Almighty kale: Facts, health perks, recipes.

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Kale's made quite a comeback recently with healthy eaters, and these facts (and recipes) will show you why:

Why: It's packed with disease-fighting compounds. For instance, kale has twice as much vitamin C as an orange (120mg per 100g, vs. 59 mg per 100g). Like broccoli and cabbage, kale is a cruciferous vegetable. One cup has more than 200 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, including sought-after lutein and zeaxanthin (for healthy eyes) and beta carotene (for healthy skin and eyes), 5 percent of the DV for fiber and 684 percent of DV for vitamin K, which helps bone hold onto the calcium it has.

Health Perks: One of the key benefits is the abundance of antioxidants --- chemicals that slow down the aging process and help prevent heart disease and certain kinds of cancer by blocking the cellular and arterial damage caused by oxidation.

According to researchers from the Department of Human Nutrition at the Agricultural University of Krakow in Poland, kale contains a lot of valuable antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, carotenoids and antioxidant enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and peroxidase that help prevent cancer. Moreover, kale is also rich in glucosinolates, which remove free radicals from the body by stimulating the body's own natural antioxidant systems. This cascade of antioxidant activity -- unlike the one-shot amount you get from most direct antioxidants -- cycles over and over, continuing to protect your system for as long as three to four days after they've been consumed.

However, glucosinolates and S-methylcysteine sulfoxide also account for what some consider kale's bitter and unpleasant flavor. Many cooks recommend giving the kale a massage, which reduces bitterness. Also, adding sweet (honey, fruit, etc.) and salt can enhance the flavor.

In addition, kale has high levels of the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin, which help reduce inflammation, keep blood vessels healthy and prevent DNA damage that can lead to cancer. Finally, it has good amounts of calcium and is loaded with magnesium.

How to Select and Store: According to the Produce for Better Health Foundation's "Fruits & Veggies: More Matters'' (www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org), "Choose dark-colored kale bunches with small to medium leaves. Avoid brown or yellow leaves. ... Store kale in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the fridge for three to five days.''

Nutrition (1 cup raw): 33 calories; 2.87g protein; 5.86g carbs; 2.4g fiber; 0.62g fat....

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