Even though snacking doesn't reinforce the best dietary habits, we all fall victim to it every once in a while. So, why not treat yourself to a healthy homemade snack that's both easy to make and way cheaper than any store-bought versions? Whether you're in a grazing mood or you have guests coming over, these healthy crispy kale chips are sure to satisfy any salty cravings, while imparting all the benefits of one of the world's best superfoods.
The vibrant, dark leaves of kale are packed full of vitamins and minerals that counteract destructive processes like oxidation and inflammation. Of note, kale has the highest concentration of vitamin K than any other food, which plays an important role in regulating the body's inflammatory response. Kale is also an excellent source of both carotenoids and flavonoids, which are antioxidants. In addition, kale is a top food source of at least four glucosinolates, which break down once digested into cancer-preventing and possibly cancer-treating compounds. Studies have demonstrated regular kale intake lowers risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast, bladder, and prostate. For more information on the benefits of eating this superfood, please see this excellent nutritional profile of kale here.
A word on oxalates
We all know that we shouldn't eat too much of any one thing. This is true for all foods, including superfoods like kale. Like many plant-based foods we ingest raw (fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes), kale is relatively high in oxalates, which if eaten in excess can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Before you swear off all plant foods for fear of kidney stones, research suggests that ingesting and maintaining probiotics in the gastrointestinal tract may increase our body's ability to absorb oxalates (which would lower the risk of kidney stone formation). So, keep in mind the power of probiotics and the microflora they promote within us, and eat cultured/fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt, or take a probiotic supplement daily. Also, be smart about the amount of diversity in your diet. Finally, if you're worried our curious about the ways certain foods may affect you, remember that information is power and read up on it. Some great starting points for research about oxalates can be found here and here.
Kale from a Historical Perspective
Like its cousins in the cruciferous vegetable family, kale is a descendant of wild cabbage which is believed to have originated in the Anatolian peninsula before being brought to Europe around the year 600 B.C. Once in Europe, kale became a popular crop, even a favorite vegetable for peasants in the Middle Ages! Kale was brought to North America by English settlers in the 17th century.
Finding and Keeping the Best Kale
While kale is available year-round, it's high season is in winter months through early spring. Look for vibrant leaves and strong stems. Smaller leaves usually retain more natural sweetness than larger leaves, and be sure the leaves are free from yellowing or any holes. Keep the kale at a cool temperature, as warmer temperatures cause wilting. If you're not using the kale immediately, cut off the tips of the stems and place in a wide-mouthed glass with a 1/4 inch of water, and keep in the refrigerator until ready for use. Check the water amount daily, but be careful not to fill too high because water can cause the leaves to spoil.
Experimenting with Flavors
The recipe listed below is just a starting point from which you can explore different flavor combinations. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and what you have in your spice rack or cupboard! We love the simplicity of garlic powder and salt, or paprika and salt, but other options can include cumin and cayenne, ginger and lemon, salt and vinegar - anything that you'd find on chips. Let us know if you've come up with some keepers!