Part of the cruciferous family, it has a powerhouse lineup of nutrients, Calorie Countess Jennifer Burton says.

Kale has come out of the shadows to become the latest multi-purpose food for those looking for high doses of vitamins and minerals.

It's often seen as an additive to smoothies, a base for soups and even a substitute for romaine lettuce in Caesar salad.

According to the nutrition world, kale is the newest super food, although it's hardly new, as it has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years.

If you've watched Iron Chef, or glanced at magazines in the check-out line, you've probably noticed it growing in popularity. Kale is a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes cabbage, collard green and Brussels sprouts. What sets Kale apart from the rest of the pack is its powerhouse lineup of nutrients. High in fiber (greater than 5 grams per cup), phytonutrients, antioxidants and more than 45 different flavonoids, kale can be instrumental in preventing cancer, reducing the risk of heart disease and inflammation, and helping to reduce cholesterol. Studies have shown our risk of colon, breast, bladder, prostate and ovarian cancer decrease in relationship to routine intake of kale.

The secret to eating more kale is knowing how to prepare it and using it in a variety of different ways. Kale can be eaten raw or cooked, although recent studies have shown lightly steaming kale for several minutes enhances its health benefits. Another tip: Remove the tough rib before cooking or chopping, and don't be afraid to chop into small pieces. It is much easier to chew that way.

Share your garden's best kept secret. It might improve someone's health.

Jennifer Burton, a registered dietitian, works for the McConnell Heart Health Center.