Here's Why You Should Be Eating More Kale

Kale is is rich in nutrients and fiber.
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Kale used to be that dark green stuff used to decorate salad bars. Sadly, it was just used for a couple of days and then discarded. I mean, the kale was probably the most nutritious thing on some of the old salad bars.

Today, you'll find kale as the main ingredient in salads and side dishes. And for good reason. Kale is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, and a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C while being low in sodium. It's low in calories too -- one cup of chopped kale has 34 calories and a little over one gram of fiber.

Kale also contains significant amounts of phytochemicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are related to vitamin A and may help lower your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration, and lutein may help prevent atherosclerosis. Like all cruciferous vegetables, kale contains bitter substances called glucosinolates, some of which may have health benefits.

Studies on large populations of subjects suggest that eating cruciferous vegetables may help to prevent some forms of cancer, although the results are not conclusive. It's difficult to determine if particular foods truly prevent (or cause) cancer and other diseases because there are so many potential confounding factors. For example, people who eat more cruciferous vegetables may also eat more vegetables in general or be more health-conscious. However, lab studies may help us understand how sulforaphane may contribute to cancer prevention.

Sulforaphane is synthesized from two compounds found in cruciferous vegetables called glucoraphanin (one of the bitter glucosinolates) and myrosinase, which are released when kale or other cruciferous vegetables are prepared and when they're chewed. Sulforaphane may reduce your risk of some cancers by detoxifying carcinogens (substances that cause cancer) and by increasing the activity of antioxidants. Sulphorane may also have a direct effect on cancer cells themselves (at least, it does in lab studies).

Choosing and Preparing Kale

You'll find kale in the produce section of your grocery store. Look for dark green bunches of leaves that are crisp and not wilted. You can freeze kale or store it in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Kale can be served raw, but cooking reduces the bitterness and tenderizes the leaves.

To prepare, rinse the kale and remove the stems. Slice the leaves into strips and use in salads. Kale can be chopped and boiled or steamed or used as an ingredient in a hearty soup or stew. You can also make dehydrated or baked kale chips, which make a nutritious snack that's low in calories.


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