Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kale? Yes, please.

Kale is a Superfood from the Brassica family. It is a green leafy vegetable that is becoming increasingly more popular because of it's health benefits such as promoting good eye health, lowering cholesterol and detoxifying the body. Kale is also known for it’s anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. It is rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants while still being low in calories. Super indeed!

The number of nutrients that kale contains is impressive. Kale contains Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, B6, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, Phosphorus and Copper. Kale also contains Lutein, Omega 3 fatty acids and fiber.

Kale comes in many varieties and colors. Dinosaur kale, which is sometimes knows as Tuscan kale, tends to be sweet and blue-green in color. Ornamental kale is more mild in flavor and great in salads because of it's tender leaves. Curly kale tends to have a stronger flavor and bumpy texture.
photo: Maria Quiroga
Kale is a great green vegetable to have stocked in the kitchen because it can be cooked in so many ways. You can stir-fry it, steam it, eat it raw, creamed, baked as chips or you can add it to a soup or sauce.

For most of us kale is healthy and nutritious, but if you have gallbladder or kidney problems you may want to avoid kale because of the oxalates. Kale is also heavily sprayed with pesticides so it’s best to buy organic kale when possible to avoid exposure.

I love kale and eat it a couple times a week in stir-fry and soup. How do you like to eat your kale?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Natural? Organic? What should I buy?

Photo by Maria Quiroga

Confused? You aren’t the only one!

The USDA states that “Natural” pertaining to meats and poultry means “containing no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed.” But this does not guarantee that the meat was raised in a humane manner, in a sustainable environment or was organically fed. It seems that the word “natural” would mean that no hormones or antibiotics were given to the animal, right?  Nope. The only way to be sure you are getting hormone/anti-biotic free meat is to buy Organic meat. What about poultry and pork? Poultry and pork in the U.S. cannot be given any hormones by law, but can still be given antibiotics. Only buying Organic poultry and pork will guarantee that no antibiotics were administered.

So is Organic meat the way to go? I would say YES. By purchasing Organic you can be sure you are buying products that meet strict guidelines stipulated by the USDA. Each farm must get verification by a USDA-approved agency independent of the USDA. By buying organic you know that the animals were fed 100% organic feed, provided access to the outdoors and were not given antibiotics in their lifetime. Organic animals are also not given growth hormones of any kind or fed other animals (yes even sick animals are chopped up and fed to our animals. Only cows, goats and sheep aren’t a part of this process.) Shocking, right?

The manner in which meat and poultry are labeled can be very misleading. Read the labels and remember that the terms “no hormones administered” and “no antibiotics administered” are only defined by the government and not enforced by them. Only buying Organic will provide you with the peace of mind that what you are serving for dinner is indeed hormone and antibiotic-free.

-Maria Quiroga