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Chard is a tall leafy green vegetable commonly referred to as Swiss chard with a scientific name of Beta vulgaris. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste. The flavor can be bitter, pungent, and slightly salty. Chard has been bred to have highly nutritious leaves. This is at the expense of the root, which is not as nutritious as the leaves. Chard is one of the healthiest vegetables available and a valuable addition to a healthy diet.

Swiss chard along with kale, mustard greens and collard greens is one of several leafy green vegetables often referred to as greens. Chard has a thick, crunchy stalk to which fan-like wide green leaves are attached. The leaves may either be smooth or curly, depending upon the variety, and feature lighter-colored ribs running throughout. The stalk, which can measure almost two feet in length, comes in a variety of colors including white, red, yellow and orange, can be known as "rainbow chard."

Swiss Chard Origins

Even though it is called "Swiss" chard, it originated in Sicily and today remains an important part of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. It also happens to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Chard got its common name from another Mediterranean vegetable, cardoon, a celery-like plant with thick stalks that resemble those of chard. The French got the two confused and called them both "carde."

swiss chard

Swiss Chard Nutrition

  • Antioxidants - The reason Swiss chard is so colorful is because it is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet (antioxidants are responsible for the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables). It contains beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, quercetin, kaempferol, and many other disease fighting antioxidants.
  • Blood Sugar Regulation - Swiss chard contains syringic acid and fiber and syringic acid, both of which help to regulate blood sugar levels. If you are at risk for diabetes or you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you should eat more leafy green vegetables such as Swiss chard.
  • Bone Health - Swiss chard, like other leafy green vegetables, is an excellent source of calcium which helps to strengthen the bones and teeth. One cup of Swiss chard provides about 101 mg of calcium. It also contains vitamin K and magnesium, both of which are important for strong bones.
  • Cancer Prevention - Swiss chard is one of the super foods that is known for its cancer preventative properties thanks to the fiber, chlorophyll, phytochemicals, and other plant pigments it contains. Studies have found that leafy green vegetables are particularly beneficial against colon cancer.
  • Brain Health - In addition to strengthening the bones, the vitamin K in Swiss chard is crucial for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system because it is essential in the formation of the myelin sheath, the protective layer around nerves.
  • Healthy Blood - Swiss chard is high in iron, which is essential for maintaining the health of the circulatory system and the prevention of anemia. The vitamin K it contains promotes healthy blood clotting and prevents excessive bruising and bleeding.
  • Hair Health - Swiss chard is rich in biotin, an important hair vitamin that promotes hair growth and strength. Research has found that 30 mcg per day of biotin is beneficial for the hair and one cup of Swiss chard contains about 10.5 mcg. Swiss chard also has high amounts of vitamins C and A, both of which assist the hair follicles in the production of sebum.
  • Eye Health - One cup of Swiss chard contains a whopping 9,276 mcg of lutein, an antioxidant that is essential for eye health. Researchers suggest that consuming between 6,000 and 10,000 mcg of lutein per day can maintain the health of the eyes and possible prevent or delay the onset of age-related eye diseases.

Swiss chard Types

  • Bright Lights has brilliant multi-colored leaves and stems(white, orange, yellow, purple, pink).
  • Fordhook Giant has huge glossy leaves with white veins and stems. It is tasty and high yielding, producing bumper crops, even during high temperatures.
  • Lucullus produces pale yellow-green leaves with fleshy midribs with green stalk. Perpetual Spinach, or Spinach Beet, produces narrower stems, and dark, fleshy leaves.
  • Rhubarb Chard or Ruby Chard is noted for its magnificent bright crimson leaf stalks and dark green ruffled leaves.
  • Vulcan produces beautiful red stems and dark green, sweet tasting leaves.
  • White King has snow white stalks and deep green leaves.

Swiss Chard Super Food Qualities

Swiss Chard is a perfect representative for the cruciferous vegetable family not just because it's full of nutrients, but also due to the fact it's low in calories (1 cup - 35 calories).

The mixture of nutritional vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, plus the fiber content, may be helpful in stopping digestive tract cancers. Clinical tests about Chard have concentrated particularly on colon cancer. Many of the results showed how precancerous lesions inside clinical animals would attach themselves to the swiss chard or fibers and exit the body.

It's also an effective non-dairy supply of calcium. Calcium is a nutrient required for optimum bone strength. It also happens to also be a great supply of vitamin K, that has a role in sustaining bone strength because it stimulates osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is the main non-collagen protein in your bones. In addition, the magnesium present is also necessary for strong bones.

Finally, swiss chard has vitamins and minerals that are great for your heart. Magnesium, as well as potassium, are two minerals that Chard is a great supply of. Both minerals are essential for controlling balanced blood pressure levels. One particular study discovered that males who ate more potassium-rich foods, and foods full of magnesium and fiber -- also supplied by Swiss Chard, had a much lower chance of having a stroke.

Swiss Chard Health Benefits

  • Swiss chard, like spinach, is the store-house of many phytonutrients that have health promotional and disease prevention properties.
  • Chard is very low in calories (19 kcal per 100 g fresh, raw leaves) and fats, recommended in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
  • Chard leaves are an excellent source of anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-C. Its fresh leaves provide about 33% of recommended levels per 100 g. As an anti-oxidant, vitamin C helps to quench free radicals and reactive oxygen species through its reduction potential properties. Research studies suggests that regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps maintain normal connective tissue, prevent iron deficiency, and also helps body develop resistance against infectious agents by boosting immunity.
  • Chard is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin-K; 100 g provides about 700% of recommended intake. Vitamin K has potential role bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet helps limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
  • It is also rich source of omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin-A and flavonoids anti-oxidants like ß carotene, ?-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • It is also rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions.
  • It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for cellular oxidation and red blood cell formation.
  • Regular inclusion of swiss chard in the diet is found to prevent osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, vitamin A deficiency and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers.

Caution

Swiss chard is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating Swiss chard. Studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in the research study, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits - including absorption of calcium - from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content.

Swiss Chard Storage and Preparation Tips

  1. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked spinach.
  2. To remove dust and sand, wash the Swiss chards properly, by immersing them in a bowl of cool water and rinsing them thoroughly. Repeat the process several times.
  3. For cooking chards, remove the lower portion of the stalk. In case, the stalk is very fibrous, make an incision close to the base of the stalk, peel the fibers and then use the remaining portion.
  4. Avoid cooking Swiss chards in aluminum pots, as the oxalates present in the vegetable react with the metal and cause discoloration of the pot.
  5. Prior to cooking the leaves of Swiss chards, cook the stalks, as they are thicker and require longer time to cook.
  6. Always opt for quick boiling of the vegetable, instead of steaming, as this helps to free the oxalic acids. It also removes the bitterness from the vegetable and makes it sweeter.

Recipes for Swiss Chard

Chard Parmesan

Ingredients:
Butter, 2 tablespoons
Olive oil, 2 tablespoons
Minced garlic, 1 tablespoon
Small red onion, diced, 1/2
Swiss chard leaves, with stems, 8 large
White wine, 1/2 cup
Fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon
Grated Parmesan, 2 tablespoons

Directions:

  1. Cut out the chard stems, dice, and set aside.
  2. Coarsely chop the leaves.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Stir in the garlic and onion, and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the chard stems and the white wine.
  6. Simmer until the stems begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the chopped chard leaves, and cook until softened.
  8. Add lemon juice and Parmesan cheese.

Chard and Goat Cheese Frittata

Ingredients: Swiss chard leaves, with stems, 8 large
Extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons
Red onion, thinly sliced, 1 medium
Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
Fresh rosemary, minced, 2 teaspoons
Garlic cloves, minced, 3
Eggs, 8 large
Fresh ground black pepper
Soft goat cheese, crumbled, 4 ounces

Directions:

  1. Cut out the chard stems, dice, and set aside.
  2. Coarsely chop the leaves.
  3. In a large cast iron skillet*, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  4. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and rosemary.
  5. Sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat, until the onions are soft and beginning to brown.
  6. Stir in the chard leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until the greens begin to soften. Remove from heat.
  7. Stir in garlic and chard stems, and set aside.
  8. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, add the chard mixture and goat cheese, and stir to combine.
  9. Preheat the broiler in the oven.
  10. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, pour in the chard-egg mixture and cook for about 3 minutes.
  11. Place the skillet in the oven and for 3 minutes.
  12. Pry the frittata from the edges of the skillet and invert it onto a serving platter.
  13. Cut into wedges and serve.

*If you don't have cast iron, use a skillet with an over-safe handle

Chard Salad

Ingredients:
Chard stems, 3 lb.
Water, 1 quart
Garlic, 1 clove
Salt, 1 teaspoon
Oil, 1/3 cup
Lemon juice, 1/2 cup
Dried crushed mint, 1 teaspoon

Directions:

  1. Cut chard stems into 1-inch pieces and boil them in water with salt for 15 minutes.
  2. Squeeze out excess water.
  3. Mash the garlic and salt together.
  4. Add oil, lemon and mint. Mix well, pour over chard stems, and toss well.

Swiss Chard Bake

Ingredients:
Swiss chard, 1½ pound
Onion, minced, ½
Butter, 2 tablespoon
Well beaten, 4 eggs
Buttermilk, 1 cup
Flour, 2 tablespoon
Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
Few drops of pepper sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese, 1 package

Directions:

  1. Wash and peel stems from chard and drop in boiling water. Cook about 3 minutes before adding the leaves. Cook another 3 minutes.
  2. Remove from water and cut into pieces.
  3. Cook onion in butter a few minutes.
  4. Then add the Swiss chard to skillet with onion and butter stirring constantly to the flavor of onion and butter. Set aside.
  5. Beat eggs, add buttermilk, flour and salt and pepper. Mix well together. Combine cheese.
  6. In greased casserole place a layer of chard and a layer of cheese until all in dish. Cover with egg mixture. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Swiss Chard Wraps

Ingredients:
Swiss chard leaves, at least 9 inches, 9-10
Tomato, sliced and cut in half, 1 large
Mozzarella cheese, grated, 1/2 cup
Olive oil, 2 tablespoons
Onion flakes, 1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Steam Swiss chard for a few minutes. Do not overcook.
  2. Open leaves and brush on olive oil lightly.
  3. Put tomato slice in center of leaf
  4. Top with pinch onion - salt and pepper and one tablespoon cheese.
  5. Fold leaf around tomato - this will hold together well.
  6. Put on grill until hot - can turn once.
  7. Works best if you use a 2 sided grill that holds food in place.
  8. This can also be cooked in oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Scalloped Chard and Potatoes

Ingredients:
Swiss chard, 1 bunch (about 1 lb.)
Baking potatoes, 4 meduim sized
Butter, 1/4 pound melted
Eggs, 3 slightly beaten
Milk, 1/4 cup
Garlic salt, 1½ teaspoon
Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon
Onion, 2 tablespoon minced
Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup grated

Directions:

  1. Wash chard under running water and pat dry.
  2. Cut stems out of each leaf; slice stems into 1/4" pieces and place in a large bowl.
  3. Stack leaves and cut across in 1/2" strips; add to stems.
  4. Scrub potatoes and slice into 1/8" slices (6 to 7 cups); set aside about 1 1/2 cups to go on top of the casserole mixture, stir, and set aside.
  5. Use about 3 tablespoons of the butter to generously grease a shallow 2 quart baking dish.
  6. Add remaining butter to chard mixture, stir and set aside.
  7. Line bottom of casserole dish with a layer of sliced potatoes to cover.
  8. Top with a layer of Swiss chard.
  9. Beat together eggs, milk, garlic salt and pepper, minced onion and cheese.
  10. Pour half of the egg mixture evenly over contents of dish.
  11. Top with another layer of potatoes. Pour over remaining egg mixture.
  12. Sprinkle with an extra tablespoon of grated cheese, if desired.
  13. Spray top of casserole with olive oil spray to keep it moist.
  14. Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned.