Of the dark-green leafy vegetables—like collard greens, spinach and kohlrabi—kale is a nutritional standout.
Munson Medical Center named kale on its Top 10 list of healthy foods, placing it in the ranks with carrots, pumpkin, red bell peppers and other fruits and vegetables packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants like beta-carotene.
Keeping up on your vegetable intake is crucial: A Harvard University study of men and women found that increasing fruit and vegetable intake by as little as one serving a day can have a real impact on heart disease. That single additional serving dropped participant’s risk of heart disease by 4 percent. Fruits rich in Vitamin C and green leafy vegetables were particularly beneficial.
What’s so great about kale? One cup cooked kale contains two-thirds the adult recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Kale is rich in vitamins E and A, as well as potassium, and it actually leads the pack of green leafy veggies in its lutein content, the antioxidant credited with protecting eyes against age-related vision loss.
Kale also provides a good dose of anti-inflammatory compounds, which are gaining respect in the medical community. Researchers believe that persistent, low-grade inflammation slowly attacks tissue in joints, arteries and the brain, leading to health problems beyond arthritis. Adding anti-inflammatory compounds—like the Omega-3 fatty acids found in canola oil, walnuts and colorful greens such as kale—to your diet can combat the harmful inflammation.
Beyond its health benefits, kale wins loyal fans for its pronounced, pungent, briny flavor. The trick to preparing great-tasting kale is to get it really clean (dunk and soak in a sink and then spin or pat dry) and to cook it as quickly as possible (sauté just long enough to lightly wilt the greens and retain their bright-green hue). Try chopped kale in an omelet, add it to soups or toss it in a salad with arugula and shaves of Parmesan. See how it can pep up your pasta dishes or try this recipe for kale pizza. It shows how delicious this nutritional powerhouse can be.
Kale Pizza with Fontina
1 pizza crust (frozen or homemade)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 bunch kale, rinsed, dried and ripped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fontina cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 tablespoon cornmeal
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook garlic and kale in 3/4 tablespoon olive oil. Remove from heat when kale just begins to soften. Sprinkle the countertop with flour and roll out the dough. Place dough on a cornmeal-dusted pizza stone, brush with remaining olive oil and top first with 1/2 cup fontina and then the kale-garlic mixture. Sprinkle pizza with remaining fontina and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden.