Is Kale a Carb?

February 10, 2016
kale carb

Technically, yes, kale is a carb; however, its carbohydrate content is indigestible (also known as fibre) – which means that our bodies don’t respond to kale’s fibrous carbs in the same way as starchy ones, like bread, potatoes, rice, and the rest of the usual suspects.

In other words, kale won’t cause you to gain weight; it will cause you to poop.

While I eat kale constantly, I have a little kale confession to make: I don’t love the taste of it. I find the flavour a bit like a fart (not that I’ve ever tasted a fart, but you get what I mean).

So why, then, do I eat it all the time if I don’t like the taste?

Of all the experiential things I’ve learned about nutrition, the one thing that stands out at the top is that eating more dark, leafy green vegetables makes the biggest, most noticeable difference:

  • It makes my digestion better
  • It makes my skin look nicer
  • It makes my mood brighter
  • My mouth feels cleaner
  • I have more energy
  • I have fewer insulin spikes
  • I get fewer colds, and when I do they don’t last as long

I was very fortunate to grow up in a home where vegetables were served with most meals, so I got used to eating them. But for others who crinkle their noses at broccoli, spinach, kale, etc., getting more leafy greens into the diet isn’t that easy.

One trick I have learned involves a change in mindset about how you “build” a meal on your plate. Most standard meals in North America are built using what I like to call a “vehicle.” The “vehicle” of your meal is the component that carries the individual parts of your meal, effectively holding everything together. Take spaghetti with meat sauce, for example: the meat sauce is the part of the meal that has all the flavour, while the spaghetti noodles act as the vehicle upon which the meal is based. Another example would be a sandwich – the vehicle being the bread.

While all meals require a vehicle, unfortunately our dietary imagination gets caught up in processed and refined carbohydrates as the vehicle, which – while totally fine to eat in moderation – can have negative effects on our health when we rely on them as our primary source of macronutrients.

Enter kale (or any leafy green vegetable).

Kale can be used as a substitute vehicle for any of your favourite meals. Place kale in the spot you’d normally place your beige-coloured vehicles like rice, pasta, potatoes – even bread (if you get creative). But before you do, full disclaimer alert: as a substitute, keep in mind that it won’t taste the same, or offer the same eating experience. But hey, if there’s one thing humans are good it, it’s adapting to new things.

So how does it work? One method I use to make my kale more palatable is to cut it into long, thin strips, to (almost) take on the shape of flat noodles. I also prefer black kale because it tends to be flatter than the the super curly green or red kale.

Here’s my how-to:

1. After thoroughly washing the leaves, then cutting the very bottom from the stems, de-stem each leaf.

kale 5

2. Roll the leaves up into a tight roll, like you’re rolling a burrito. Don’t be afraid to roll it very tightly (bruising kale helps to release some of its sweetness).

kale 7

3. Slice your rolled-up kale leaves into thin strips, like you would if you were slicing a cucumber into round slices.

kale 9                  kale 10

4. Sauté the kale lightly in butter or coconut oil until it is a bit softer. (Tip: The less cooked the kale is, the more nutritious it will be.) You can and should flavour your kale like you would any other vehicle. Some of my favourite flavourings are: salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic, paprika, dill (I even use dill pickle brine sometimes), sauerkraut, miso, sesame oil, tahini, lime, honey, soy sauce, kimchi – and the list goes on.

5. Arrange the kale on your plate and build your meal on top of it. Here is my kimchi kale and eggs breakfast (recipe below) where I have replaced potatoes with kale.Kale and eggs

Kimchi Kale and Eggs

1. In one pot, sauté your veggies in the following order:

  • One diced onion, sauté until caramelized
  • Handful of sliced cremini mushrooms, sauté until softened
  • One bunch of sliced up kale, sauté until softened
  • A couple tbsp of kimchi (which doesn’t really need to be cooked, just heated up)

Note: Depending on the salt content and flavouring of your kimchi, you may or may not need to add more seasoning.

2. Fry your eggs in grass-fed butter or coconut oil, or poach them. (Tip: Have one or two more eggs than you normally would – remember that you need to replace the missing carbohydrate with other macronutrients.)

3. Garnish with a dill pickle.

4. Stuff food into your face. 🙂

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