Haven’t hopped on the kale bandwagon yet? Here’s what you’re missing out on.
It’s trendy, yes. But that’s not why we’re eating more of this hearty green. We like kale for its impressive health benefits. A member of the cabbage family, kale is loaded with vitamins, calcium, fiber, and antioxidants that play proactive roles in our overall well-being. Plus, kale is easy to cook, and its bold, peppery flavor pairs nicely with fish, chicken, soups, other vegetables—whatever you’ve got cooking. Try it yourself the next time you’re deciding on a Mindful meal—it’s one of the star ingredients of our Kale and Red Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich on a multigrain sandwich flat, as well as our Braised Kale and Vegetable Pizza . Or give it a go in your own kitchen with the quick recipe suggestions that follows.
Why Kale Earns Top Nutrition Scores
The dark, leafy green vegetable has so many health pluses, it’s tough to know where to begin. So let’s take it from the top: Kale sports vitamins A and C and several antioxidants, all of which translate into positives for your immune system. There are several ways kale helps maintain healthy bones: It’s packed with potassium for improved bone density, and it’s one of the few veggies that’s a good source of calcium. Kale is also high in magnesium, a mineral that helps move calcium into cells. Plus, kale contains the plant chemicals lutein and zeaxanthin—think of them as guardians against vision loss. And as if all of that weren’t enough, kale is a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, and it contains nearly 3 grams of protein per one-cup serving.
How to serve it up
Newbies to the kale trend might want to start by simply sautéing a handful of leaves with a little bit of olive oil and garlic and adding it to pasta, or tossing a few leaves into a mixed green salad. But from there, the culinary sky is the limit.
- For a weeknight dinner: Combine the chopped leaves from one bunch of kale (rinsed, drained, and squeezed of excess water), 1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, and 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese with just-cooked whole-grain pasta (you’ll need about 1 cup cooked pasta, per person). The heat from the pasta will slightly wilt the kale, which is what you want. Drizzle with olive oil and gently stir to combine. If you’d like to add a protein, try shrimp or diced chicken breast.
- To spruce up a salad for two: Whisk 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl; while whisking, slowly drizzle in 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (calorie-counters will want to remember that 1 tablespoon has about 120 calories). Add the sliced leaves from 1 bunch of kale, 1/2 ounce shaved parmesan cheese, and 1/8 cup lightly toasted almonds; toss to combine.
- To replace your chips craving: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Tear the leaves from 1 bunch of kale into bite-size pieces and place on a large nonstick baking pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with a pinch of salt, and toss until evenly coated. Bake until crispy but not brown, about 15 minutes.
- Other creative ways to try kale: In a sandwich, try kale instead of lettuce as one of your toppings. If guests are coming over, make a kale-artichoke dip by swapping in chopped kale for spinach. And the next time you’re pulling out the blender for a smoothie, add a few torn leaves into the mix.