Spring Cleaning

If warmer weather has roused your desire to spring clean or declutter, turn some of that energy to your diet.  Not needing to be warmed by food as the temperature increases, I find it easier in spring and summer to increase my consumption of raw veggies and salads.  My favorite approach is to focus on what I should be eating instead of what I should not be eating.  It turns out that this is one of the recommended approaches in Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct.  The ability to turn your “I won’t” into an “I will” diverts your focus from prohibiting your bad habit by replacing it with a new, healthier habit.

Joel Fuhrman must have been aware of this strategy when he issued his holiday challenge for 2012, encouraging participants to each day eat:

  • At least one large salad
  • Generous amounts of cooked green vegetables, beans, onions, and mushrooms
  • At least 3 fresh fruits, especially berries, to satisfy your sweet tooth
  • 1-2 ounces of raw nuts and seeds

For me, this checklist mentality works well as a reminder of what foods to focus on and is also helpful as a meal and snack planner.  Don’t know what to shop for?  Look at the list and fill your fridge and pantry with Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds), an acronym to remember the most nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods.  We’ll focus on the G for greens today, and more specifically on kale.

Back to the checklist mentality for a second – if I’ve hit the ‘required’ foods and am still hungry, I can incorporate something less desirable.  When I haven’t eaten through the checklist, I try to plan better for the next day- all the while my taste buds have adjusted to another day without white flour, sugars and sweeteners, excess oil, and animal products.

Kale is quite the sexy health food, having gained popularity recently as a super food.  In each 1 cup cooked serving, kale contains 111 mg absorbable calcium, which is equivalent to that in 1 cup of calcium-fortified orange juice and more than the absorbable calcium contained in 1 cup of milk.  Kale also contains significant amounts of beta-carotene, Kaleselenium, and vitamins C and E.  In addition to being an outstanding antioxidant, kale is part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens.  People who eat generous amounts of cruciferous vegetables have remarkably low cancer rates.Barnard and Reilly

Cruciferous vegetables affect the hormones that influence the progression of hormone-dependent cancers by changing the way estrogens are broken down and eliminated.  Normally, estradiol (a potent estrogen in women) is converted to 16 α-hydroxyestrone, a hormone that encourages the growth of cancer cells.  However the cruciferous extract indole-3-carbinol causes the body to convert more estrogen to a different estrogen called 2-hydroxyestrone, which has anticancer actions.Bell et al

Two common types of kale that you should be able to find at your farmers’ market or grocery store are lacinato or dino kale, which has flat firmer leaves, and curly kale.  Most kale recipes can be used with either type, I usually choose based on availability and desired texture.  To strip or destem the kale, hold a leaf by the stem upside down in your hand.  Cup the thumb and index finger of your opposite hand at the top of the stem and pull downward in a quick, smooth motion.


Monster Green Smoothie

½ c pineapple chunks, frozen

1 c seedless grapes or sliced apple

1 banana, sliced and frozen

2-4 leaves of destemmed kale, depending on size

1 c water

Blend all ingredients together, adding more water if needed to thin consistency.  Serve immediately.  Makes 2 one cup servings.

This is a very sweet smoothie, which is great for green smoothie novices.  Spinach has a more neutral taste and can be substituted for the kale.  This recipe is very versatile and should be played with to find your favorite combinations, eventually increasing the ratio of greens to fruit.

Kale Chips

Once kale has been washed, dried, and destemmed, tear the leaves into chip-sized pieces.

Oven:  Preheat oven to 300’.  Arrange kale on wire rack in a baking sheet, on parchment paper, or directly on a lightly sprayed baking sheet.  Spray the kale with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 15-20 min, turning the chips over once, until the chips are crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool as the chips will continue to crisp.

Dehydrator:  Arrange kale on trays.  Spray the leaves with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.  Dehydrate at 145’ for 2-3 hours, rotating the trays at least once and turning the chips over if necessary, until chips are crispy.

There are many variations of kale chips, so like the smoothie recipe, this one is very versatile.  Add in ideas: nutritional yeast, BBQ seasoning, chipotle, oil and vinegar, garlic, chili and lime.


Massaged Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale, destemmed and torn into pieces

1 lemon, juiced

1 can of beans, rinsed and drained (white beans or garbanzos recommended)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 avocado, diced

1 tomato, diced

Salt to taste

In a medium bowl, add half of the lemon juice to the kale and massage it with your hands until the kale has reduced in size by half.  Add rest of ingredients.  Can be eaten immediately or refrigerated to allow flavors to further develop.


Sauteed Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts

1 bunch kale, destemmed and torn into bite sized pieces

1 can of white beans or garbanzos

¼ c pine nuts

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ c golden raisins

1T olive oil

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat with pine nuts and garlic.  As they begin to brown, add kale and raisins, stirring often.  Once kale has wilted (5 min or so), add beans.  If additional liquid is needed, add ¼ c water or dry white wine.  Once kale is desired texture, remove from heat and serve.



McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct : How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. 2012

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Bell MC, Crowley-Nowick P, Bradlow HL, et al. Placebo-controlled trial of indole-3-carbinol in the treatment of CIN.  Gynecol Oncol. 2000; 78:123-129.

Kale Picture: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Boerenkool.jpg


  1. Catherine says:

    Thanks! No, I haven’t- just starting out.


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