Kale, or Brassica oleracea, is a leafy green that has been part of the human diet for at least 2,000 years. According to Aggie Horticulture, an extension of Texas A&M University, kale was grown by the both the Greeks and Romans before it was carried to Britain and France. Aggie Horticulture reports, "The first mention of kales (coleworts) in America was in 1669; but because of their popularity in European gardens, it is probable that they were introduced somewhat earlier."
How is kale good for you?
Kale is a nutrient-rich vegetable. Your body needs a variety of nutrient-rich foods to maintain its best health. One cup of raw kale contains vitamins A, C and K, plus essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. One cup of raw kale boasts 90 milligrams of calcium and 299 milligrams of potassium. In addition, the same amount of kale has 1.3 grams of dietary fiber, 2.21 grams of protein and only 34 calories. One cup of raw kale has less than one-half gram of fat.
Including kale as part of a dietary intake of vegetables can help your body get important nutrients and fiber. Dairy products are not the only way to get adequate amounts of calcium. Incorporating leafy greens such as kale into a daily diet can be another way. Calcium is needed for bone health and may help reduce the risk for osteoporosis later in life.
Potassium helps cells, tissues and organs function at their best. Potassium also may be essential for bone health (in relation to the onset of osteoporosis in older women), suggests the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dietary fiber helps the digestive system function properly. It also may help reduce the risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
Ways to eat kale
Enjoy kale fresh from the garden, farmer's market or produce stand in a salad or with juicy, ripe tomatoes sliced over it. Mix kale with other greens, such as arugula, spinach and watercress, for a nutrient-packed salad. Online, you can find thousands of kale recipes, including ways to saute, braise and bake the vegetable into delicious, nutritious kale chips. Kale chips are a great way to get kids (and adults) to try this leafy green.
Melissa d'Arabian, host of the Food Network's Ten Dollar Dinners suggests baking kale with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. These crispy chips can be served as a snack or as healthier alternative to typical fried side dishes like French fries, tater tots and onion rings.
If you are feeling adventurous, consider trying kale in a healthy green smoothie. Kale can be combined with strawberries, one banana, one cup orange juice, one cup vanilla yogurt (Greek yogurt can be substituted) and one cup crushed ice for a tasty smoothie. Other add-ins for kale smoothies may include mango, kiwi and pears. If you need to add a bit of something sweet, try one teaspoon of honey or agave nectar.