How Dense: Kale Chips

In the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, I read an interesting nugget of nutrition research worth sharing:

In the United States one can purchase 1,000 calories of energy-dense snacks for approximately $4.00, whereas 1,000 calories of fresh produce may cost up to $20.00.

This supports the idea that the high cost of fruits and vegetables can be a consumption obstacle for many.   However, the article goes on to note:

$4.00 would procure approximately 0.44 kg (.97 lb) of fresh produce (nutrient-dense foods), but only 0.2 kg (.44 lb) of energy-dense snacks.

This notion of nutrient density, or the amount of nutrients for a given volume of food, deserves consideration when it comes to developing nutrition messages for the public.  Essentially, you can achieve satiety at a lower price while increasing your nutrient intake and reducing your calorie intake.  May be a mouthful, but has great potential as a convincing public health message.

To back up, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, have lots of nutrients with fewer calories  in general; while energy-dense foods, such as potato chips and cookies, have more calories for the same volume of food and generally fewer nutrients.  Most processed foods, which we are constantly cautioned against, fall under the energy-dense category.  There has been a lot of research in this area (Barbara Rolls comes to mind) but, to my knowledge, no successful public health message exists to relay this concept, particularly for vulnerable low-income populations.  With access to these healthful, nutrient-dense foods in the forefront of the media, viable research and science needs to support local and national initiatives as we strategize towards a healthier country.

So my recipe this week is probably familiar to CSA cohorts; an easy snack or side dish that is very nutrient-dense.  Kale, which I had relegated to the “winter-only category,” made a surprise (but welcomed) appearance in my summer CSA share a few weeks ago.  Yes, I picked it up weeks ago and it’s as hardy as ever, thanks to a damp paper towel, plastic, and the refrigerator crisper.  The idea for kale chips came from Kath Eats Real Food blog, and while this is not the first time I’ve made them, I think a repeat performance deserves a post on CC&T.

Talk about nutrient dense.  Kale is loaded with fiber, vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium and potassium just to name a few, and one cup of kale is just shy of 37 calories. You would be dense (ahem) not to eat this vegetable.  Try it crispy in the oven and you’ll be hooked.

Kale Chips

Adapted from Kath Eats Real Food recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • about 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used kosher salt and ground pepper)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Rinse kale and chop roughly, removing stems.
  • In a large bowl, mix with olive oil, salt and pepper and mix with hands to coat.
  • Spread out on cookie sheets (I usually line mine with foil).
  • Bake for about 8-10 minutes until edges are brown and kale is crispy.  But keep an eye out on them as oven temperatures vary and kale chips can burn easily.
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8 responses to “How Dense: Kale Chips

  1. Awesome. I’ve purchased them in the raw food section of my grocery but hadn’t thought of making them. Great post with good data as usual. I’m planning to address this issue of socio-economics in the near future.

  2. While I understand the health benefits of kale, I still don’t know why a farmer would plant it. Do you think they just wake up in the morning, look out across their barren field, take a sip of coffee, squint through the morning sun…and think….kale. “yes, I will grow the world’s best nutrient-rich kale. and the people will be happy…”

  3. Pingback: Exploring Density: Kale Chips | Farm to Table

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