King Kale: the nutrition powerhouse of the vegetable world | CraigDailyPress.com

King Kale: the nutrition powerhouse of the vegetable world

Loaded with nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C and K, folate and antioxidants, kale and other leafy greens have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. The superfood is easy to prepare and to sneak into a wide variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

— If there's one thing you make the effort to eat more often, let it be kale.

King of the dark, leafy greens, kale is rich in calcium, potassium, vitamins A, C and K, folate and antioxidants, according to the Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Source. Its loaded resume of vitamins and nutrients have implicated kale in a variety of studies linking the consumption of dark, leafy greens to cancer prevention and cardiovascular health.

"Because of their high content of antioxidants, green leafy vegetables may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods," according to an online article from the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. "Studies have shown that eating two to three servings of green leafy vegetables per week may lower the risk of stomach, breast and skin cancer. These same antioxidants have also been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease."

Another study published in the Annual Review of Nutrition linked nutrients found in foods such as kale to eye health, perhaps helping to prevent conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

"Dark green leafy vegetables — such as spinach and kale — contain two pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin, that accumulate in the eye," according to an online article from the Nutrition Source. "These two pigments appear to be able to snuff out free radicals before they can harm the eye's sensitive tissues."

A whole food at its finest, kale and its leafy cousins in the cruciferous vegetable family also are an excellent source of fiber, important for maintaining a healthy digestive tract.

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At least as important as its health benefits, kale in particular is incredibly versatile. With enough flavor to be tasty by itself, but mild enough to blend well into other dishes, kale can be incorporated into nearly any meal.

The Nutrition Source recommends nine total servings of fruits and vegetables per day for the average person, while noting that the average American consumes only three servings. One serving is about ½ cup, with the exception that you need a full cup of leafy greens to equal ½ cup of other fruits and vegetables.

Here are some suggestions for how to incorporate more kale into your daily diet:

• One classic preparation to complement any dinner is sautéed kale with garlic and olive oil.

• Simple steamed kale with a drizzle of olive oil or dab of butter and salt can add some green to your breakfast plate alongside scrambled eggs.

• For a sweet treat, try adding a few raw leaves of kale to a smoothie with a banana and some frozen fruit. You'll hardly even know it's there.

• Chopped kale makes an excellent addition to nearly any soup.

• Try sneaking kale into dishes such as enchiladas, pasta dishes or pasta sauce, quiches, breakfast burritos, and meatloaf or burgers.

• For a delicious raw kale salad, squeeze the juice of one to two lemons over a pile of chopped kale. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and massage the kale until the leaves break down, which tenderizes the raw kale.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.

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