You might be thinking, “Isn’t kale just a garnish?” Not anymore! Who knew that those dark, curly leaves are full of health benefits? Let’s get into the ABCs of this wonder veggie and find out how to make it part of our everyday diets.
What is kale?
Even though it looks more like lettuce, kale is actually a member of the cabbage family. It’s related to cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and collard greens. The most popular variety is curly kale (also called Scots kale).
Why is it so good for us?
One cup of raw kale has about 33 calories and 6 grams of carbs. It’s jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and 8% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of fiber. These nutrients are critical parts of our body’s functions and structure, including:
- Bones: Kale has 584% RDA of Vitamin K (helps blood clot) and 9% RDA of calcium (strengthens bones). If you don’t drink cow’s milk, kale is a great way to get these bone-healthy nutrients. (Special note: If you have a blood clotting disorder or are taking an anticoagulant, be sure to check with your PCP before including kale in your diet.)
- Collagen production: 100 grams of kale (about 1.5 cups) contains almost five times as much Vitamin C as the same amount of navel orange!
- Eyes: You’ve always heard that green leafy veggies are good for your eyes, right? In this area kale is king: it’s high in properties linked to the reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. It has 206% RDA of Vitamin A, a retinoid that’s essential for vision as well as our immune and nervous systems.
- Metabolism: You’ll get 26% RDA of manganese, an essential nutrient that also helps with bone health.
- Heart: A study showed that drinking kale juice resulted in a 27% increase in HDL (the good cholesterol) and 10% decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) after 12 weeks.
Where to find it
Although fresh kale can be found in the produce section just about year-round, it grows best in the spring and fall, and even gets sweeter after a frost. Fresh kale can be frozen; you can also buy it prepackaged in the frozen vegetables aisle. Since it comes right out of the ground, be sure to wash fresh kale thoroughly and carefully to remove dirt and any possible little creepy crawlies.
Kale has a slightly bitter and peppery taste; if you’re using it in a drink recipe, try steaming, blanching, or partially freezing it first. Or, better yet, try baby kale! Before eating it raw, you’ll want to remove the stems and “ribs” because they’re hard to digest. If you cook for finicky eaters, feel free to get creative — layer on seasonings and other fruits and vegetables to help make kale even tastier! Here are a couple recipes to help you start introducing kale into your family’s diet:
- Kale and apple salad, with almonds and a bit of pecorino cheese
- Baked kale and cheddar breakfast cups, perfect for on-the-go eating
- Tropical kale smoothie, with mango and pineapple
(QuickTip: Be careful about prepared kale drinks; because of the other ingredients, a 15-ounce bottle of some kale juice blends can have around 200 calories and 30 grams of sugar; smoothies can have even more calories, around 300 or more for a 20-ounce glass, with 45 to 65 grams of sugar.)
A thought about fiber
Since kale is high in fiber, you may want to add it slowly to your menu list over time so that your body can adjust to the higher fiber count. The recommendation for fiber is 25 to 30 grams a day. Just one cup of kale holds roughly 25% of your daily intake!
So now you know why kale’s all the rage! Teladoc wishes you and your family a lifetime of happy and healthy eating. And any time you need us for non-emergency care with conditions such as upset stomach, acid reflux, or other digestive issues, you can connect with our licensed physicians by app, web, or phone 24/7 anywhere in the U.S.
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