food

A dietitian writes: "Sorry, kale, but you’re really not that 'super.'"

Image: iStock.

I remember a time when curly parsley reigned supreme and spinach came a close second. Then kale came into vogue.

Now it’s rearing its green bushy head everywhere you look. Kale is constantly trending on social media and receives heaps of press in the mainstream media. Heck, even the Obamas eat it. It’s also appearing on menus, drinks lists, and even on the snack menu at my local pub. Because kale chips, or kale-whatever, is exactly what I’m after with my beer.

Does anyone really like kale, anyway? Sure, it’s good for you, but to me it just smells like dirty socks. Yet wellness warriors, yogis, health food gurus and hipsters have lauded kale and labelled it a superfood.

This magical cabbage has all the answers, or so we’re told. According to Dr Google it can cure heart disease, digestive troubles, cancer, AIDS, even hair loss. Forget those other inferior green vegetables — they can’t cure disease, or even make a half decent-looking garnish on your chicken parmigiana.

But what does the science actually say about kale? Is the nutritional hype overstated or even warranted? Was Popeye right all along when he chose spinach instead?

Watch: Nobody’s calling chocolate mug-cake a superfood… but it sure is super delicious. (Post continues after video.)

As it turns out, he was — spinach is hands-down the superior green.

It romps home in the vitamin E, folate, vitamin A + Beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and iron stakes. Yet I doubt you’ll be seeing trendy celebrities posting photos on social media of themselves eating spinach anytime soon, let alone seeing it featured on the snacks menu at your local brewhouse.

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While I’m at it, let’s debunk the myth of the term ‘superfood’.

In fact, superfood has no meaning at all among the medical fraternity — and better yet, there’s no legal definition of it either. Moreover, no single food is going to give you all the nutrients you need to sustain you. Not even wheatgrass, goji berries or (you guessed it) kale.

"No, I don't want kale chips with my beer." (iStock)

A trader in the Grand Bazaar in Turkey once told me eating three Medjool dates a day will provide me with all the nutrition I need. Nice try, Mr Date Merchant, but that’s just fruity advice.

Eating a wide variety of foods from all the different food groups is the best way to meet your daily nutritional requirements. It might not be sexy advice, but it sure is 'super'.

When did nutrition science get hijacked? Why is it so damn confusing? The way to attain health really isn’t rocket science. However, it cannot be achieved by simply adding or removing one particular food or nutrient from your diet (cue the anti-gluten and anti-sugar movements).

To eat your way to better health, try including wholesome foods like fruit, grains, dairy, lean meats, fish, legumes and lots of veggies on a daily basis. It’s hardly earth-shattering advice. It’s the kind of advice your grandmother would give, and I bet you wouldn’t argue with her. (Post continues after gallery.)

Please don’t get me wrong: kale is a healthy green, and I won’t hold it against you if you choose to eat it. Just don’t tell me that by eating it I will achieve perfect health and that it’s going to cure all my ills, or help me to regrow my luscious locks.

Because, while it would be super if it did, the science simply doesn’t support it.

And quite frankly, I don’t care if the leader of the free world or one of the Kardashian girls eats it or drinks it. The truth is, I simply don’t like it. And, that’s reason enough for me not to eat it.

Where do you stand on kale? Do you eat it?

Joel Feren is a Consultant Dietitian at Hearty Nutrition in Victoria.

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