By FRAN WEISS,
MS RDN CDN
Local dietitian Fran Weiss shared with The Jewish World a recent query that she received and how much she values the nutritive qualities of kale by sharing a few of her recipes.
I am a female senior citizen with a family history of age related macular degeneration leading many relatives to very poor vision and blindness. In addition, I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. People also comment that I am “pleasantly plump.” I understand that I am at high risk for following in my family’s footsteps for macular degeneration. Are there any dietary recommendations to reduce my risk? Appreciative
It is good that you recognize and want to address your risk factors. Although your genetics, age, and gender increase your tendency towards this eye disorder, the tendency does not necessarily need to be your destiny. Please make sure to follow up with your ophthalmologist and health care providers. In terms of nutritional interventions… yes, luckily there are several healthy interventions!
Low levels of nutrients do affect ocular health. Vitamins A, C, and E deficiencies as well as a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids (antioxidants) are associated with poor eye health. Increasing two carotenoids, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin, are particularly helpful in decreasing the risk of macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are actually found in the macula and help with both light filtering and oxidative stress in the eye. The quantity of these two antioxidants in the macular part of the retina is measured as macular pigment optical density (MPOD) and is a predictor of disease and visual function.
These two antioxidants also help keep the lens clear by preventing clouding caused by free radical oxidation. That is why these two protective antioxidants, combined with omega-3 fatty acids and the vitamins mentioned above, are thought to be especially helpful to prevent and slow the progression of macular degeneration as well as cataracts. Unfortunately, lutein and zeaxanthin are not produced sufficiently by the body. Hence, good eye health depends on sufficient lutein and zeaxanthin via good dietary food sources, supplements, and/or fortified foods/beverages.
Excellent food sources of these antioxidants include kale, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, corn, turnip greens, red peppers, and brussels sprouts. Smaller amounts can be found in tangerines, oranges, snap beans, dark green lettuces, celery, peas, and okra. The absorption of these antioxidants is enhanced when these dietary sources are consumed with a healthy oil. Your physician may recommend additional lutein and zeaxanthin in the form of supplements and knows best the appropriate dosing for you.
Kale chips are in vogue now. They are probably the healthiest guilt free snack chip and are good for the entire family if diet permits!
Notes on kale: The smaller and greener kale leaves are the leaves that are most sweet and nutrient dense — lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Once leaves start to turn yellow, they become more bitter and strong tasting and lose the concentration of nutrients.
When purchasing kale, try to avoid any yellow leaves as the color change is most likely an indicator of age but can also be a sign of infestation, mold, plant disease, or frost. If you purchased the kale nice and green and you notice yellowing after storage, cut off the yellow parts and use as soon as possible. Better yet, try some of the recipes below to use up all the kale you purchase in a timely fashion. Kale leaves are a healthy addition to salads and make wonderful edible garnishes as well. The best way to store kale is to place the unwashed kale in a plastic bag or covered container with a paper towel (to absorb any moisture) in the refrigerator. Fresh kale will usually last at least a week if stored this way. As mentioned, the flavor, color, and nutrients will change with time. Alternately, you can store kale longer for future use in the freezer by blanching for 30-60 seconds prior to packing and placing in the freezer.
The healthy oil used to bake these chips will enhance the carotenoids absorption. These chips are easy to prepare too!
Fran’s Kale Chips
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. While the oven is heating, wash, separate, and dry the kale leaves. Spread a single layer on a greased cookie sheet. Drizzle with high heat olive oil. Add seasoning (s) of your choice such as garlic, curry, pepper, cumin, cayenne, or salt. Bake until the edges turn brown, about 10-15 minutes. Start crunching!
To enhance the nutrient powerhouse of kale, eat these chips with walnuts or salmon to boost protein and omega-3s. Adding cherry tomatoes will boost the Vitamin C. As a side note, people taking warfarin (Coumadin) should be aware that kale is an excellent source of Vitamin K, which should be taken into account when determining the dose of your medication.
Fran’s Eye Healthy Spinach and Kale Walnut Salad
4 cups baby spinach leaves
4 cups cut up kale leaves
1 cup chopped raw broccoli
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chia seeds
3/4 cup unsweetened cranberry pomegranate juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup olive or avocado oil
ground pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine the spinach, kale, cranberries, walnuts, and chia seeds in a large salad bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients and stir evenly into the salad. Hope you enjoy this tasty salad and see good results on your next eye exam!
Fran’s Kale Quinoa Soup
A delicious and nutrient dense soup may be prepared by combining the following ingredients as per your preference and heating until the vegetables are al dente:
kale, cooked quinoa, sliced carrots, cooked beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, chopped celery, corn kernels, crushed garlic clove (s), turmeric, black pepper, crushed red pepper, tomato juice, and water to cover.
Fran’s Spinach Kale Garbanzo Side Dish
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 sweet red peppers, chopped
3 tablespoons high heat olive oil
3 teaspoons cumin
3 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
3 cups each fresh spinach and kale, cut into bite size pieces
3 sweet red peppers
Heat pan. Add oil and cumin. Sauté garlic and red peppers. Add chickpeas and the greens and sauté until tender.
Not into cooking and fuss?
Try Kale Tea…Just pour boiling water over chopped kale in a cup and stir. Warm up on a cold day with this healthy warm drink. Don’t forget to save the kale! You can have your tea and eat it too!!
Fran Weiss, MS RDN R/CDN consultant dietitian, is a registered dietitian in the national Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and is certified as a dietitian nutritionist nationally as well as in New York State. She consults in the Capital District. She may be reached with questions for inquires for individual or institutional consultations at DietitianFran@gmail.com.