If you didn’t grow up eating Swiss chard, chances are you know very little about what this colorful green tastes like (let alone which types of nutrients it contains). In recent years, all the rage has been surrounding kale, another popular superfood. Although it seems that most health-conscious folks are kale connoisseurs (kale chips, anyone?), the taste of this superfood can be a bit bitter to some. Known for its slightly milder flavor and brightly colored celery-like stalks (think red, pink, yellow, and orange), Swiss chard is chock-full of healthy antioxidants that play a key role in lowering blood sugar. Now that’s worth learning more about.
Nutrient Profile of Swiss Chard
Did you know that kale isn’t as nutrient-dense as some other leafy greens? That’s right—Swiss chard, collard greens, and watercress all contain more nutrients and fiber than kale. Even romaine lettuce outscored kale in 2014 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, Swiss chard has 16 percent more iron than kale. With these facts at hand, let’s dive into learning about the other nutrients that make Swiss chard the new ‘supergreen’ in town:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E (usually found in high-fat foods, but Swiss chard is a healthy, low-fat source)
- Vitamin K
- Flavonoid antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lutein
- Omega-3 fats
Swiss chard is also very low in calories. In fact, eating 100 grams of fresh raw chard leaves adds up to a measly 19 calories. But just because it’s low-calorie doesn’t mean it’s low in nutrients. One serving of Swiss chard provides about 33 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C intake. In addition, one cup of cooked chard gives you all the vitamin A and vitamin K you need in a day.
Read more about the nutrients in specific fruits and vegetables: Spotlight On Blueberries: Serious Antioxidant Action for Your Heart
Health Benefits of Swiss Chard
A diet rich in Swiss chard has been linked to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol. The phytochemicals found in this green have also shown to be effective in maintaining healthy vision.
Perhaps the most impressive health benefit of Swiss chard is the way it affects blood sugar. Growing research provides strong evidence that eating a diet filled with antioxidants, such as vitamin C and flavonoids (both found in Swiss chard), can help regulate blood sugar levels by improving the way that insulin is secreted from your pancreas. This is very promising news for all those who are overweight, obese or managing type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Although getting used to the flavor of Swiss chard may take some time (especially if it wasn’t on your plate as a kid), finding ways to incorporate more of this healthful vegetable into your diet can make a world of difference for your overall health.
Tips for Adding More Swiss Chard to Your Diet
When leaves are young and tender, Swiss chard can be eaten raw (like in a salad). When leaves reach full maturity, however, their strong flavors may become too pungent to eat raw; matured leaves are best prepared through brief cooking methods like sautéing or steaming. In fact, part of the charm of Swiss chard is that the leaves’ mild bitterness often fades away with cooking, proving a lighter and more refined flavor. Here’s a look at three ways you can add more Swiss chard to your diet:
- Swap spinach for Swiss chard when sautéing your greens: Heat butter, oil, and herbs in a skillet. Then add Swiss chard and sauté for one to two minutes. Read the full recipe here: Sautéed Swiss Chard With Butter and Herbs
- Add Swiss chard to your favorite soup recipe: The hearty, distinct-tasting leaves of this vegetable wilt nicely in soups, stews, and curries.
- Chop up Swiss chard for a filling, nutrient-dense salad: Finely chop one bunch of Swiss chard. In a medium-sized salad bowl, combine chopped chard with minced garlic, sea salt, Parmesan cheese, and fresh breadcrumbs. Drizzle lemon or extra virgin olive oil over your creation for a healthy, fresh burst of flavor.
There are many types of Swiss chard to choose from. Rainbow chard is rather flamboyant, boasting brightly-colored red, pink, yellow, and orange stalks. The pigments found in these stalks are known as betalains. Betalains contain powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Whether you pick rainbow chard or something more commonly stocked in food stores like Fordhook Giant or Rhubarb, loading up on this hearty veggie is a great way to add more vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats to your diet. And if blood sugar is a concern to you or a loved one, remember that Swiss chard is one of the best foods you can eat to keep sugar levels in check.
Berkeley Wellness. Beyond kale: 5 other super greens. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/beyond-kale-5-other-super-greens. Updated May 2016. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Gans, K, Huffington Post. Kale competitors: How do other greens stack up? https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/18/kale-compared-to-other-vegetables_n_3762721.html. Updated August 2013. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Add color to your diet for good nutrition. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/add-color-to-your-diet-for-good-nutrition. Updated July 2013. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Berkeley Wellness. Swiss chard: A superb green. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/swiss-chard-superb-green. Updated June 2016. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Dr. Joseph Mercola. What is Swiss chard good for? http://foodfacts.mercola.com/swiss-chard.html. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Berkeley Wellness. Types of cooking greens. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/types-cooking-greens. Updated August 2015. Accessed February 5, 2018.