By now, you’ve likely been exposed to the cult of kale. And if you’re not a convert yet, we get your reservations. When something looks so similar to the lettuce leaves you already know and love, you have to wonder: What’s the big deal?
Kale is actually in the same family as cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts, but the vegetable’s dark, textured leaves pack an even bigger punch. “Kale is off the charts when it comes to nutrients,” says Ruth Frechman, R.D., a Burbank-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A few additional stats:
-Kale is the best green in terms of antioxidants on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) chart—scoring 1,770 units while spinach clocks in at less than 1,500, says Frechman.
-It's also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and cancer-fighting phytonutrients, plus it's high in carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been proven to prevent macular degeneration.
-Kale has tons of fiber —one cup of this vegetable packs 90 mg into only 36 calories—while also helping to regulate enzymes that assist in detoxing your liver.
You can find kale in the produce section (pro tip: peak season is winter), and you’ll want to choose stalks with firm, deep-green leaves. Store it in the coldest part of your fridge loosely wrapped in plastic, then rinse with cold water, chop off the stems, and cut the leaves into half-inch pieces or smaller.
Now you’re ready to get cooking—and here are five recipes easy enough to try immediately.