What Is Kale?

Like Swiss chard and ramps, kale is one of those foods that you’ve likely heard of before or even spotted on several restaurant menus, but you may not be sure of what, exactly, it is.The dark, leafy green is a member of the cruciferous family, along with broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower and cabbage—so it’s in great nutritional company. In fact, the reason kale is so popular is that it’s truly a superfood: Kale is loaded with antioxidants and is an excellent source of vitamins K, A and C, as well as fiber, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.Kale is also a good source of calcium, which contributes to strong bones and teeth, as well as muscle and nerve function. What’s more, cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, contain cancer-fighting properties, according to the National Cancer Institute.It’s also easy to incorporate kale into your diet. The flexible vegetable can be eaten raw or steamed and easily works in soups, smoothies and salads. “Kale is like any other green—it’s versatile and is delicious,” says nutritionist Keri Glassman. “The easiest way to incorporate kale into your repertoire is by sneaking it into your favorite smoothie recipe. I love a kale, spinach, blueberries, almond butter and chia seed smoothie. You can also easily replace finely chopped kale for your usual salad green—my favorite salad combo is chopped kale with avocado, grilled chicken and jalapenos with lemon juice and cracked black pepper. I also love baking or toasting kale chips for a snack, or incorporating it into soup recipes. It also makes a perfect side dish when sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic.”