Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on September 01, 2022

What Is Kale?

Kale is a dark, leafy green you can eat raw or cooked.

This superfood 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.

Kale Health Benefits

  • Vitamin A (important for eye and bone health and a strong immune system), vitamin C (aids in cold and chronic disease prevention), and vitamin K (good for blood clotting and bone building)
  • Folate, a B vitamin that’s key for brain development
  • Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. (Although kale has far less omega-3 than fish, it’s another way to get some of this healthy fat into your diet.)
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green color and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts
  • Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc

Nutrients in kale can also help you:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Prevent cancer
  • Lose weight by filling you up with a high water content but few calories

Types of Kale

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

The types include:

  • Curly kale: bright green ruffled leaves, the most common type of kale
  • Dinosaur kale: narrow, wrinkly green leaves attached to a thick stem
  • Redbor kale: ruffled leaves that vary in color from deep red to purple
  • Russian kale: less common, and has flat leaves with a fringe that range from green to red to purple

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.

Kale Nutrition

At just 33 calories, 100 grams (one cup) of raw kale has:

  • 8.75 calories
  • 0.73 gram protein
  • 1.02 grams fiber

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.

Kale Risks

In most cases, kale is a great addition to any diet. But in very high amounts, kale and its cousins in the cabbage family can interact with how your thyroid gland works.

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

Show 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?” “The many types and health benefits of kale.”

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

University of Maryland Medical Center: “Hypothyroidism.”

Oregon State University: “Cruciferous vegetables.”

Nutrition Research: “Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage.”

Obesity Research: “Provision of foods differing in energy density affects long-term weight loss.”

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