Kale is a vegetable that's packed with nutrients. Photograph by Flickr user B*2.
What: Kale. This vegetable is so nutrient-dense that Elise Museles, author of Get Up and Green, hates calling it just a “leafy green.” The green or purple veggie is related to cabbage and is classified by leaf type (curly, plain, etc.). It’s hearty enough to survive winter frosts and grows in individual stalks. Often called the “new beef” by medical professionals, it’s one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, Museles says.
Why it’s good for you: Kale is truly a superfood. It’s filled with micronutrients, including vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and chlorophyll. In fact, even though kale is also filled with healthy carotenoids (which make veggies red or orange), there is so much chlorophyll present that the plant retains a greenish color. Kale is popular among cancer patients, since it is helps one achieve a healthy alkaline balance and thus a neutralized body system; it can also help improve circulation and reduce inflammation. It’s also high in fiber and zeaxanthin, which is a carotenoid that protects eyes from vascular degeneration. As a plus, Museles says it can improve skin tone.
What the experts say: Museles has been incorporating kale into her family’s diet for about three years. “Leafy greens are foods missing the most from the American diet,” she says. But when you do eat greens, you’ll feel a lot more energized. “I’ve seen this with my clients. They haven't yet converted to a whole-food diet, but they’ll have green smoothies in the morning and suddenly they feel good and like they’ve started the day off right.”
How to add kale to your diet: Museles recommends making a green smoothie in the morning by mixing some kale, fruit, and a liquid base (try almond milk, water, or coconut water). Kale chips are a great introduction to the veggie, and a popular choice among children. Sautéing some kale for a side dish is always a good option, or you can throw some leaves into a soup after taking it off the stove.
Musele’s favorite kale recipes:
Colorful Kale Salad
You can also download Musele’s e-book, which features even more recipes, such as sweet and spicy kale chips, chocolate-covered kale chips, and roasted butternut squash soup with kale.