Swiss chard is not only a superstar in Mediterranean cooking, but is also one of the most nutritious vegetables around today. It has distinctly large, dark green leaves, which are harvested at various stages of maturity. The whole plant with tender, young leaves can be used for salads, while the individual large-sized, mature leaves can be harvested for sautéing and cooking dishes.
The vegetable is known by many names, including silverbeet, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, bright lights, crab beet, and seakale beets. In South Africa, however, it is simply called spinach. It has been around for centuries, but has been confused with beets and other vegetables like cardoon because of their physical similarities.
Swiss chard comes in various types depending on shine, crunchy stalks, and petiole. There’s the green stalk (Lucullus), Red stalk (Charlotte, Rhubarb chard), and multicolor stalks (bright lights).
This annual crop, widely grown around the Mediterranean region and available at its best from June to November, is so flexible in the kitchen. Fresh, young ones are used raw in salads, while mature ones are sautéed or cooked. One example is pizzoccheri, a kind of flat ribbon pasta enjoyed in Italian cooking. In Egyptian cuisine, it is commonly cooked with taro root and coriander in a light broth. The leaves’ bitterness fades with cooking, giving you a refined flavor.
Health Benefits of Swiss Chard
While it has not been as extensively studied as other vegetables like beets and spinach, Swiss chard has earned its right to be routinely included in healthy diets around the world. It has an impressive phytonutrient profile, as easily recognized in its vibrant colors, from dark greens to red, purple, and a rainbow of colors in its stalks and veins. Phytonutrients are a source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and whole body benefits.
Swiss chard is very low in calories, or only about 19 calories per 100 grams of fresh, raw leaves. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, its fresh leaves providing about 33 percent of recommended levels per 100 grams. Vitamin C helps quench free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), and studies link the regular consumption of C-rich foods to the maintenance of normal connective tissue, prevention of iron deficiency, boosting immunity.
Swiss chard is also a recommended source of vitamin K, omega-3 fats, vitamin A, and flavonoid antioxidants such as beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. It can also be counted on to provide B-vitamins such as folate, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid, which are all essential for cellular metabolism to function optimally.
In terms of mineral content, this vegetable has copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Potassium is considered the “good salt” and has made headlines for its role in helping lower blood pressure, while iron is required for cellular oxidation and the formation of red blood cells.
Swiss Chard Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies on Swiss Chard
The leaves of Swiss chard are shown in recent research to contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants,1 including kaempferol, the flavonoid with cardioprotective properties and also found in broccoli, kale, and strawberries. Aside from kaempferol, one of the primary flavonoids found in its leaves is syringic acid, which is given attention for its ability to help regulate blood sugar.
Like beets, Swiss chard provides phytonutrients called betalains, which offer reddish-purple betacyanin pigments and yellowish betaxanthin pigments. Many of the betalain pigments in the vegetable have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying effects. the detoxification support provided by betalains includes support of certain important Phase 2 detoxification steps that involve glutathione.
It only makes sure to prioritize the consumption of Swiss chard if you are looking to have the unique benefits of phytonutrients as well as special benefits such as managing and controlling your blood sugar.
Swiss Chard Healthy Recipes:
Kale, Swiss Chard, Chicken, and Feta Salad Recipe
|½ cup cider vinegar
||2 teaspoons honey
||½ teaspoon salt
|½ teaspoon ground black pepper
||½ teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
||½ cup olive oil
|1 bunch kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
||1 bunch Swiss chard, torn into bite-sized pieces
||1 pound grilled skinless, boneless chicken breast, sliced
|1 (6 ounce) container crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste
||1/3 cup raisins
||1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
Makes four to six servings
- Whisk the vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, and oregano in a bowl until the honey has dissolved. Whisk in the olive oil until evenly blended. Place the kale, Swiss chard, chicken, feta cheese, raisins, and walnuts into a bowl. Toss with the dressing to serve.
(Taken from the AllRecipes.com)
Swiss Chard Fun Facts
Contrary to what its name implies, Swiss chard is not native to Switzerland. Its homeland is found further south, in the Mediterranean region. One variety called ruby chard has been in existence since 4th century BC, when the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about it. The Romans later honored chard for its medicinal effects.
There is also an interesting anecdote behind the name “chard.” This vegetable got this name from another Mediterranean vegetable called cardoon, a celery-like plant with thick stalks resembling those of chard. The French confused the two and called them “carde.”
Not all vegetables can lay claim to the phytonutrient power of Swiss chard as well as its flexibility in the kitchen. You can add it raw to your salad for a slightly bitter, crunchy taste, or sauté or cook it for that bust of flavors from other ingredients. You can choose from various types, including red stalk chard, multicolor stalk chard, and the rich, deep greens that are popularly used.
Swiss chard is a healthful source of antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids, and it has shown promise in scientific research in blood sugar regulation. Mediterranean cuisine is right about harnessing the culinary prowess of this traditionally known and celebrated vegetable – you can enjoy it for yourself and consume it for a wealth of health gains.