Kale has become the superstar vegetable on everyone’s lips. Pinterest and recipe websites are full of mouthwatering pictures of kale chips, smoothies and other great combos. So why is kale so popular and what makes this leafy green the “queen of greens”?

Kale is a Nutritional Allstar

A cup of kale has only 36 calories, so basically you burn more by eating it than the calories you get from it. Not really, but the caloric intake is very low and the nutritional value is very, very high.

One cup of kale has 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 5 grams of fiber, but its main health benefits are linked to the high concentration of vitamin A, C and K. More specifically, one cup has  more than 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A and vitamin C, and more than  1,000% (yes, that is one thousand) of vitamin K.

Moreover, it is packed with antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, which according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, are thought to have anti-cancer properties.

The K in Kale

Kale is packed with vitamin K which helps with a wide variety of bodily functions, including normal blood clotting and bone health.

As with everything, too much of something can be harmful too. While vitamin K is great, too much can cause some health issues as well. Those taking anticoagulants should consult with their doctor before eating kale, as it may interfere with their medication.

Since kale is also full of oxalates, it might interfere with the absorption of calcium. Therefore, try not to combine it with foods that are high in calcium such as dairy products.

Fast Ways to Prepare Kale

The possibilities are endless, but here are some quick ways to incorporate kale in your diet:

1.    Make a great snack: kale chips! Slice 6 kale strings (stems removed) into small pieces, drizzle 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, add a pinch of salt and bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees in the oven.

2.   Start your day right by making a kale and banana smoothie. Mix the two in a blender and add some water for a drink full of potassium, calcium and antioxidants.

3.   How about a great side dish? Chop kale and 2 garlic cloves and cook over high heat in two tablespoons of olive oil for 4-5 minutes; season with salt, pepper, and one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.