For The Kale Of It

Kale is popping up everywhere.   It’s even in a new item on Panera’s  menu — Kale and White Bean Soup. Probably a fine choice as long as you don’t take advantage of the 99 cent desert and add a Danish.

One reason for Kale’s popularity is that it’s a tremendous source of lutein and zeaxanthin.  The only part of the body where lutein and zeaxanthin can be found is in the macula. The macula portion of your retina is responsible for the sharpest part of your vision.  Age related damage to the macula results in macula degeneration and there is reason to think that adding lutein and zeaxanthin to your food intake can thicken the  protective pigment of your macula.

Nutritional advice to help prevent macula degeneration includes eating more dark leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or collard greens.  Unfortunately, most people have no idea what to do with kale or collard greens. (I’m not even sure I heard of kale until just a few years ago!)

The toughest part of preparing dark green leafy vegetables is cleaning them.  But Wegman’s, and other markets, have made it easy.  The Kale I buy comes in a relatively large size bag but as long as I put a rubber band around the bag after I open it, I have found that unused Kale stays good in the fridge for about a week.

Here’s three really easy ways of adding kale to your diet:

1.  If you make shakes or smoothies, just throw a bunch of kale in.  I found it works whether you are making a sweetened smoothie or an unsweetened one.  Even had an 18 month old toddler asking for seconds!  You can drink half the smoothie in the morning and take a  container to drink the remainder during a “coffee” break. You just feel really healthy doing that.

2.  Soups are easy to make, or you can buy canned.  I make a variation of  Weight Watcher’s vegetable soup recipe.  Once your soup is heated up,  just throw in some kale.  You can throw it in at the end for “al dente”  or you can cook it soft.  Either way, it adds color, texture and lots of nutrition to any soup.

3.  If you are microwaving a frozen entree, just add some kale to the top, replace the covering that you had to unfold to put the kale on, and microwave as usual.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are also available as supplements.  But with prepared, cleaned, cut up kale now available, it’s so easy to just add it to your food instead.

Dr. Ally Stoeger provides annual eye examinations, medical eye care, contact lens examinations and Lasik/refractive surgery co-management in the Gainesville-Haymarket area of Virginia.  She believes that by carefully checking your eye health and offering preventive suggestions, we can prevent small problems from becoming big problems.  GH Eye also has a superb collection of   high tech lenses and the latest in fashion frames.