Kale is at the top of the food chain when it comes to current trends in healthy heating.
Lovers of this dark, leafy green vegetable are calling it “the new beef”.
You can even find “Kale is the New Beef” t-shirts!
What’s the reasoning behind this vivid declaration, and could it possibly be true?
Read on to find out.
What Does It Mean?
A solid question. It’s unclear as to where this statement came from, but most health sites making this proclamation are focusing on a few different points. First, there’s the nutritional profile of kale (more on that in a minute), which contains many of the same vitamins and minerals as beef, without the fat.
In addition, there’s also the point that, according to some advocates, growing vegetables like kale is more sustainable than producing factory-farmed meat. This ties into a third concern, namely that liking beef has become somewhat taboo in a health climate that disparages red meat and favors leaner alternatives and even, in some circles, vegetarian diets. Let’s take a look at these claims.
Kale’s Nutritional Profile
There’s no doubt about it, kale is a healthy superfood. In fact, it even has more of some incredibly important nutrients per calorie than beef. For example, kale is richer in iron, fiber, and Omega fatty acids than beef is. And kale also packs in a huge amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, plus potassium, manganese, calcium, and copper – just like beef.
But it’s pretty much comparing apples and oranges beyond that. Kale is super rich in vitamins, but unlike beef, it’s high in fiber and contains very little fat, so you can’t actually process and use most of the nutrients in kale without adding additional oils (some vitamins require the presence of fats for absorption). And kale may be higher in some nutrients, but beef definitely takes the cake when it comes to bioavailable vitamin B12, which is not available from plant sources, as well as protein, which is a key part of any diet.
So in terms of nutritional value, kale is very healthy, and a vegetable you may want to add to your plate, but it can’t really be compared to beef in any meaningful way, since they’re part of two totally different food groups.
It’s very true that the factory farming industry is doing no favors to the environment or the people who work in it. But what many people forget is that the industrial agriculture system that produces most of the kale (and other vegetables and fruits) we eat in the United States is similarly awful on both environmental and human rights fronts.
If you’re buying locally sourced produce and factory-farmed meat, then of course the kale is going to be a more sustainable investment. But if your beef and kale are coming from the same type of farming system, then they’re either both terrible for the environment, or they fit into a larger growing cycle that relies on both plants and animals to flourish.
So Is Kale the New Beef?
It seems very unlikely that we’re all going to be eating kale burgers at our next barbecues. As I mentioned, kale is a fantastic food that can boost your vitamin and mineral intake when enjoyed as part of a larger meal. But can it be meaningfully compared with beef? Not really.
All in all, “kale is the new beef” seems to be yet another nonsensical statement riding on the back of yet another health food trend.
Have you jumped on the kale band-wagon yet? What kale benefits have you experienced or heard of?