Today is National Kale Day and I have a confession: I don’t like kale! Blasphemy for a dietitian, I know. I keep trying it in various forms, hoping that with the correct preparation I’ll be able to eat this super-food. I’ve sautéed it several ways, made the ubiquitous kale chips, and tried it in smoothies. To be honest, I did enjoy kale once or twice when prepared by a chef in an upscale restaurant, but I’m not a chef and have not been able to replicate their recipes.
Part of the issue is that I am a “supertaster”. Without getting too technical, approximately 25% of people fall into the supertaster category, 50% are medium tasters and 25% are non-tasters. It is more common in women, about 35% as compared to 15% of men. Apparently, supertasters have more taste buds than the average person and some research indicates that they experience flavors three-times more intensely.
It makes sense. I was a picky eater growing up and I still am, though I am much more adventurous now. I come from a family of picky eaters, we joke about it all the time. By the way, not all picky eaters are supertasters and there are many other factors that contribute to picky eating, but it makes sense that all supertasters are picky eaters by definition. Trust me, no matter how hard I try, I cannot force myself to eat foods that, well basically, disgust me.
I envy my friends and colleagues who can crunch kale, slurp beet juice, and munch on seaweed snacks, but no matter how many times I try, the strong taste gives me a visceral reaction. I admit it’s slightly embarrassing when they choose the healthy, but strong tasting, healthy food and I stick to those that are mild and sometimes not as nutritious.
More about Kale, though, for those of you who enjoy this super-food. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron and folate, it is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts, also categorized as a leafy green, kale also helps to reduce cardiovascular and cancer risk.
The above benefits have made Kale the “it” vegetable over the past several years, and even though trend spotters have declared cauliflower the new kale, it can be found in multiple forms in the market place. Kale chips, kale smoothies and kale ice cream are just a few examples. Most restaurants have some version of kale on their menus and many people now purchase it regularly and prepare it at home.
So, if you are not a supertaster like me, grab some kale at the grocery store and prepare it in honor of National Kale Day. If you are, don’t worry or feel guilty, there are other foods that provide similar nutrients and antioxidant power. Spinach, which has a much milder taste, and other leafy greens are a great substitute. If you are not a fan of leafy greens at all, make sure to eat a variety of vegetables that you do like. The bottom line is that some people can’t force foods that turn them off, and they may have to make a concerted effort to find and eat vegetables they tolerate and even possibly enjoy.
Remember this the next time you encounter a picky eater and realize there may be a reason they refuse to drink that kale smoothie or eat those roasted brussels sprouts. If you were to ask them, I bet they would tell you that they wish they could expand their horizons and enjoy all of those delicious and nutritious foods.