(Photo courtesy of morguefile.com)

by Melissa Howe

Certain health trends come and go, but you can bet that the kale fad is here to stay. You’ve certainly heard about it on talk shows, in the grocery store, and amongst your friends. Everyone is obsessing over this new super food. But what is it about kale that makes it so notorious and beneficial to your health?

This tasteful, leafy vegetable is loaded with fiber, iron, vitamins A, C and K, antioxidants, and calcium. There have even been studies that show how kale reduces cancer risk and improves cardiovascular support. Work a few kale leaves into your everyday diet and you will see how endless these benefits are.

While discussing how to incorporate kale into your diet, it is important to always remember to thoroughly wash and dry the leaves before consuming. Through personal experiences, I have learned to let kale soak in one cup of water and half a cup of apple cider vinegar. This only takes just a few minutes and you will not even taste the vinegar. Washing kale before you consume is especially important as it is not uncommon for tiny insects to be crawling inside the curls of the leaves. This goes for all vegetables though, not just kale. After washing, the leafy greens are ready to be eaten.

So, how exactly can you work kale into your diet? While eating it fresh on its own is not uncommon, there are a multitude of ways to incorporate it in meals and even smoothies. For salad, mix some kale leaves with romaine lettuce together and drizzle your favorite light dressing over top. The curly leaves will add more of a taste to your salad. You can also use it on sandwiches as a substitute for romaine or iceberg lettuce. The ways to include this vegetable into your diet are infinite. Throw some leaves in your meal the next time you make dinner. You certainly will not be sorry.

What if vegetables in general simply are not appealing to you? The best way to get kale or any vegetable in your system then is to add it to your favorite all natural smoothies. All you need is a blender, a few pieces of your favorite fruits, and about five to six kale leaves. Be sure to cut the fruits of your choice up into smaller pieces and do not include the core or pit if there is one. Throw the mixture of fruits and vegetables into the blender and add eight ounces of water. Let the mixture process in the blender for about a minute so that you have a creamy and refreshing smoothie to enjoy afterwards. You will not even taste the kale but you will still get the same benefits as eating it fresh and on its own.

Kale chips are also rising in popularity and are incredibly easy to make. It is best to preheat the oven to about 275 degrees. Then, rip the leaves of kale up into pieces that are about an inch long and lay them out evenly spaced on a baking tray. Lightly season them however you would like. A personal favorite of mine is pepper and garlic sea salt. After seasoning, lightly dash two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil across the leaves and tray. Place them in the oven for twenty minutes or until crispy. Once they are cooled, the crunchy greens are ready to serve.

Now that you have learned a few ways to include kale into your diet, there is no excuse not to give it a try! Health nuts, vegetable haters, and potato chip lovers—these are all great ways to make kale part of your everyday diet. Give in to the kale kraze and your body and mind will certainly thank you.