You probably already know that chard is nutritionally packed since it’s a dark green leafy vegetable. And when it comes to nutritious foods, green leafy things like chard is a popular component of healthy diets. Chard is used for cooking for centuries, but because it’s a lot similar to beets and veggies like cardoon, the common names for chard have become confusing.
This versatile green – also called spinach beet, silverbeet, rainbow chard, perpetual spinach, Roman kale, seakale beet, or leaf beet – has stems that come in a variety of colors, spanning the entire rainbow from white to purple. The most common colors of chard stems are white, gold, and red. Rainbow chard is all these varieties packed together to be sold at the market. Chard is a little pricier than other leafy greens.
Chard is most commonly referred to as Swiss chard, which is related to beets, and that’s why they look similar to beet greens. Its green leaves have a grooved, bumpy texture that runs up a colorful, thick stem. To make sure the chard is fresh, it must have bright green leaves and colorful stalks, and both must be firm. If you see brown stalks or wilting and yellowing leaves, pass on that chard.
Chard vs. Kale
Chard is comparable to any leafy green. In terms of taste and appropriate cooking methods, it’s most similar to spinach, but very comparable to kale as well. Both are better to eat with leaves removed from the stem. However, the colorful chard stems can be cooked to make it tender, but kale stems are best discarded as they won’t get soft even when cooked.
When it comes to taste, chard is milder and more approachable than kale. Kale is earthy and slightly bitter, and not all people enjoy its taste. So, when trying to eat healthier, more families find that chard is more manageable, no matter how much they try to get everyone to eat kale.
Nutritional Content of Chard
According to USDA, a 36-gram cup of raw Swiss chard contains 7 calories, 0.65 g of protein, 0.07 g of fat, and 1.35 g of carbohydrate, including 0.6 g of fiber and 0.4 g of sugar.
This amount of chard also provides:
- 18 mg of calcium
- 29 mg of magnesium
- 17 mg of phosphorus
- 136 mcg of potassium
- 65 mg of iron
- 8 mg of vitamin C
- 110 mcg of vitamin A
- 68 mg of vitamin E
- 298 mcg of vitamin K
- 5 mcg of folate
Swiss chard comes with antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, choline, and alpha and beta-carotene. It also contains trace amounts of riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium.
Health Benefits of Chard
Like eating different kinds of fruits and vegetables, consuming chard is associated with a reduced risk of adverse health conditions. According to science, these are the health benefits that consuming chard can do to your body:
1. It lowers blood pressure.
People whose diets are low in calcium, potassium, and magnesium are more prone to have high blood pressure. These minerals can reduce blood pressure by releasing sodium from the body and helping arteries to dilate. Studies have shown that Swiss chard can help reduce artery blockage and inflammation, and it can reduce platelet aggregation and stimulate proper blood pressure levels.
2. It helps destroy cancer cells.
Swiss chard can help destroy cancer cells, thanks to its many antioxidants and phytonutrients that have anticancer properties. These compounds stimulate proper cell health and immune response in the body.
The chlorophyll in chard effectively blocks some cancer-causing compounds generated when grilling foods at high temperatures. Eating some leafy greens or vegetables high in chlorophyll with grilled meats can help hinder their carcinogenic effects.
The vitamins in chard can also help prevent cancer. Vitamin A can block colon cancer as it induces stem cell growth, neutralizes the body’s immune response, and blocks tumor progression. Vitamins C, E, and K also help inhibit tumor growth.
3. It promotes bone health.
Vitamin K helps improve bone health. It improves calcium absorption, reduces urinary excretion of calcium, and modifies bone matrix proteins. It helps treat age-related bone weakness and affects blood clotting to prevent the development of osteoporosis. Deficiency in vitamin K has been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture.
Bone health is crucial since it can affect you from childhood to old age. Weak bones almost always lead to arthritis or osteoporosis. To fight bone damage, increasing the intake of vitamin K can help.
4. It reduces the risk of chronic diseases.
Chard is packed with antioxidants that are beneficial for reducing chronic diseases like liver disease. The antioxidants fight free radical damage in the body, helping minimize the risk of developing chronic diseases like liver disease, cardiovascular diseases, and type two diabetes. Vitamins C and E in chard also keep the body shielded from diseases.
5. It prevents cognitive decline.
Cognitive decline affects millions of people around the world. It happens due to old age, environmental factors, and genetic factors. But prevention and treatment of cognitive decline are possible with the help of nutritious fruits and vegetables. Chard is loaded with beta carotene, which reduces prolonged cognitive damage due to oxidative stress. A study reveals that men who take beta carotene in the form of fruits and vegetables for more than 15 years are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline.
Other studies have found that chard contains high levels of betalain, which helps reduce stress-related brain disorders. This compound also helps prevent free radical damage to the brain that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
6. It helps manage diabetes.
Chard contains alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant that can help lower glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity in diabetes patients. It also helps protect against retinopathy or damage to the blood vessels, which affects diabetes patients.
How to Add Chard to Your Diet
Chard can be a nutritious and delicious part of your meals and dishes. Young chard leaves can be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches. The more mature the leaves are, the tougher they become, so they are best served cooked. It’s best to remove the stems of chards as they can be tough. Some people cook the chard stems separately, often in the same ways asparagus is cooked.
Remember that the leaves of chard can trap dirt, so it needs to be thoroughly rinsed. You also need to cut off any damaged pieces at the bottom of the stem.
Here are some tips to add more chard to your diet:
- Mix fresh chard leaves to scrambled eggs to make an omelet.
- Add a handful of chard leaves and stems to a juice or smoothie before you blend.
- Add chard leaves to salads, sandwiches, wraps, or flatbreads.
- Sauté Swiss chard leaves and stems with olive oil and season it with minced garlic, ground black pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Add it to soups and casseroles to let it cook.