Everywhere I look Im seeing recommendations for adding kale to my diet. Because I dont have good memories of eating this as a child, I was dubious about why I should try it as an adult. My desire to eat healthy won out over my taste buds and I began to find ways that I could eat kale without grimacing at every bite. Even the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama is promoting kale chips on late-night television shows, so how could I turn my nose up without at least trying it?

Before I knew it, I was adding handfuls of kale leaves to my morning berry and coconut water smoothies. I even reserved a corner of my familys vegetable patch to start growing kale. And yes, I even found a recipe and baked my own kale chips as an alternative to potato-based snacks that are high in trans-fats and sodium. The best part of growing my own kale is definitely the health benefits. Here are seven of the biggest ones:

  1. CALORIES AND FAT For every cup of kale that you eat, you are only taking in 36 calories. And because kale is fat-free, you can be sure that its not going to stick to your hips. Its filled with a wealth of nutrients, and it is high in fiber with 5 grams per cup. Learning this made me more eager to try different ways to eat the rich, green leaves.
  2. IRON You dont have to be anemic to enjoy the iron-rich benefits of kale. In fact, calorie per calorie, kale boasts more iron than beef. Because you need iron for optimal well-being, such as your body being able to form hemoglobin or types of enzymes, carrying oxygen throughout your body, growth of new cells, and liver health, you could say that kale is an essential part of your diet.
  3. VITAMIN K AND CALCIUM Eating Vitamin K is important because it helps your body fight off and even prevent certain types of cancer. Vitamin K and calcium are essential to strong bones and teeth. Vitamin K also helps prevent potentially deadly blood clots from forming in your body. Some studies show that Vitamin K is also important for staving off health issues like dementia.
  4. ANTIOXIDANTS There is not enough space on the internet to sing the praises of antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent oxidation in your body. Oxidation allows free radicals to form. And free radicals are what kicks off diseases, including cancer and Alzheimers, in your body. Carotenoids, flavonoids, and other antioxidants found in kale combat free radical activity in the body.
  5. ANTI-INFLAMMATORY Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your joints working properly. However they also help fight diseases like asthma, arthritis, and some types of autoimmune disorders. Eating just one cup of kale can give your body a natural boost of 10% of the recommended daily serving of omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. VITAMIN A Carrots are known for having Vitamin A, but kale is also a good source of this. You might already know that this vitamin is responsible for vision health. But did you know that its also essential for skin health? Vitamin A also helps prevent some types of cancers in the lungs and oral cavities.
  7. VITAMIN C Put down the high-calorie, sugary juices for Vitamin C and instead toss some kale into the blender with frozen berries and coconut water. Natural sources of Vitamin C, like kale, are the best way to boost your immune system and metabolism. It is also a delicious way to stay hydrated.

Another thing I did not realize until I began eating kale was how much my body was in need of a good detox. Because kale is filled with minerals like fiber and sulfur, it is a great way to naturally detoxify your liver. Detoxing your liver allows you to remove the toxins and poisons that build up in the organs over time. There are a lot of chemical-based products that claim to give you these results, but you should check with your doctor before trying them. For myself personally, I have found that eating kale offers better results without the uncomfortable side effects.

As you can see, there are few reasons not to add kale to your diet or the vegetable patch in your garden. An ancient Turkish proverb suggests that for every leaf of kale that you eat, you are adding another leaf to the tree that is your life. The mental image of that really puts the health benefits of kale in perspective for me. Now instead of turning my nose up and pushing my plate away when someone offers me a dish that has kale as an ingredient, Im the first one to try it.