The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new food pyramid, MyPlate (ChooseMyPlate.gov), is based on its 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, aimed at helping people make better food choices. Fruits and vegetables should comprise half our “plate”, and dark green veggies are the USDA’s top choice of nutrients. Kale leads the list of helpful leafy greens for many reasons.
Like its cousins in the Brassica family—broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and collards—kale is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense powerhouse of antioxidants, including vitamins A and C. Per calorie, kale contains more iron than beef and more calcium than milk, and it is better absorbed by the body than most dairy products. A single serving (about one cup, chopped) provides 5 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber, plus two grams of protein. The versatile veggie—it is tasty steamed, braised or baked—is also a rich source of both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
Best of all, kale is a “green” green, high on the sustainability scale. Growing one pound of kale uses about 23 gallons of water; raising a pound of beef necessitates more than 2,400.