Are kale and peanut butter a match made in vegan heaven?

According to a new study, pairing the protein-rich green with PB has unexpected benefits.

23 November 2017

When it comes to healthy eating and nutrition, the sky is very much the limit. If, say, a particular strain of Indonesian seaweed is revealed to hold quantities of dietary fibre as well as vitamins A, B1 and B2 – which all help to promote a healthy lifestyle – then you can be sure that someone will start clamouring to apply it to all manner of body parts. And that’s aside from the tried-and-trusted method of, well, eating it.

It’s all very George’s Marvellous Medicine in this sector of the industry, which brings us to the subject of this piece: a new study claims to have proven that cooking kale with peanut butter “increases the bioavailability and bioconversion of kale beta-carotene to vitamin A.”

While this may seem like a particularly nutty concept (quite literally), this big reveal may be a boon for those who lack preformed vitamin A in their diet – most prominently, vegans and the growing number of consumers adopting a flexitarian approach to veganism. If they can get their head around the flavour combination. And the texture clash.

What’s it all about?

The study, undertaken by researchers from South Korea, USA and Zimbabwe, intended to provide insight into the potential of a complimentary foodstuff for young children, particularly those living in the developing world.

Thirty-seven children spread over two separate groups were used in the study, ranging from between 1 to 3 years old. One group was given 50 grams of kale cooked with 16 grams of lard, and the other the same amount of kale cooked with 33 grams of peanut butter.

“This study showed that peanut butter enhances the vitamin A value of kale,” read the report, which was published last month.

“Peanut butter components may increase the bioavailability of vitamin A compared with lard, which contains mostly saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. It could be that the type of fat (unsaturated fats in peanut butter) affects the bioavailability of vitamin A.”


Benefits of vitamin A

  • A powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy vision, skin and neurological function
  • Studies have shown that the vitamin also boosts immunity and fosters cell growth
  • There are two types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A (carotenoids)
  • Preformed vitamin A is found only in animal products, but the human body can convert carotenoids, found in fruit and vegetables, into active vitamin A
  • Beta-carotene is one of the most common of carotenoids and is found in plant products, particularly butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots

Vegans to go nuts?

The key to all this is carotenoids: plant pigments that can be converted into Vitamin A. Small amounts of fat with veggies that are high in particular carotenoids, like butternut squash and carrots, could unlock a greater absorption into the body and, therefore, a greater yield of vitamin A. Enter the peanut, packed full of healthy fat and delicious to boot.

We all thought that kale, the original faddy superfood, had seen its best days come and go. But paired with the eternal bastion that is peanut butter, we could be set to see a return to form for the leafy green. 

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