What's New and Beneficial About Swiss Chard
• We've become accustomed to thinking about vegetables as great sources of phytonutrients. Indeed they are! But we don't always appreciate how unique each vegetable can be in terms of its phytonutrient content. Recent research has shown that chard leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including kaempferol, the cardioprotective flavonoid that's also found in broccoli, kale, strawberries, and other foods. But alongside of kaempferol, one of the primary flavonoids found in the leaves of chard is a flavonoid called syringic acid. Syringic acid has received special attention in recent research due to its blood sugar regulating properties. This flavonoid has been shown to inhibit activity of an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase. When this enzyme gets inhibited, fewer carbs are broken down into simple sugars and blood sugar is able to stay more steady. It makes sense to think about chard as a vegetable whose flavonoid phytonutrients are unique and may offer special benefits for blood sugar control.
• Like beets, chard is a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. In the betalain family are found reddish-purple betacyanin pigments as well as yellowish betaxanthin pigments. Both types can be found in chard! In the reddish-purple stems of chard and the reddish-purple veins in the leaves, scientists have identified at least 9 betacyanin pigments, including betanin, isobetanin, betanidin, and isobetanidin. In the yellowish stems and veins, at least 19 betaxanthin pigments have been identified, including histamine-betaxanthin, alanine-betaxanthin, tyramine-betaxanthin, and 3-methoxytyramine-betaxanthin. Many of the betalain pigments in chard have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. The detox support provided by betalains includes support of some especially important Phase 2 detox steps involving glutathione. So you can see that in the case of chard, beauty is far from just skin deep!
• Swiss Chard
• Botanical name: Beta vulgaris
• Swiss chard is not only a superstar in Mediterranean cooking, but is also one of the most nutritious vegetables around today. It has distinctly large, dark green leaves, which are harvested at various stages of maturity. The whole plant with tender, young leaves can be used for salads, while the individual large-sized, mature leaves can be harvested for sautéing and cooking dishes.
• The vegetable is known by many names, including silverbeet, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, bright lights, crab beet, and seakale beets. In South Africa, however, it is simply called spinach. It has been around for centuries, but has been confused with beets and other vegetables like cardoon because of their physical similarities.
• Swiss chard comes in various types depending on shine, crunchy stalks, and petiole. There’s the green stalk (Lucullus), Red stalk (Charlotte, Rhubarb chard), and multicolor stalks (bright lights).
• This annual crop, widely grown around the Mediterranean region and available at its best from June to November, is so flexible in the kitchen. Fresh, young ones are used raw in salads, while mature ones are sautéed or cooked. One example is pizzoccheri, a kind of flat ribbon pasta enjoyed in Italian cooking. In Egyptian cuisine, it is commonly cooked with taro root and coriander in a light broth. The leaves’ bitterness fades with cooking, giving you a refined flavor.
Health Benefits of Swiss Chard
• While it has not been as extensively studied as other vegetables like beets and spinach, Swiss chard has earned its right to be routinely included in healthy diets around the world. It has an impressive phytonutrient profile, as easily recognized in its vibrant colors, from dark greens to red, purple, and a rainbow of colors in its stalks and veins. Phytonutrients are a source of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and whole body benefits.
• Swiss chard is very low in calories, or only about 19 calories per 100 grams of fresh, raw leaves. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, its fresh leaves providing about 33 percent of recommended levels per 100 grams. Vitamin C helps quench free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), and studies link the regular consumption of C-rich foods to the maintenance of normal connective tissue, prevention of iron deficiency, boosting immunity.
• Swiss chard is also a recommended source of vitamin K, omega-3 fats, vitamin A, and flavonoid antioxidants such as beta carotene, alpha carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. It can also be counted on to provide B-vitamins such as folate, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid, which are all essential for cellular metabolism to function optimally.
• In terms of mineral content, this vegetable has copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Potassium is considered the “good salt” and has made headlines for its role in helping lower blood pressure, while iron is required for cellular oxidation and the formation of red blood cells.