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Benefits of Swiss Chard
1. Swiss chard
Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that is scientifically classified as Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla, and it belongs to the family Chenopodiaceae. Swiss chard is actually a common name, but in reality, you can simply call the vegetable
Chard is a tall leafy green vegetable commonly referred to as Swiss chard and scientifically known as Beta vulgaris. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile with a flavor that is bitter, pungent, and slightly salty. Swiss chard is truly one of the vegetable valedictorians with its exceptionally impressive list of health promoting nutrients. Although Swiss chard is available throughout the year, its peak season runs from June through August when it is at its best and in the greatest abundance at your local supermarket.
Swiss chard isn t native to Switzerland. Its actual homeland of chard lies further south, in the Mediterranean region; in fact, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle wrote about chard in the fourth century B.C. This is not surprising given the fact that the ancient Greeks, and later the Romans, honored chard for its medicinal properties. 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.
4. Health Benefits
Although chard has not been studied as extensively as other chenopod vegetables (like beets and spinach), there s no question about the valuable role that chard can play in support of our health, or about its routine inclusion in healthy diets worldwide. The amazing variety of phytonutrients in chard is quickly recognizable in its vibrant colors, including the rich, dark greens in its leaves and the rainbow of reds, purples, and yellows in its stalks and veins. Virtually all of these phytonutrients provide antioxidant benefits, anti inflammatory benefits, or both. In addition, many provide health benefits that are more specific and of special important to particular body systems. Best researched in this area are phytonutrient benefits provided by chard for our body s blood sugar regulating system.
5. WHFoods Recommendations
Swiss chard is not only one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean but it is one of the most nutritious vegetables around and ranks second only to spinach following our analysis of the total nutrient richness of the World s Healthiest vegetables. It is also one of only three vegetables that we recommend boiling to help reduce its concentration of oxalic acid. Slice leaves 1 inch wide and the stems 1/2 inch wide and boil for just 3 minutes. We only recommend eating the stems of varieties with white stems; colored stems are very tough.
6. Blood Sugar Benefits
Multiple studies on animals have shown that chard has unique benefits for blood sugar regulation. In addition, chard may provide special benefits in the diets of individuals diagnosed with diabetes. Although large scale human studies have yet to be conducted in this area, lab studies and animal studies show that syringic acid one of chard s premiere flavonoids has the ability to inhibit activity of an enzyme called alpha glucosidase. Alpha glucosidase is an enzyme used to break down carbohydrates into simple sugars. When this enzyme gets inhibited, fewer carbs get broken down and blood sugar is able to stay more steady. This blood sugar steadying process seems to be particularly true following a meal.
7. Antioxidant and Anti Inflammatory Benefits
As an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene) and the mineral manganese, and a good source of the mineral zinc, Swiss chard offers an outstanding variety of conventional antioxidants. But these conventional antioxidants are only part of chard s fantastic health benefits with respect to prevention of oxidative stress and diseases related to chronic, unwanted oxidative stress. Equally outstanding are chard s phytonutrient antioxidants. These phytonutrient antioxidants range from carotenoids like beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin to flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. But the range of phytonutrients in chard is even more extensive than researchers initially suspected, and at this point in time, about three dozen antioxidant phytonutrients have been identified in chard, including betalains (both betacyanins and betaxanthins) and epoxyxanthophylls. Many of these antioxidant phytonutrients provide chard with its colorful stems, stalks, and leaf veins.
8. Support of Bone Health
With its very good supply of calcium and its excellent supply of magnesium and vitamin K, chard provides standout bone support. Although many people have already learned about the connection between minerals like calcium and health of bones, the role of vitamin K in support of bone has not received nearly as much media attention. Vitamin K1 helps prevent excessive activation of osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone. Additionally, friendly bacteria in our intestines convert vitamin K1 into vitamin K2, which activates osteocalcin, the major non collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone. All of these vitamin K related mechanisms point to the importance of vitamin K rich foods for bone health.
9. Tips for Preparing Swiss Chard
Rinse Swiss chard under cold running water. Do not soak chard as this will result in the loss of water soluble nutrients to the water. Remove any area of the leaves that may be brown, slimy, or have holes. Stack the leaves and slice into 1 inch slices until you reach the stems. Only the white stems of the Fordhook variety of chard are tender enough to eat. Cut stems into 1/2 inch slices discarding the bottom 1 inch portion. We don t recommend cooking the stems of the varieties with colored stems.
10. A Few Quick Serving Ideas
Toss penne pasta with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and cooked Swiss chard. Add zest to omelets and frittatas by adding some boiled Swiss chard. Use chard in place of or in addition to spinach when preparing vegetarian lasagna. Swiss chard is not indigenous to Switzerland, but is named after the Swiss botanist, Koch, who first gave it its scientific name.
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