Succulent swiss chard, also known as spinach-chard or silverbeet, is one of the popular green leafy vegetables of European origin. Botanically, it belongs to the beet family (Chenopodiaceae) of vegetables, which also includes table-beets, sugar-beets, garden-beets, etc.
Scientific name: Beta vulgaris, Cicla group.
|Red stalk chard. (Photo-by lagrande farmer's market)||White stalk chard. (Photo- by joephoto)|
Chard is an annual greens, grown widely around Mediterranean region and is available at its best during summer months from June until November.
Chard features distinctly large dark-green leaves with prominent petiole and well-developed edible stalk. Generally, its leaves are harvested at various stages of maturity. While the whole plant with its tender young leaves can be harvested for salad preparation, individual large-size, mature leaves with slightly tough textured stem may be picked up for sautéing and cooking in dishes.
Swiss chard comes in variety of types based upon their shiny, crunchy stalks and petiole:
Green stalk: Lucullus.
Red stalk: Charlotte, Rhubarb Chard.
Multi-color stalk: Bright lights (white, orange, yellow, purple, pink).
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 antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-C. Its fresh leaves provide about 33% of recommended levels per 100 g. As a powerful water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C helps remove free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from the human body through its reduction potential properties. Research studies suggest that regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C help maintain normal connective tissue, prevent iron deficiency, and also help the human 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 help 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, a-carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert to vitamin A inside the body.
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 chard in the diet has been found to prevent osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, and vitamin-A deficiency; and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers.
Swiss chard is available at its best during summer months from June until October. Chard can be harvested while its leaves are young and tender or after maturity when the leaves are larger and attained slightly tougher stems. In the store, buy fresh chard leaves featuring crispy, crunchy, brilliant dark-green color.
Chard is an extremely perishable leafy vegetable, and for the same reason it should be used as early as possible once harvested. If at all to store inside the refrigerator, then, set its temperature below 35 degree F and high humidity level to retain vitality for 1-2 days.
|Swiss chard-salmon recipe. (Photo-by selena)|
|Potato-soy pie with chard. Photo courtesy: George Kelly.|
As in spinach, chard leaves should be washed thoroughly in clean running water and rinsed in saline water for about 30 minutes in order to remove sand, dirt and any insecticide/fungicide residues.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh young chard leaves can be used raw in salads.
Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked, braised or sautéed; the bitter flavor fades with cooking. However, antioxidant properties of chard may significantly diminish on steaming, frying and boiling for long periods.
Because of its high vitamin K content, patients on anti-coagulant therapy such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid this food since it increases the vitamin K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are often attempting to lower. This effectively raises the dose of the drug and causes toxicity.
Swiss chard contains oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some vegetables, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. It is, therefore, advisable to avoid eating chard in people with known oxalate urinary tract stones. Adequate intake of water is therefore advised to maintain normal urine output. (Medical disclaimer).
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