We all need to chill out. Seriously.
Our bodies are currently in a state of hyper inflammation. Inflammation in and of itself is a good and necessary thing. It is how our bodies heal when we are hurt or sick: Specialized cells and proteins respond to the injured area, sealing it off, destroying damaged tissue, killing invading bacteria.
But an over-active inflammatory system can cause damage, like an out of control fire.
Our immune systems are charged with keeping everything in balance: Knowing when to bring on the heat, and when to cool things off.
Some foods promote inflammation (sugar, omega-6-heavy cooking oils, dairy, processed meats, alcohol) while others help to cool the body, like kelp, turmeric, almonds, wild salmon, shiitake mushrooms, green tea, papaya, blueberries, olive oil, sweet potatoes, and your dark leafy greens.
Chronic inflammation plays a role in many types of cancer.
Just like immune cells gearing up to repair lesions, cancer cells need to produce inflammation to sustain their growth. To this end, they begin an abundant production of the same highly inflammatory substances seen in the natural reparation of woods. They act as chemical fertilizers promoting cell reproduction -- in this case, cancer cell reproduction. Growing tumors use these substances to help themselves develop and to make the barriers surrounding them more permeable. The very process that enables the immune system to repair lesions and pursue enemies in all the body's recesses is diverted for the benefit of the cancer cells. They exploit it to spread and reproduce.
The overproduction of inflammatory factors throws neighboring white blood cells into disarray. The natural killer cells and other white blood cells are neutralized. They don't even try to fight the tumor, which prospers and grows in plain sight. ~ Servan-Schrieber, David; Anticancer. pg. 43-44
To this end, we eat a lot of kale around here.
Kale and other green fruits (honeydew!) and vegetables are also full of Vitamins C & K, calcium, folate and potassium. Good things in these veggies (sulforaphane, isothiocyanate, and indoles) fight numerous diseases by eliminating toxic waste from the body.
I used to simply dunk kale in boiling water for a minute or two, and then stir it around in some hot olive oil, garlic & salt and call it good, which is great, but a little boring every night. So lately I've been experimenting with kale recipes and I've found some winners (one with coconut and another that doesn't require any cooking!).
Kale Method #1: Massage It ~
Kale Salad (serves 6, large portions; from EatingWell Magazine, September 2012)
2 bunches of kale
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 minced garlic cloves
1 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Strip the kale. Wash and dry the leaves. Tear the leaves into small pieces and place in a large bowl.
Add the Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, soy sauce, pepper and salt to the greens.
With clean hands, firmly massage and crush the greens until the volume is reduced by about half (1-2 minutes). They should look a little darker and somewhat shiny and have a silky, soft texture.
Kale Method #2: Roast It ~
Kale Salad (serves 4; from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 bunch of kale, chopped, stems trimmed, large ribs removed
1 1/2 cups unsweetened large-flake coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with two racks in the top third of the oven.
In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together the olive oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Put the kale and coconut in a large bowl and toss well with about two-thirds of te olive oil mixture.
Spread the kale evenly across two baking sheets. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until the coconut is deeply golden brown, tossing once or twice along the way. If the kale mixture on the top baking sheet begins to get too browned, move it to the lower rack.
Remove from the oven and transfer to the kale mixture to a medium bowl. Taste. Add more dressing as needed. Serve warm.
Kale Method #3: Boil & Saute It ~
Young Kale with Lemon and Garlic (serves 2 as a side dish; from Nigel Slater's Tender) (This is the version my kiddo likes best.)
2 large handfuls of torn kale
2 TBSP butter
a little olive oil
2 cloves garlic
a little lemon zest
the juice of half a lemon
Wash the greens and set them aside. Bring a pan of water to a boil. Salt it lightly, and cook the greens for no longer than a minute or two. They must retain their crispness and vigor. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, warm the butter and oil in a shallow pan, peel and crush the garlic, and soften it in the butter and oil. Add a little grated lemon zest (a couple of teaspoons should suffice), then, as the butter starts to froth, squeeze in the lemon juice. Lower in the greens and toss them gently in the hot, lemony garlic butter. Correct the seasoning and serve immediately.