Kale is a form of wild cabbage with purple or green leaves and was one of the commonest green vegetables in Europe until the latter part of the Middle Ages. It grows well into winter, and some growers even claim that it tastes sweeter when subjected to frost. Cooked kale is a popular addition to potato and meat-based dishes; though – like all leafy green vegetables – it can also be eaten raw.

Kale is considered to be one of the most nutritious, if not the most nutritious, vegetables in the world. Below are four reasons why some researchers believe that kale surpasses even broccoli (the “original” superfood) in the nutrition department.

Extremely rich in vitamins K, A and C

One cup of chopped kale (67 grams) contains a whopping 547 micrograms of vitamin K, which is 684 percent of an adult’s recommended daily allowance. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble compound that controls aspects of bleeding, including blood clotting. It also ensures that we develop strong and healthy bones, thereby preventing osteoporosis and bone fractures. Symptoms of a vitamin K deficiency include bleeding gums, bleeding noses and blood in the stool or urine.

One cup of kale also contains 10,302 IU of vitamin A, which is 206 percent of our Recommended Daily Intake (RDI). Vitamin A is mostly associated with animal products, but plant-based sources of it – called carotenoids – are also found in the most nutritious vegetables. Carotenoids (of which beta-carotene is perhaps the best-known) primarily function as antioxidants and provide numerous benefits to our eyes, skin and immune system. They also contain anti-aging properties.

The third and final vitamin in which kale is unusually high is vitamin C, another antioxidant that guards us from degenerative diseases such as cancer and macular degeneration. One cup of kale contains 80.4 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 134 percent of our RDI.

Tremendous detoxification and weight loss properties

Kale contains high amounts of sulfur and dietary fibre. Sulfur is actually the third most abundant mineral in the body (after calcium and phosphorous) and aids fat digestion and absorption, the production of bile acids and the regulation of blood sugar. Fibre, on the other hand, sweeps the large intestine of accumulated waste (including cancer-causing toxins, to which it binds itself as it passes). Aside from being great detoxifiers, sulfur and fibre also stimulate weight loss. This fact, coupled with its low calorie and fat content, makes kale an effective weight loss food.

Anti-inflammatory properties

One cup of kale contains 121 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids. These essential, polyunsaturated fats contain anti-inflammatory properties (meaning they can reduce inflammation, including the effects of auto-inflammatory diseases such as asthma, IBS and Alzheimer’s disease). They also support brain function.

A great plant-based source of iron and calcium

Per calorie, kale contains more iron than beef and more calcium than milk, making it a great source of both minerals for individuals who avoid meat and/or dairy foods. We need iron to build haemoglobin, which transports oxygen from our lungs to the body’s cells (and can lead to anaemia when deficient). We need calcium, of course, to build strong bones and teeth. A chronic deficiency in calcium can result in osteoporosis, arthritis and other painful bone conditions.

Additionally, one cup of kale also provides us with trace minerals, such as magnesium (6 percent of our RDI), phosphorous (4 percent), potassium (9 percent), zinc (2 percent), copper (10 percent) and manganese (26 percent), which aid our body’s day-to-day processes. It also contains B vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which help us metabolise energy from the foods we eat.