The veggie du jour is kale, but it can be packed with more than nutrition: More than 90 percent of the kale samples sold in the U.S. are contaminated with pesticide residue, according to a new EWG analysis of 2017 Department of Agriculture test data.
More than half of those samples contain a pesticide called DCPA, often marketed under the name Dacthal. It’s a pesticide the EPA classified, in 1995, as a possible carcinogen, noting that it was associated with increases in liver and thyroid tumors. It can also cause other kinds of harm to the lungs, liver, kidney and thyroid. In 2014, the EPA also concluded that Dacthal may interact with thyroid signaling, and requested more data specifically on thyroid toxicity for sensitive populations like children and babies in utero.
To confirm that this possible carcinogen and hormone disruptor is still being used on kale, EWG commissioned tests of kale from grocery stores in February 2019 and found Dacthal residues on samples at levels comparable to those found by the USDA in its 2017 testing. So it looks as if Dacthal is still sprayed by growers on conventional kale.
But that’s not all. Our analysis of 2017 USDA data also shows that, on average, kale samples had detectable levels of 5.6 different pesticides, with as many as 18 different residues on just one sample.
Bottom line: You’ll still want to continue to feed kale to your kids so they can continue to take advantage of what it has to offer: vitamins A and K, iron, fiber and powerful cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Plus, a diet that includes lots of dark leafy greens is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Even better, choose organically grown kale to avoid the toxic residue found on 90 percent of conventional kale.
Now that that problem is solved, how are you going to make kale appeal to even the pickiest of kids?
Maybe you’ve tried kale chips already. (If you haven’t, trust us, they’re better than they sound. Kids have even been known to fight over the last few.)
Here are more kale ideas to try. At least one is guaranteed to please the younger set.
- For a while I was the lucky guinea pig for a friend turned professional baker. She used kale in one of her recipes to make it gluten-free. They were delicious. You couldn’t taste the kale, though you sure could see it. But you don’t need to be either gluten-free, or a pro-level baker, to find this kale apple cake delicious.
- This green smoothie bowl recipe suggests topping the pudding-like concoction with nuts and berries, which makes it a filling breakfast option to enjoy occasionally.
- Pesto is a great way to add a few vitamins and protein to that old standby, pasta. This variation uses kale and basil.
- When it gets hot, who doesn’t fantasize about treating yourself to... kale popsicles? (Yup, they really are a thing.) Bonus: They’re purple-pink thanks to the cancer-fighting berry phytochemicals!
- Taco night is a regular event in my household, but sometimes that includes just a few paltry leaves of green on top. To amp up the meal’s nutritional value, try finishing the tacos with kale guacamole – or offer it up as an after-school snack.
- And for older or more adventurous kids, try these delightful sweet potato, black bean and kale quesadillas.