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Kale
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Here's Why Kale Is So Good for You

Jan 02, 2015
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME 

In a move that surprised no one, five experts today gave kale the all-clear.

“2015 is the year to be cool about kale—don't let the haters and the hype deter you,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University (and co-founder of National Kale Day, as well as co-author of the 50 Shades of Kale cookbook.) Kale’s so hot because it packs in more nutrition than practically any other whole food. A cup and change comes with 14% of your daily calcium, 659% of daily vitamin A and more than 900% of your daily vitamin K! The vibrant green should clue you in about just how nutrient-dense it is, says Wahida Karmally, registered dietitian and director of nutrition at Columbia University’s Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. “Dark green vegetables are powerhouses of nutrients,” she says.

And yes—they call it a superfood for a reason. Cooked kale offers more iron per ounce than beef, says Julie Morris, author of Superfood Smoothies and frequent blender of kale. But some of its nutrients are a bit difficult for the body to absorb, so just make sure to pair it with a fat to get the most out of them, says Julia Mueller, recipe developer and author of Let Them Eat Kale!

Don’t confine your kale lexicon to the limp leaves you see lining salad bars. Curly kale, flat Tuscan kale, blue kale, baby kale—the list of varietals that grow throughout the year is almost as long as the ways you can prepare it, says Alicia Romano, registered dietitian at Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center. “Blend it, bake it, sauté it or eat it raw in a salad,” she suggests.

All kaled out from 2014? Our experts have some guesses about what could dethrone the cruciferous kale king in 2015, from amaranth—a gluten-free grain with a complete protein profile—to watercress, a green that combats DNA damage. What does the founder of National Kale Day say? "Given kale has held the foodie spotlight like no other vegetable in history, it will certainly share the spotlight," Ramsey says. "Trending foods for 2015 will be kelp and seaweed, oysters, moringa, and exotic rice. People predicting collards, cauliflower, and Goji berries need to up their game—I suggest they try eating more kale."

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