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For most people kale is a stretch. They think of kale as more of a garnish than something to actually eat. Yet kale is probably one of the healthiest foods we can eat. Remember the recommendation of eating dark, green, leafy vegetables? It doesn’t get much darker or leafier than kale. Dinosaur (aka Tuscan or Lacinto) kale has been showing up in abundance in our CSA box as of late. We have been using it up in stir-fries as quickly as it comes in. Green kale is a bit more commonly found in grocery stores and we love to eat it raw in salads or stir-fried in a bit of olive oil.

Kale is a member of the cabbage (Brassica) family. Like other cabbages, kale is a rich source of flavonoids and antioxidants, and indoles, which have been shown to help prevent certain cancers. Kale is rich in calcium and carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. One serving of kale provides approximately 20% of the recommended daily calcium requirement for adults. Kale is a rich source of selenium and magnesium. Kale also contains vitamin E and vitamin C in significant amounts. And kale contains vitamin K, which we need for bone health and cancer prevention. Did we mention kale is also an excellent source of fiber?

Kale ranks at the top of the list for antioxidant-containing foods. Eating kale may even help prevent cognitive decline. In one study of aging women, research showed that women who consumed the most green leafy vegetables experienced slower cognitive decline than women consuming the least amount.

Now is the perfect time to enjoy kale as it is in peak season. Choose kale with bright, crisp, green (or purple) leaves and make sure to wash it well – occasionally there can be sand or soil (or critters) hidden in those tight curly leaves. Since kale cooks down quite a bit like spinach, be sure to cook a lot of it. There is nothing wrong with having leftovers as kale is a great addition to omelets or hash browns in the morning.

IMG_7034e-5About: Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic doctor and expert in functional and lifestyle medicine. An author of nine books, host and founder of Optimum Wellness Media, and Ironman triathlete, James has coached Fortune 50 and 500 companies, MLB and NFL teams, several branches of US Government and consults for companies including BackJoy, SKOOP and Kroger Grocery. He has shared his message to audiences in the US, Europe and Asia.