A trend toward health and fitness is on the upswing across the United States, which may explain the rising popularity of kale. A member of the family of cruciferous vegetables, kale offers a number of powerful benefits to the health. One cup of kale contains just 36 calories, zero fat, three grams of protein, and five grams of fiber, making it a go-to veggie for people hoping to lose a few pounds. Kale is chock full of nutrients including folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin. In other words, it is a green superfood worth adding to your grocery cart.

Eyes, Skin, Hair and Bones

In addition to containing the many nutrients mentioned above, kale is a rich source of beta-carotene, a nutrient that the body converts to vitamin A as needed. Vitamin A is important to the health of body tissues, eyes, and reproductive organs, and it plays a part in the manufacture of sebum, the oil that keeps skin and hair soft and healthy. The vitamin C found in kale helps build and sustain collagen, the protein responsible for the structure of hair, skin, and bones. The calcium in kale helps maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Heart Health

Because of its rich source of potassium, kale may help promote heart health. One study found that subjects who consumed 4069 mg of potassium daily were 49 percent less likely to die from ischemic heart disease than subjects who consume potassium in an amount of 1000 mg or less per day.

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Chronic inflammation has been shown to contribute to an array of diseases. Providing the body with 10 percent of the recommended daily requirement for omega-3 fatty acids, kale helps reduce inflammation in the body.

Types of Kale

Kale comes in a variety of colors and textures. Popular types of the green superfood include curly kale, lacinato (or dinosaur) kale and red Russian kale. As the name suggests, curly kale features curly edges and it ranges from light green to purple in color. Dinosaur kale has longer spear-like leaves and a dark blue-green color, and red Russian kale features large flat leaves with a shape similar to arugula and a reddish color.

Kale Preparation

Kale tastes delicious prepared hot or cold.  Sautee this green superfood with mushrooms, onions and garlic for a delicious side dish or try it raw in a green salad.  Removing the stems from kale helps eliminate bitter flavor when cooking or serving raw.

Kale Precautions

For most people, kale makes a beneficial addition to a dietary plan.  However, the vitamin K in kale can interfere with anticoagulant medicines, so people taking them should consult with their doctor before consuming kale.  Beta-blockers can raise potassium levels in the blood so people taking these may want to limit their consumption of kale due to the potassium it contains.