Despite the name, Swiss chard isn’t actually from Switzerland. In fact, no one is entirely sure where the descriptor came from. This leafy green member of the beet family is, in fact, native to the Mediterranean. This is the birthplace of some other favorite diet foods such as extra virgin olive oil. Swiss chard may not be as popular as other leafy greens the likes of spinach or kale. However, it can be a valuable addition to any healthy lifestyle. It can also help you diversify your diet. To help you decide how to incorporate this leafy vegetable into your meal plan, below is information on the health benefits, nutritional value, and uses of Swiss chard.
Health Benefits of Swiss Chard
This leafy green has many benefits to your health. Some of these benefits include but aren’t limited to the following.
This leafy green contains a number of antioxidants, which target harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals are partly responsible for damaging skin cells, causing them to show signs of aging. Antioxidants prevent these free radicals from even forming, therefore slowing the aging process.
As you age, your body becomes less efficient at absorbing calcium. As a consequence, your bones to weaken, leading to osteoporosis. In fact, this happens mostly to women. This vegetable contains high levels of nutrients. They facilitate the absorption of calcium in the body, which helps prevent osteoporosis.
Another antioxidant contained in this leafy green is associated with lowering glucose levels and increasing sensitivity to insulin. Therefore, it is a must for those with diabetes. They need help controlling their blood sugar and insulin levels.
Protects Heart Health
On top of types of antioxidants which keep your heart healthy, this vegetable also contains an assortment of minerals. They help with the creation of red blood cells. Also, they lower blood pressure, supporting your overall cardiovascular health.
Antioxidants, of course, are most associated with their cancer-fighting properties. That is because free radicals can also damage your cells to the point where they become cancerous. Antioxidants stop this from happening in the first place.
This veggie also helps clear out your digestive tract. This makes it a great ingredient to prevent indigestion and treat constipation.
Supports a Healthy Brain, Nervous System, and Vision
The antioxidants and a significant number of vitamins and minerals also support neuronal connections. Also, they keep your eyes strong. Moreover, by maintaining your brain healthy, they help prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Swiss Chard Nutritional Value
This vegetable has a significant number of health benefits. Also, it is packed with nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Some of these nutrients include:
Vitamins: Chard contains a number of vitamins. Notably, a one-cup serving contains 635% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K. This facilitates the absorption of calcium in the body. It also contains significant amounts of vitamin A (60%). It protects your eye health. Also, it has vitamin C (42%) which supports a healthy immune system. Moreover, it has vitamin E (22%) which keeps your skin healthy. It also has vitamin B2 (12%) which supports your nervous system.
Minerals: This vegetable also contains a significant number of minerals. These include iron (22%), calcium (10%), magnesium (38%), and potassium (27%). Iron facilitates the production of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen through the blood stream. Magnesium and potassium support muscle health and help lower blood pressure.
Protein: Not many produce items double as good protein sources. Still, this vegetable is a rare exception. One cup of chard yields 3 grams of protein. You may not be able to get all of your protein from eating this vegetable. However, it can act as a solid supplement to any meal or snack.
Fiber: A serving also includes 4 grams of fiber, which aids in healthy digestion.
Antioxidants: As mentioned before, chard also contains a number of antioxidants. They protect cells from free radical damage that can cause cancer, skin damage, heart disease, and dementia.
Swiss Chard is also very low in calories. One cup of this leafy green contains only 35 calories. Therefore, this vegetable is a great way to bulk up your meals. In this way, you will feel full without adding inches to your waistline.
Swiss Chard Uses
Now that you have an idea of the health benefits of this vegetable, you may be wondering how you can use it in your diet. To make sure you are getting its full nutritive value, first, you need to take care when selecting chard. The deeper the green and firmer the leaves, the more nutrients the vegetable will have. However, darker leaves are more bitter. Lighter, more tender leaves, by contrast, will have a milder flavor.
• Raw: As with most vegetables, you get most of the benefits from eating the leaves raw. Always wash them first to cleanse them of dirt and pesticides. You can incorporate them into a salad or disguise them in a wrap or sandwich to add some crunch. You can also add the leaves into a green juice or blend them into a green smoothie.
• Cooked: Lightly cooking the leaves can reduce some of the bitterness. However, try only to steam, briefly boil (2 or 3 minutes), or lightly sauté the leaves to preserve the nutrient density of the vegetable. You can use the leaves to garnish a pizza or toss them into an omelet, soup, or stir fry, along with some watercress.
In short, Swiss chard is a rich source of many different vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. As such it has a number of health benefits for the human body. Have you tried chard before and have a favorite recipe? Do you have any questions about this leafy green? If so, please let us know in the comments below!