Kale’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years (cue the Beyonce sweatshirt reference) and it’s widely believed to be one of the most nutritious foods we can eat. But does this leafy green really deserve all the hype? Spoiler: Yes, especially once you know about the benefits of kale and how to cook kale properly (yes, there’s a trick to it).
Kale is jam-packed with critical vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. But some people have a love-hate relationship with this superfood because of its polarizing taste and texture.
We break down the sometimes bitter veggie to show you why it should still be a regular fridge staple–and how to make it tastier.
Benefits of kale
Chock full of nutritious goodies like vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, and iron, one cup of chopped kale also contains:
Over 200% of the recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that supports eye health and protects our skin. Over 100% of the DV of vitamin C, which benefits our immune system, improves bone, joint, and skin health, aids collagen production, and helps our bodies absorb minerals. And over 600% of the DV of vitamin K, which boosts bone and heart health, ensures that blood can clot, and regulates minerals.
Kale doesn’t stop there, though: It’s rich in glucosinolates—the source of pungent flavors in mustard greens and horseradish—and is vital for the body’s natural elimination processes.
Sulforaphane, another phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables, serves as an anti-inflammatory, increases our bodies’ antioxidants, and amplifies our ability to detoxify. So yeah, it’s definitely worth it to make some room for kale on your plate on a regular basis.
How to cook kale
Salads are the go-to for this leafy green. But if you’re put off by the fibrous texture, one pro tip is to “massage it:” Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on raw kale, and then use your hands to soften the leaves until they start to wilt.
If you dislike the toughness of curly kale, you can also try a more delicate type like lacinato. But there are many other options for figuring out how to cook kale in a way that improves the texture for your individual taste buds. Here are a few of the other ways our chefs sneak kale into common recipes:
Chips: A great low-carb alternative to potato chips, kale chips are hard to hate. You can buy them at grocery stores or toss kale with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes or until crisp. You can also make air fryer kale chips if you have this trendy kitchen appliance.
Omelets: Start your day off right and increase the veggie quotient of your breakfast by throwing some kale into your omelet or frittata, along with cherry tomatoes and onions, and top with fresh herbs.
Soups: Leafy greens like kale and spinach are a healthy—and easy—addition to soups or stews. Elevate a broth-based Italian-inspired soup with lemon, white beans, carrots, onions, thyme, garlic, and kale.
Sautéed: A simple sauté with olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, and pepper can make kale a great side to any meal.
Smoothies: Amp up the nutritional content of your smoothies or juices by adding greens, like kale, without taking away from their taste. For a minty green smoothie, mix either coconut water or your favorite unsweetened milk with a frozen banana, kale, and 3-4 sprigs of fresh mint.
Meatballs: Add greens to your family’s meals by finely chopping up kale and mixing it into a traditional meatball blend.
Pesto sauce: Cruciferous veggies like kale and broccoli as well as fresh herbs can boost the texture, flavor and nutrient density of a pesto sauce.
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