As you’ve probably heard more times than you can count, adding dark leafy greens into your diet is an excellent way to prevent dozens of health issues from heart diseases to cancer. And as leafy greens go, kale ranks up there among the best.

Just one cup of chopped kale contains a mere 33 calories, but 206 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A, 134 percent of vitamin C, and 680 percent of vitamin K. Nope, that’s not a typo. It’s one of the best foods around for vitamin K, which helps your body fight inflammation and plays an important role in maintaining healthy bone density. Meanwhile, vitamin A helps keep you looking young by contributing to hair and skin health. Kale also plays a role in lowering your risk of several cancers, including bladder and colon cancers, breast cancer, ovarian caner and prostate cancer.

Not only is kale packed with vitamins and minerals, but its fiber content provides important health benefits. Steaming kale helps your body better utilize the fiber, which then helps lower your cholesterol and reduces your risk of diabetes. The fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B6 found in kale all contribute to a healthy heart and to reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. And kale even provides us with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to a healthy brain and heart and can lower your risk of diabetes.

There are only two warnings about kale: The first is that kale contains a measurable amount of oxalates, which can cause health problems when crystallized in the body. This means people with existing kidney or gallbladder problems will want to ask their doctors before eating kale. The second warning is that conventionally grown kale is contaminated with organophosphate insecticides, which are toxic to the nervous system. So be certain that if you eat kale, it is organically grown.

To get the most out of kale, you’ll want to pair it with foods that bring out its best properties and help the body absorb more of what kale has to offer. Eat it in combination with fats such as avocado or olive oil, or sprinkle it with lemon juice.

kale patties

Savory Bite-Sized Quinoa and Kale Patties

These little patties are a perfect appetizer at parties. They satisfy that fried food craving we all get sometimes, but without any guilt since they boast the health benefits of not only kale but also quinoa. You can add a little topping, from guacamole to salsa to a bit of lemon or sun-dried tomatoes. Pretty much anything pairs well with these delightful little snacks.

Kale Chips

Kale chips are all the rage, but boy can they be pricey when you buy them in a store. Make your own at home for a fraction of the price and hardly any effort. This recipe shows you how it's done, and all you need is some kale and a little olive oil and salt. Voila! Healthy snack food.

Garlicky Kale and Roasted Turnips

An amazing side dish to any meal is this recipe for flavorful kale that tops a pile of delicious roasted turnips. You just can't go wrong with this recipe; it is really easy to make, and gives you the nutritional punch of kale, garlic, olive oil and turnips -- yep, even turnips are good for you!

Coconut Milk Soup with Salmon and Kale

Sweet, savory, and packed with healthy fats and protein, this is a fantastic dinner recipe. Not only is it healthy but it's also a one-pot meal, meaning dinner can be on the table in about 30 minutes without any fuss and hardly any dirty dishes. Nutritious and easy? We'll take it!

kale gratin

Rich and Cheesy Kale Gratin

If you have a thing for cheese, do we ever have a recipe for you! This rich dish is definitely a side, since a small amount goes a long way. It is simple to make -- saute up some kale with garlic, stir in a cheese sauce and put it in a casserole dish with a sprinkling of cheese over the top. Bake it until it's golden brown and you have a perfectly decadent side dish. It could even work as a (slightly) more healthful version of mac-n-cheese (though let's not kid ourselves, there is no substitute for mac-n-cheese).

Kale with Pumpkin Seeds

For a much (much!) lighter side dish option, try this recipe for kale gently wilted with a little bit of oil and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. Simple, and ideal for an autumn or winter meal.

Kale Pesto

You can make pesto out of just about any green, and health experts suggest switching out the basil for a more nutritious green such as arugula or, in this case, kale. Garlic, olive oil, walnuts, parmesan and pepper all blend up with a pile of kale to make an extraordinarily healthful topping for everything from pastas to bruschetta to garnishing fish or poultry dishes.

kale pie

Artichoke, Kale and Ricotta Pie

A great dish for a bunch is this healthful "pie" that cooks up a bit like a quiche. Artichoke hearts are a great nutritional food along with kale. Add to them some ricotta, parmesan and a few eggs, put it all in a casserole dish or pie pan and bake it up, and you have a slice of warm, savory goodness! A super simple dish, you can customize this all you want, such as adding in roasted red peppers or caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes or sliced olives. The options are practically endless.

Spicy Curry with Potatoes and Kale

This recipe is an excellent dinner option, especially if you like a little spicy kick to your meal. Delicious curry spices simmer up with garlic and onions, then combine with tomatoes, potatoes, kale and coconut milk. The hardest part about the recipe is waiting until it's cooked enough before you dish it up because it smells soooooo yummy while it's simmering.

Chickpeas, Chorizo and Kale

And we have a recipe for the meat-lovers in the group. This lovely Spanish-inspired soup boasts kale, chickpeas and zesty chorizo. It's perfect for a cold night when you want to warm up from the inside out. The ingredients list is simple enough that you can whip this up on a weeknight and enjoy leftovers for lunches or dinners the rest of the week.

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