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Veggie Bites for Teens: Kale

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kaleMost teens -- and admittedly even a lot of adults -- don't think of leafy green vegetables as edible, much less appetizing. Too many greens have been tainted by drippy globs of overcooked spinach from the lunch lady or -- yikes! -- even Mom. But it doesn't have to be that way. It's time to give greens a chance -- with kale.

Why kale? It's supercharged with disease-fighting beta-carotene, calcium, and potassium. And get this -- just 1 cup of cooked kale has:

At least six times (yeah, you read that right) your daily requirement for vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and reducing inflammation. Good if you get injured playing sports, for instance.

354% of your daily requirement for vitamin A, which helps with vision and immunity. So eating kale may help keep the doctor away.

Almost all (89%) of your daily requirement for vitamin C, which is good for your skin and promotes healing. Bet you thought you could only get vitamin C from citrus fruits.

Plus, there are only 36 calories in that serving.

Best Ways to Eat Kale

If you put kale on the grocery list, your parents might think you've lost it -- until you give them the 411 on kale. Tell them:

  • Kale will skyrocket the nutrient value of meals.
  • Kale has a mild, earthy flavor -- terrific paired with garlic, shallots, or mushrooms.
  • Kale is versatile. You can eat it boiled, steamed, or sautéed in a little olive or canola oil. Its leaves are not as fragile as spinach leaves, so it's less likely to get mushy.
  • Kale would be great in a vegetable stir-fry over brown rice, cooked kale can be stirred into an omelet, and kale is easy to add to any broth-based soup.

Or don't tell your parents anything. Instead, the next time you crave potato chips, try baked kale chips instead. Pull the leaves off the stems, toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet -- bake or broil until the kale is crispy. (If you don't believe us, check it out on YouTube.)

Where to Find Kale

Fresh kale is best when it's available at your supermarket, and in the fall, farmers' markets usually offer the freshest kale you can get. Frozen kale is probably easier to find, plus it's already chopped and ready to cook. 

Fun Kale Fact

Who needs flowers? In Japan, kale is used as an ornamental plant. It comes in red, white, and various shades of purple, some so dark the leaves almost look black.

Feeling inspired? Take the Vegetable Challenge.

Ready for another bite? Try Broccoli, Carrots, Edamame, or Sweet Potatoes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on December 23, 2013