Kale is the trendiest vegetable out there and for good reason. It is a versatile powerhouse of nutrients and antioxidants. It is a member of the cruciferous family along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. All of the current forms of kale we see today have been around for over 2,000 years. No one is certain about where kale and collards were first grown, but they were most likely descended from wild cabbage in Asia Minor and the countries around the Mediterranean where they were known to exist in prehistoric times. Kale was a valuable food for Stone Age hunter-gatherers because it could survive the severe winter cold. It was brought to North America by colonists in the 16th century, but was not popular until quite recently.
There are many varieties of kale from the long, thin dinosaur (Lacinato) to red-tinged scarlet to purple curly kale. The flavors vary from bitter to sweet, with the plants getting sweeter in colder weather.
A serving of kale has more absorbable calcium than a small carton of milk. It has an incredible amount of vitamin K which is imperative for blood health, vitamin A which is crucial for vision, and vitamin C which is the key to a healthy immune system. Kale also contains iron, folate, omega-3s, magnesium, calcium, iron, fiber, and protein. On top of that, kale is full of phytonutrients which help improve the liver and fight inflammation all over the body.
Due to its high antioxidant content, kale has been studied extensively for its use in preventing cancer. Kale’s cancer preventive benefits have been clearly linked to its unusual concentration of two types of antioxidants, namely, carotenoids and flavonoids. Kale is also known to lower cholesterol and lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as detoxify the body.
To get the most out of your kale, eat it prepared multiple ways. Massage your favorite dressing into the raw leaves for a tender salad, sauté it with garlic and shallot for a quick side dish, bake it on low heat into chips, or throw it into your smoothie for a boost.