Many of us want to eat healthy, but we just don’t know what it is we should eat. Although I sincerely believe that a diet with lots of variety and color is the way to go for healthy eating, I do believe that kale, a beautiful dark leafy green vegetable, is truly a super-food. I would recommend that almost everyone try incorporating more kale into their diet. Have about one to half a cup of cooked or raw kale multiple times a week.

What Makes Kale Healthy:
Kale is loaded with several nutrients that are important for cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, weight management, immune stimulation, and blood building.

  • Cardiovascular Health: Kale is particularly high in potassium, a mineral that is important for blood pressure regulation and cell-to-cell communication. Diets high in potassium and low in sodium help lower blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. Kale is also a great source of soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar – controlling high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels is an important way to protect blood vessels and decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Cancer Prevention: Kale’s cancer preventive properties come from its high content of antioxidants and antioxidant system supporters such as vitamin C, vitamin K, beta carotene, and folate. These nutrients neutralize “free radicals” that can cause damage to our body and stimulate cancer growth.
  • Weight Management: Kale is a great food for those of us working to lose weight because it is low in carbohydrates and has no fat content. Kale is not only loaded with good nutrients, but it is also an excellent alternative to foods with higher refined carbohydrate content like potatoes, corn, rice, or bread. In addition, because kale is high in fiber, it enhances our feeling of satiety and helps slow down our body’s absorption of sugar from our food. As a result, eating kale not only helps us feel full for longer, but it also causes our bodies to receive energy from our food over a longer period of time after a meal, which helps us cut down on unhealthy snacking and control cravings.
  • Immune Stimulation: Kale is also very high in several nutrients that stimulate immune function such as vitamin A, and vitamin C – in particular, kale is one of the best available vegetarian sources of vitamin A. Diets high in these nutrients help reduce infection and stimulate healing.
  • Blood Building: Kale is a great source of folate, a nutrient that helps our bone marrow create healthy red blood cells to ensure that our muscles and internal organs have adequate energy. In addition, kale is also a good source of iron, a mineral that is integral to helping our blood transport oxygen to other parts of our body. Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common causes of fatigue, partly because of inadequate iron intake from the diet.

Taking Care:
Because kale is a high fiber food, individuals who have been advised to avoid high fiber diets should avoid large amounts of raw or cooked kale. Individuals with acute Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, gastroparesis, or diabetic autonomic neuropathy of the GI tract should avoid high fiber diets, but can still enjoy juiced kale.

How to cook kale:
Kale is a tough leafy vegetable used in dishes the same way you might use spinach or collard greens. When cooking with kale make sure to wash the leaves thoroughly and remove the thick stems at the end of the leaf. Once it’s chopped, kale can be sauteed with olive oil and garlic and served as a side dish. It can also be added to soups or stews.
You can also use raw kale to make a fresh and hearty salad. Salting raw kale and “massaging” it for a few minutes is a great way to soften up the kale and release more of its active nutrients.

These are a few of my favorite kale recipes:

Kale Chips: http://www.bastyr.edu/recipes/kale-chips

Kale Salad: http://www.nourishingmeals.com/2010/01/raw-super-green-salad.html