License to kale: Taste the Southern superfood

kalePopeye and his spinach need to make way for the new “Queen of Greens.”

Vitamin-rich kale has long been a staple of southern cuisine but is gaining world-wide popularity for one simple reason — it’s one of the healthiest foods you can eat.  While all unprocessed vegetables are good for your health, kale offers a few added benefits, protecting against several cancers while lowering cholesterol.

“It’s basically the closest relative to wild cabbage,” said Lindsay Martin, a wellness coach and dietician at Hilton Head Health. “It’s considered one of those cruciferous vegetables, which have been shown to have numerous health benefits.”

Kale comes in eight variations and is available at most local markets and grocery stores year-round. Look

for a rich green color with no wilting, brown spots or yellowing leaves.

It’s very high in beta
carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin. While it is grown more wildly in Europe and cooler climates, kale can thrive in our sub-tropical environment with frequent watering.

Along with the health benefits, some of the vegetable’s rising popularity can be attributed to its versatility in the kitchen.

“You use it like you would spinach,” Martin said.  “If you’re new to trying it, I would recommend taking out the big, long stem that runs through the middle. You can eat it raw or you can sauté it with some garlic and a little bit of olive oil. It’s great with pasta, salads and soups.”

Many recipes including kale can be found on the Hilton Head Health blog,