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Eat Well Mar. 22. 2013

Massaged Kale Salad

Mar. 22. 2013
McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN


A super simple and nutrient-dense salad.

Meet my favorite way to eat raw kale–the Massaged Kale Salad. I bet that title caught your attention! In my previous post, I shared the concept of batch cooking and mentioned a couple of my staple batch cooking items, one of them being a massaged kale salad. Massaged Kale Salad is one of my weekly, if not daily, go-to salad recipes. It’s full of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants and is incredibly satisfying from the king green itself, kale. This recipe is super simple, made from only very few clean ingredients. What do I mean by massaged? Well, the kale is massaged! Keep reading to find out what I’m talking about.


Massage…kale? Yes, massage kale!

Why massage kale? Kale is a fantastic leafy green because of its texture which lends to a wide variety of ways to work with this green. Kale is great for steaming, sauteing, adding it to soups or stews for a more hearty mouthfeel, adding it finely chopped to a salad, or of course enjoying it blended in a green smoothie. Basically, massaging is a process of physically breaking down the kale to make it easier to digest. Think of it in this way – digestion starts in your mouth, and kale has a very rough texture which takes a lot of mastication (aka chewing) on our parts before we can swallow it. Massaging prior to eating is like pre-digesting the kale. So give your kale some love. Go ahead and massage away! Your jaws and tummy will thank you.

The kale will visually change before your eyes while massaging. It will start to wilt which is due to the cellulose (plant fibrous structure that holds it together). It will become more vibrant green and softer in texture as well. Because of it’s tough nature, another wonderful quality of kale is that it will stay in the refrigerator for a good week even after massaging. Unlike other more delicate leafy greens which tend to wilt and become soggy after chopping or physically “breaking” down, kale will keep it’s soft but chewy texture without becoming mushy or too soft.

So why do I think kale is king of the greens? Kale touts antioxidants, anti-inflammatory benefits, cancer protective compounds, cholesterol lowering properties, flavonoids which ward off inflammation and oxidative stress and support the body’s detoxification system. The ability of kale to lower cholesterol is due to its source(s) of fiber – when steamed, the fiber can actually bind to the bile acids which are then excreted from the body. Kale is part of the cruciferous vegetable family which has been studied in relation to their protective compounds in cancer development (colon, breast, bladder, prostate, and ovarian) mainly from the anti-cancer nutrients glucosinolates (say what?).

Taking you to a quick organic chemistry lesson here, glucosinolates are basically a chemical compound containing sulfur and nitrogen. It’s easy to relate this compound to the cruciferous veggie family, as most have a sulfur smell which is also responsible for the bitter taste you get when you eat broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts (my fave). Isothiocyanates (ITC) made from glucosolantes also kick start Phase I and Phase II enzymes, which are needed for detoxification, hence the advantage of cruciferous vegetables like kale in the role of detoxification. Okay, enough of the chemistry lesson…

Nutrition breakdown of KALE:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6
  • Folate
  • Manganese
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Carotenoids | Beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
  • Flavonoids | Quercitin, kaempferol
  • Fatty acids
    • Omega-3 fatty acids |linolenic acid (0.18g/100g)
    • Omega-6 fatty acids |linoleic acid (0.13g/100g)
  • Fiber

Added bonus: kale helps keep your thyroid healthy. When eaten in very large quantities and in their raw form, cruciferous veggies like kale may impair thyroid function. If you’re someone who suffers from thyroid disfunction or hypothyroidism, it’s best to keep the cruciferous veggies limited in your diet when they’re in their raw state (aka uncooked). You can, however, cook or steam to inhibit the thyroid compound found in kale that may interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis, which is very important for the overall health and function of your thyroid! People who have no issues with their thyroid should still play it safe with limiting such large quantities (I’m talking in smoothies, juices, salads, and in snacks all day, every day), but most healthy individuals are perfectly fine to munch on cruciferous veggies throughout the day!

This kale salad is hands down, a staple in my kitchen. I have it almost every day in some form or another, whether incorporated into my breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Most of the time I enjoy this as the base of a salad, but if you’re new to kale simply try adding a handful into your other favorite mixed greens to boost the nutrient content and then gradually have this salad as the base to add upon. I typically will make a large batch of kale salad to last me a good week and it keeps very well in a large airtight glass container!


Massaged Kale Salad
Recipe Type: Small plates
Cuisine: Salad
Author: McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1
Super simple and nutrient dense kale salad.

You may also like this post for some added inspiration: Massaged Kale Salad, Three Ways

Yes or no to massaged kale?

Have you tried kale in this way? What’s your favorite recipe or way to get kale into your diet? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear!

Now get to massaging ladies and gents!


The Recipe




2 heavy handfuls (2-3 cups) of organic raw kale leaves (I prefer the lacinato a.k.a. “dino” variety)

1 tsp. of olive oil (I’ve use truffle oil occasionally and it is AMAZING)

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp. of Celtic sea salt


De-stem the kale leaves from the stem by simply placing your index finger and middle finger (in the shape of a claw), and “claw” down the center of the leaf to de-stem while simultaneously pulling the leaf away from you with your other hand.

In a large bowl, combine the de-stemmed kale leaves with the remaining ingredients.

Lightly pour an additional 1 tsp. of olive oil onto your hands to coat.

Using a massaging action (similar to kneading bread dough), start to tear the leaves apart and massage.

Continue massaging for about 2-5 minutes or until the leaves are softened, the leaves will also turn a more vibrant green.

Use this as a salad base or add toppings of your choice for a complete meal in a bowl.


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