Swiss chard with its deep green, red, purple and yellow leaves and bright stalks is one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables. It has been popular in Mediterranean meals for a long time and is now gaining popularity in North America.
The nutritional benefits of Swiss chard include its many polyphenol, betalain and carotenoid antioxidants, which are powerful at fighting free radical damage, inflammation and disease development.
6 Swiss Chard Health Benefits
Swiss chard is very high in vitamin K (1 cup of cooked chard will give you 636 percent of your daily need). The following health benefits from the British Cardiovascular Society are largely due to its high vitamin K content.
1. Good for Bone Health
When 440 postmenopausal women with osteopenia for 2 years were given vitamin K in this study, they found they had more than 50 percent reduction in bone fractures.
Supplementation of vitamin K was found to reduce bone loss in research at the University of York, England.
Elderly people who supplemented their diet with vitamin K daily had a 35 percent lower risk of hip fractures than those who consumed less, according to The Framingham Heart Study.
2. A Cancer Fighter
Swiss chard is full of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, quercetin, many carotenoids and betalains.
It was found that Swiss chard extract can stop the growth of cancer cells in the breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, endometrial and lung tumors, according to these studies.
The flavonoids in the chard have an arresting action on breast cancer.
3. May Prevent Diabetes
Diabetic patients in a study in Turkey found Swiss chard reduced the blood glucose levels.
Many of the nutrients in Swiss chard, such as the high level of flavonoids, improves glucose metabolism.
4. High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants prevent and repair excess oxidation in the body which is a major metabolic process that burns up or combines oxygen and carbohydrates together to produce energy.
There are 19 types of betaxanthin antioxidants and nine types of betacyanins in chard according to research.
5. Helps Keep the Heart Healthy
The intake of vitamin K was found to reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease.
They found a reduced risk of coronary heart disease in older men and women in The Rotterdam Study.
6. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Foods high in nitrates have been found to lower blood pressure, according to a study.
Note: Swiss chard is in the same plant family that contains oxalates which are not a big health concern if eaten in sensible amounts; there are cases in which eating high levels of oxalates can be unhealthy. To learn more, read Do Greens Harm or Help Your Health?
How to Select
Swiss chard is in season from June until August, so this is when you will find the best tasting fresh Swiss chard at the farmer’s markets. Find a Farmer’s Market near you.
Make sure that when you are buying it in a grocery store that it is stored in a refrigerated section so that it is fresh. The leaves are best if they are firm, brightly green and do not have any browning, yellowing or wilting with any holes. The stalks should be thick, look crisp, without blemishes and can be white, red, purple or yellow.
How to Store
Best not to wash Swiss chard before storing as the water inspires spoilage. Put it in a plastic bag and wrap it tightly around the chard, taking out as much of the air as possible. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When you have lots chard, you can blanch the leaves and freeze them.
How to Cook it
You can braise, steam, sauté or eat it raw by adding it to a juice or a salad. Chop it up and include it in your favorite stuffing mix or pasta sauces. The general rule with chard is to cook the leaves like you would spinach and the stalks like asparagus. To properly wash chard, wash it thoroughly with cold water, either dunking the whole leaves in a bowl of water until the water is clear, or chop it up and then use a salad washer.
Try this soup filled with Swiss chard:
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