How and Why to Eat Kale

Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on November 14, 2011

Mmm, kale. If that doesn't sound familiar to you, it should. Kale is a delightful, underused vegetable that is full of nutrients and delicious flavor! Discover the full glory of this vegetable and find out how and why you should eat Kale.

The skinny on kale. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable. That simply means that kale is leafy, green, low in calories and really good for you. According to the World's Healthiest Foods, kale — a good cup and a half of it — should be included in your diet, with other cruciferous vegetables, at least two or three times a week. According to WebMD, one cup of kale contains about 36 calories and 5 grams of fiber, a whopping 1,020 percent of vitamin K, 200 percent the daily requirement of vitamin C, 180 percent of vitamin A, 15 percent the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 and 40 percent of magnesium, and that's in addition to vital minerals such as copper, potassium, phosphorous and iron.

Kale, not just a garnish. The nutrition facts of kale are tough to argue with. Kale has lots of vitamin A and vitamin C (antioxidant power) flavonoids and carotenoids (said to fight cancer, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), lutein and beta-carotene (good for your eyes and other things), to name a few nutrients. Kale notably contains plenty of vitamin K, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Combined with the flavonoids, you've got a recipe for an anti-inflammatory agent that won't upset your stomach. While there's not an abundance of research to back up the anti-inflammatory properties of kale, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids (about 121 mg in one cup, according to the USDA) and the surprising amount of vitamin K (a known helper in the body's inflammatory process) in kale should be enough to convince almost anyone to give it a try.

Kale for detox? The role of detoxification in human health is contentious to be sure. However, if detox you want, detox you'll get with kale. Kale is thought to play a role in supporting the body's natural detoxification process. The high sulfur content in kale along with the nutrients and fiber make kale a natural at detox. WebMD states that kale's fiber binds to bile acids and helps lower cholesterol reducing the risk of heart disease, particularly when cooked.

Kale serving suggestions. A simple kale and lettuce salad, combined with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries, provide a burst of healthy energy. Cook cleaned, chopped kale for four to five minutes in a steamer or the microwave. Kale makes a great smoothie, as it is mildly earthy in flavor. Combine kale in a blender with berries, frozen bananas, Greek yogurt and ice, and blend. Make light and crispy kale chips by arranging leaves on a baking sheet, and then spray with a light coating of olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp and very slightly brown around the edges. Kale is available all year round in the grocery store and from farm markets in late summer to winter. Unwashed and wrapped, kale lasts up to six days refrigerated.

Note: Speak with your doctor about eating kale if you're taking anticoagulant medication. The super high level of vitamin K may interfere with the drug's proper function.