by SABRINA RICHARD
We’ve all been told that the plumous, glaucous leaves of the brassica sabellica are good for us. Kale. We’ve seen it everywhere: smoothies, salads, celebrities. What’s the deal with kale? To be honest, kale is an overplayed breakup song of the food world. Turn on the radio, and you hear a breakup song. Look up a recipe, and you include kale. From 2007 to 2012, the US Department of Agriculture recorded a 60 percent increase in production of kale. Just like the radio has too many breakup songs, kale is being used in too many recipes--and for no good reason.
You probably think that this is only for people on keto diets, but health freaks are sneaking this misleading green into your life. Have you ever taken a bite out of something that should be really good, and it starts to taste like bug spray? It’s kale. Ever felt kind of bloated after eating a salad? It’s Kale. Ever put your body at risk for “healthy eating”? It’s kale. Can we truly say that eating kale is worth it? I want you to join me in saying “Oh kale no!” to this so-called “superfood” because of its unappetizing taste and minimal health benefits.
When you were five years old, did you ever tell your mom that you didn’t like greens? You were right all along. You were right down to a science: a sensory science. Kale doesn’t taste good to us, and there are evolutionary reasons for that, according to Russell Keast, the director and professor at the Center for Advanced Sensory Science at Deakin University. Our ancestors learned that potentially dangerous foods are the bitter ones, and the ones we should eat are savory and sweet. Certain compounds, ones that taste bitter, told the earliest humans that the food we are eating could kill us and we haven’t really grown out of it. Our taste buds developed, and we improved at detecting bitter foods. That bitter taste is one that has lasted for millions and millions of years, and no number of smoothies could change it. I mentioned bug spray-tasting brownies because oils in kale are actually used to repel mosquitos. The same thing keeping bugs off your arms is on your plate.
Your mom was likely telling you to eat your vegetables because they’re good for you, but this isn’t the case with kale. Kale has a lot of insoluble fiber, which should only be eaten in small amounts since it isn’t actually digested. A buildup of fiber can cause bloating and gassy situations. Kale can also be inflammatory to your thyroid, a little butterfly-shaped organ in your neck, because kale produces a sugar called raffinose that blocks thyroid function. Other foods that contain raffinose are romaine lettuce, broccoli and cabbage. One woman in China went into a literal food coma after raffinose from cabbage caused her thyroid to malfunction. Kale is not the food to die for.
Health nuts have sold kale as a superfood because it’s packed with vitamins and minerals that we need; however, it is not the only source of these benefits, and it’s not the best either. Romaine calm. Lettuce explore greens we can say “kale yeah” to. Arugula, chard, bok choy and collard greens all have digestible fiber and many benefits similar to kale’s. Herbs like thyme, parsley and basil are flavorful options. Brussels sprouts, artichokes and asparagus are healthy alternatives. Kale can be ‘weeded’ out with other options. Even dandelion leaves are an edible replacement. I don’t know about you, but even dandelion leaves sound more appetizing than kale.
Kale has tasted bad to humans for millions of years, and in those millions of years, it didn’t develop any special or unique health benefits. Humans, as a species, developed to not like kale. We can’t digest it easily, and it affects an important organ for hormonal function. There are plenty of better tasting, healthy alternatives, so remember to say ‘Oh kale no’ to this deceptive, leafy green.