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The Truth About Kale

Kale is a super food with staying power.

The dark, leafy green has been on dinner plates since Roman times and has long been common across much of Europe. The vegetable hails from the cabbage family, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and collards.

Kale is more popular than ever, and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals.

The Benefits of Kale

At just 33 calories, one cup of raw kale has:

  • Nearly 3 grams of protein
  • 2.5 grams of fiber (which helps manage blood sugar and makes you feel full)
  • Vitamins A, C, and K
  • Folate, a B vitamin that’s key for brain development
  • Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. (While kale has far less omega-3 than fish, it is another way to get some of this healthy fat into your diet.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green coloring and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc

Types of Kale

Kale can be curly, flat, or even have a bluish tint mixed in with the green. The flavors differ, so try them all.

Many farmers’ markets sell several types of kale, and most major grocery stores should have at least one. If you have a garden, or even just a few containers on a patio, you can grow kale.

Whether you buy kale from the store or pluck it from your own backyard, look for dark, crisp leaves. When you get ready to cook or eat it, remove the leaves from the tougher stalks.

How to Cook Kale

Add kale to pasta sauce, smoothies, or soup. Or try one of these methods:

Saute it: A splash of olive oil and a little onion or garlic are all this veggie needs, and it cooks up in minutes. The leaf is tougher than spinach leaves, so it won’t wilt as quickly in the pan.

Make a kale Caesar salad: You can eat kale raw in a salad. The leaves can stand up to heavy dressings. Kale Caesar salads have popped up on many restaurant menus. You can whip up a homemade mustard-based dressing that has all the thickness of Caesar but fewer calories.

Bake kale chips: Bake kale in the oven with just a little olive oil drizzled over lightly salted leaves. Store-bought kale chips can sometimes be deep-fried or come with a coating of cheese, so check labels to make sure you’re not reaching for a high-calorie snack.

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If You Have Thyroid Problems

In most cases, kale is a great addition to any diet. But kale and its cousins in the cabbage family can interact with thyroid function if they are eaten in very high amounts.

If you have hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, ask your doctor about how certain foods can affect your thyroid.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on June 13, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System: “Greeks and Romans Grew Kale and Collards.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Kale, raw.”

Pennsylvania State University: “Green Leafy Vegetables and Cancer.”

University of Georgia: “Nutrition for Older Adults’ Health.”

National Institutes of Health: “Folate.”

Mayo Clinic: “Are you getting enough calcium?”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Ask the Expert: Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” : “Sizing up ‘superfoods’ for heart health.”

University of Maryland Medical Center: “Hypothyroidism.”

Oregon State University: “Cruciferous vegetables.”

© 2016 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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