Friday, May 31, 2013

Nutritional powerhouses: raw kale and chard chips

Hankering after a crunchy, savory snack? When this craving hits me I usually try to satisfy it with some organic air-popped popcorn, tossed with a little truffle oil and topped with truffle salt. However, this spring my friend Ann’s amazing organic garden has produced a serious crop of rainbow Swiss chard and kale, and she generously shares her bounty with me. Just look at the size of those rainbow chard leaves!
Plus, I received a food dehydrator for Mother’s Day which I’m excited to break in. So, today I thought I’d try my hand at making some raw kale and chard chips.

I knew that kale and Swiss chard were healthy food choices, but I didn't realize the magnitude of their nutrient value. Kale and Swiss chard are leafy greens that are truly nutritional powerhouses. To say that their health benefits far surpass popcorn is putting it mildly! If you’re trying to eat more nutrient dense foods, these are two greens you must not pass up. Here are a few reasons why: Swiss chard, for example, has been found to help regulate blood sugar in studies done on animals (1).  It’s also been shown to help pancreatic cells regenerate (1). Swiss chard is an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory and supports bone health as well because of its high supply of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin K (1).

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable. Research suggests that we should include cruciferous vegetables in our diet "2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy kale and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week, and increase your serving size to 2 cups" (1). Included among the many nutritional benefits of kale are its: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular support and anti-cancer properties which are due to nutrients in the form of glucosinolates (1).

So, adding raw kale and chard chips to your list of healthy raw snacks is definitely a smart choice. Each is low in fat and cholesterol, but an excellent source of fiber. Besides calcium, iron and vitamins A and C, these greens also supply vitamins E, K and B6, thiamine, folate, riboflavin, magnesium, manganese and potassium (3). If you want to learn more about the nutritional value of the foods you're eating, check out these excellent sites - USDA Nutrient Data Lab (NDL) and the World's Healthiest  For more detailed information about the nutrients found in raw kale and chard, click here for kale and here for chard. Compare with air-popped popcorn here.

So here's the recipe:

  1. I started with about 12 leaves of kale and a big bunch of chard. 
  2. I cut the large center ribs out of the kale and chard and saved the kale ribs to grind in my Vita-mix smoothie and the chard ribs for another recipe.  I enjoy these sautéed in olive oil with some chopped fresh garlic.  
  3. Next, I washed the kale and chard leaves and laid them out on paper towels to dry. 
  4. Then I put the kale leaves in a large bowl, along with 1 T (15 ml) grapeseed oil, 1 t (5 ml) garlic powder and ground in some pink Himalayan sea salt to taste.
  5. Sort of hand kneaded the leaves in this mixture and then spread them on the lower tray in the dehydrator trying not to overlap too much.  I’m using a Nesco dehydrator.

  6. Now, for the chard leaves – I cut these into approximately 3 inch square pieces and put them in a large bowl with 2 T (30 ml) truffle oil, (since I had more chard leaves I used more oil, but I will use less next time), 1 t (5 ml) garlic powder and ½ t (2.5 ml) truffle salt.
  7. Tossed the leaves with my hands to mix and then spread them on the remaining trays.
  8. Set the temp to 115 degrees F or (46 C) and set the timer for 6 hours. 
  9. Check for crispness.
Note: A few food bloggers had mentioned that dehydrating certain foods can really stink up the house. So, as a prevention I put the dehydrator in the utility room, closed the door, and turned on the exhaust fan.  I didn’t find the odor to be overly offensive, but there was definitely a smell.

Next time I make these chips I'd like to try nutritional yeast for a cheesy chip and maybe include some turmeric for extra health benefits and nutritional value. Studies show that turmeric may help fight infections and some cancers, reduce inflammation, and treat digestive problems.

Food really is our best medicine! Enjoy.

6/18/13 Update:  These didn't store well for me.  I put them in a sealed glass container, but they didn't stay crispy, so I ended up chopping the chips up and putting the into a frittata.  I also think they were a little to oily and salty so I will reduce both of these ingredients next time.

World's Healthiest Foods - Swiss chard
World's Healthiest Foods - Kale
USDA Nutrient Data Lab
University of Maryland Medical Center - turmeric

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