Meal replacements, multivitamins, and dietary supplements have made the quest for good health a lot easier. They provide the nutrient fuel a body needs without the hassle of actually having to eat. But for those health-conscious people who prefer to reap their nutrition from the vegetable patch rather than the medicine cabinet, look no further than kale—the super vegetable that boasts over-the-top, calorie-for-calorie nourishment.
Along with large doses of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, kale’s most prominent health-promoting attributes involve bone strength and cancer protection. “A cup of cooked kale has the same amount of absorbable calcium as a cup of cow’s milk,” says Amy Joy Lanou, an assistant professor of health and wellness at the University of North Carolina Asheville and a nutrition scientist. Kale also contains large amounts of phytochemicals, plant-generated compounds that have been proven to protect against many cancers. “It has one of the strongest cancer-prevention phytochemicals that we know of,” says Lanou.
While it may be outrageously good for you, don’t let the health-food stigma skew your opinion of kale. It makes for a savory side dish, with a strong, slightly bitter flavor—like ripe cabbage, but with less bite. Kale comes in an assortment of varieties. For smaller, more tender leaves, go with Toscana, aka Dinosaur kale, which is deep green. Red Russian turns purple near the edges, and holds up well when cooked in a soup. At the market, look for firm, dark leaves, with no yellowing near the edges. To store, wrap kale in a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag before it goes in the vegetable crisper, where it will keep for up to a week. The leafy green becomes more bitter the longer it’s stored, so try it fresh in this zesty recipe, and see how delicious eating healthy can be.