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Nutrition Spotlight: Kale


Kale, the Super Food That is Super Popular

Kale–super popular! This vegetable is a superstar in the nutrition world, and it is more popular than ever for its high nutritional value. If you’ve taken a stroll down the aisles of your grocery store recently, you’ve probably noticed this superfood is popping up everywhere – from salads and smoothies to pizza and chips. Packed with vitamins and nutrients, kale is a great choice for meals and snacks.

Nutrition Facts:
Half a cup of cooked kale contains a whole day’s supply of vitamin A and is an excellent source of lutein, which may protect against macular degeneration and cataracts, and vitamins C and K. One cup of raw kale contains 2.5 grams of fiber, which helps manage blood sugar and make you feel full, and supplies 94 milligrams of calcium. And the best part, it’s low calorie! One cup of fresh kale is only about 40 calories. In others words, eat up!

Ready to give this powerhouse veggie a try? If you’ve never tried kale before, below are 10 fun facts that will help make your first encounter with kale a great one.

  1. Kale Varieties. There are various types of kale, but the most popular you will see in the grocery store is curly kale. It is easily identified by its curly leaves and fibrous stalk. Dinosaur or lacinato kale leaves have a bluish-green color and lighter stalks. It is also slightly sweeter than curly kale.
  1. Cruciferous Vegetable Kale. Cruciferous vegetable kale belongs to a group of vegetables known as the cruciferous family, named for their cross-like flowers. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and collards also fall into this unique family of vegetables—all of which may play a role in cancer prevention due to their cancer-fighting properties.
  1. How to Choose the Right Kale. Choose dark-green, crisp leaves that are free of yellowing. Small to medium size leaves will be more tender and milder than larger leaves.
  1. How Much Kale? One pound of untrimmed kale will serve approximately 2-3 people.
  1. Storing Kale. You can store unwashed kale in the fridge in a perforated bag up to three days. The longer you store it, the more bitter it will taste.
  1. Preparing Kale. Thoroughly rinse leaves to remove dirt and grit. For larger leaves, cut or rip away the center stalk using a knife or your fingers. For more tender leaves, remove the base of the stem and for baby leaves, you can use the whole leaf as it is. Tear larger leaves into bite-size pieces. Stems can be cooked, but may take longer, so add them to the pot before adding the leaves.
  1. Best Way to Eat Kale Raw. Like most us, kale likes to be massaged and will release a sweeter flavor if it gets a good rub down before eating. The best time to massage kale is after it has been cleaned and prepped. The fibrous leaves will break down and have a sweeter taste. Use salad dressing or olive oil and a little bit of salt, and rub the leaves together. Not one to play with your food because of what you were taught growing up as a child? Don’t worry. You can get the same results by adding the dressing or olive oil and tossing it with the kale before refrigerating it overnight. Refrigerating kale will also produce silkier, sweeter leaves. Unlike most other greens, kale can last in the fridge for several days dressed with salad dressing.
  1. Enjoy Kale A Number of Ways. Kale is quite versatile. It can be boiled, sautéed and added to pasta sauce, smoothies or soups. It can also be made into chips! Check out the easy recipe below.
  1. Kale in Season. Kale is best in the winter after the first frost and when some of the starches turn to sugar giving it a sweeter flavor. However, it is available all year round. Check the freezer section of your grocery store.
  1. Dietary Guidelines. Still not convinced? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least one, one-half cups (cooked or raw) of dark green vegetables per week. Kale can help you reach that goal!

Try this recipe as a tasty alternative to potato chips.

Baked Kale Chips

2 cups torn, cleaned curly kale leaves
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven, 300 degrees. Place torn leaves on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle salt. Bake 20-25 minutes or until crisp. Do not let the kale get too brown to avoid a bitter flavor. Eat and enjoy your healthy snack!

Pam Cornelius, RD, LDN, is the Wellness Dietitian at CaroMont Health and Fitness Center at CaroMont Health. To learn more about wellness offerings, call 704.671.7930 or visit

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