Kale has taken the health community by storm over the past year or so, and rightfully so. Like other members of the Brassica family — including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and collards — kale is a nutritional powerhouse that boasts an abundance of antioxidants and other disease-fighting agents. And with just 35 calories per cup, it also has an extremely high nutrient density.

Health benefits:

  • Just one cup of kale includes more than 1000 percent of your daily recommended vitamin K, an antioxidant that promotes bone growth and regulates blood clotting. In fact, kale’s vitamin K content surpasses that of broccoli, spinach and collard greens. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a diet rich in vitamin K can reduce the overall risk of developing cancer.
  • That same cup of kale also contains more than 180 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A, which aids vision, growth, bone formation, tissue repair and red blood cell production.
  • A cup of kale also contains 200 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C and 5 grams of fiber, which is important for digestion and regularity.
  • This leafy green also delivers significant quantities of vitamin B6 (maintains healthy nervous and immune systems), as well as iron and calcium.
  • Finally, kale is rich in the eye-health promoting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Convinced of the many health benefits of kale? Below are some tips for selection and use.

Eat more kale!

Kale thrives during the cooler months when there are fewer in-season veggies available. In fact, exposure to frost actually improves its flavor!

Look for deeply colored leaves, ranging from green to purple-red with hardy stems. Smaller, more tender leaves will be milder and sweeter in flavor.

Salads - Kale makes a great salad base, but generally needs a little attention to soften the leaves, giving it a milder taste and softer feel. Enter the kale massage!

To start, remove leaves from the stem and tear into bite-size pieces. Wash and dry the leaves. Once dry, toss with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Don’t be afraid to get your hands oily – massage the oil into the leaves for about five minutes, or until leaves turn bright green.

You can make a simple Mediterranean salad with a bunch of thinly sliced kale, massaged with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh-squeezed lemon, red peppers and chopped Kalamata olives. Check out the recipes below for more kale salad ideas.

Smoothies - Add a few stalks of fresh, de-stemmed kale to your breakfast smoothie for an added boost of nutrients and flavor.

Try mixing 3 or 4 stalks of kale, 1/2 cup of your favorite plant-based milk, 1/2 cup of frozen mango chunks, and one frozen banana for a simple, tasty, and nutritious breakfast or snack idea.

Juicing - Kale adds a fresh flavor (and beautiful green color) to any juice! We have included one of our favorite recipes below. This sweet and smooth carrot apple kale ginger combo is great for beginners and experienced juicers alike!

Prep time: 5 minutes  

Total time: 8 minutes  

Yield: about 16 ounces of juice

 
Carrot Apple Kale Ginger Juice

Ingredients:

  • 10 carrots
  • 2 small apples, cored
  • 4 large kale leaves, de-stemmed
  • 2 quarter-sized chunks fresh ginger root, or to taste
Directions:
  1. Wash and prepare ingredients (core, de-stem, etc.)
  2. Feed ingredients into your juicer in 3 or 4 batches, starting with harder vegetables and ginger and finishing with kale.
  3. Enjoy!

* * * 

Meals, appetizers and snacks – Kale makes a tasty addition to entrees, soups, and salads, and is also a great snack! Below is a collection of our favorite recipes.

Final notes:

Did you know that in Scotland, the word kail once referred to food in general, because it factored into most meals.

Got a great kale recipe? Share it below. 

This story was written by Jennifer Valentine and Amanda Etty for One Green Planet and is reprinted with permission here. One Green Planet is your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet. To learn more, visit the site, subscribe to the feed and join the growing community on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

MNN tease photo: Shutterstock