promoting compounds, they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to cook too. Talk about bang for your buck!
Broccoli and kale are full of nutrition: vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. They’re both considered to be nutrient dense which is a measure of nutrients per calorie – and these both have a lot!
100 grams of broccoli (about 1 cup, chopped) contains:
- 34 calories
- 8 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 6.6 g carbohydrates, and 2.6 g fiber.
- Good source of B vitamins (when eaten raw)
- >100% of your daily vitamin C
- Almost 100% of your vitamin K
- Good source of manganese
- Traces of all the other vitamins and minerals
One cup of loosely packed kale contains:
- 8 calories
- 7 g protein, 0.2 g fat (including omega-3), 1.4 g carbohydrates, and 0.6 g fiber.
- Contains pre-vitamin A (beta-carotene).
- Several B vitamins, including B1, B3, B5, B6, and folate (B9)
- Rich in vitamins C and K
- Lots of minerals including manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, copper, phosphorus, and calcium
As you can see, these two foods contain a lot of nutrients. NOTE: Too much vitamin K may interact with certain blood-thinning medications. If you’re taking one of these medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before incorporating too much of these superfoods into your diet.
Super Health-Promoting Compounds
Broccoli and kale also contain other health-promoting compounds. They tend to taste a bit bitter – but that bitterness equals healthfulness! This bitter flavor is from some of the health-promoting compounds in these super plant foods. Things like glucosinolates (e.g., sulforaphane and isothiocyanates) and polyphenol flavonols.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are a few different types of kale – curly kale, dinosaur kale, red/purple kale etc. The different colors result from slight differences in the amounts of the compounds these plants contain.
One of the main active ingredients in cruciferous vegetables are glucosinolates. These antioxidant compounds are very useful to help detoxify and protect against cancer.
FUN FACT: It’s the precursors to glucosinolates that are in cruciferous vegetables, not the compounds themselves. When fresh broccoli and kale are eaten (or even chopped/blended) raw the active compounds are produced. *This fact is incorporated into a trick I use in this week’s recipe*
NOTE: Glucosinolates may affect iodine absorption and thyroid health, particularly in people prone to thyroid disease. In this case, you may not have to ditch these superfoods altogether – just cook them first.
These superfoods also contain flavonols like kaempferol and quercetin. Flavonols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they decrease your risk of cancer.
Kale also contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are known for promoting eye health and are protective against many cancers. When cooked, kale contains another anti-cancer compound called indole.
We should be taking advantage of our ability to incorporate cruciferous superfoods – broccoli and kale into our daily routine. They are packed with nutrition and have a whole array of health-promoting compounds. Almost everyone should be eating these regularly. Just be cautious – if you’re taking blood-thinning medications; and, if you have thyroid issues, cook them first.
PS: If you need to cook them:
- Simply toss some broccoli with olive oil and your favorite seasoning and roast for an easy and delicious side dish or snack.
- Steam broccoli and portion out in baggies. Keep in fridge. Take to work with your favorite healthy dressing or dip and enjoy as a mid-morning or afternoon snack
- Chop up kale and/or broccoli and add to your saute’s, soups, crock pot recipes, stir frys (you get the idea)
Incorporating these mighty greens daily will help improve digestion, detoxification, and whole body nourishment.
Do you, or anyone you know, absolutely love (or hate) these superfoods? Do you have a favorite recipe to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Broccoli & Kale Super-Soup (Serves 4)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1-3 tbsp garlic, chopped
- 2 large handfuls kale
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 stalks broccoli chopped
- 8 cups broth
- ½ cup tahini
- 2 tsp sea salt
Instructions: Saute garlic in olive oil in a large soup pot. At the same time, do the following steps:
- Add half of the raw kale, celery, and broccoli to your high-speed blender (in that order). Cover with up to 4 cups of broth and blend.
- Pour soup into the pot with the sauteed garlic. Do the same for the other half of the veggies and broth.
- Heat soup and simmer for up to 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Add tahini and sea salt. Stir well.
Serve & enjoy!
- If you want the soup to be extra creamy, you can re-blend after it’s heated.
- Season to taste. Add chilies, spices or even coconut milk to boost flavor and nutrition.
- Make a double batch and freeze single serving containers so you have lunch on the run when you’re just too busy to prep.