Barry: Superfood buzz words: chia, kale, quinoa

Published 12:00 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

Kat’s Hot Talk


If you’re into food or health, you’ve probably heard the words kale, quinoa, and chia buzzing around. However, most aren’t sure what to do with them or what exactly they can do for you.  I can demystify these three key health foodie staples and lend a little guidance as to how to incorporate them into your diet.

Kale is a dark green, leafy vegetable that has been declared one of the world’s healthiest foods.  Not only has kale been proven to help fight five types of cancer, due to its high fiber content, it can help lower cholesterol, especially when cooked. Further, it is one of the best sources of calcium for humans. Unlike the calcium in spinach and dairy, our bodies absorb the calcium found in kale. This super plant is also high in flavonoids, which help fight chronic inflammation. If that wasn’t enough to get you to the produce station, then you should also know kale helps support the body’s detoxification system. I use kale in place of spinach in any recipe. It’s great for salads, in green smoothies or sauteed with other vegetables. Be sure to rip the kale leaves with your hands and massage to bring out their full effect.  If using kale in a salad, I suggest dressing it 8 hours before serving to soften the leaves a bit.

Quinoa is an ancient plant native to South America and cultivated by the Inca people.  It looks like a grain and can be used interchangeably with rice or cous-cous, but it is actually a nutrient-rich seed. Packed with protein, iron, calcium and inflammation-fighting flavonoids, this ancient plant has been declared one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. It takes about a quarter of the time to cook as rice, so it’s perfect for quick-and-simple meals. I serve quinoa under stir-fry, toss a ¼ cup in large salads or even a spoon full in chili.  Be sure to rinse your quinoa thoroughly before cooking, and, for more flavor, toss in half a bouillon cube or use vegetable stock instead of water.

If you were alive in the ’80s, you probably think of Chia Pets when you hear the word chia, but there’s a lot more to that little green plant than just a cheap white elephant gift. The chia plant is in the mint family and originates in Mexico and Guatemala. Historians believe it was probably almost as important to the ancient Aztecs as maize. The seeds have been proven to be an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids since they yield about 30 percent extractable oils. The seeds are tiny and blackish brown, almost like poppy seeds, and are great thrown into smoothies or used in raw desserts. Personally, I use hemp seeds a lot more because I find them to be more versatile and they are comparable nutritionally. Either way, I strongly suggest switching to either chia, flax or hemp seeds as your primary source of Omega 3 fatty acids as they contain no cholesterol, and unlike fish oils, no eco- systems are damaged in the extraction process.

For recipes utilizing these and other supremely healthy plant foods, visit  and click on the “from our kitchen to yours” tab.