Used a lot in Mediterranean cooking, Swiss chard is a leafy vegetable that “is considered to be one of the most healthful vegetables available, making it a popular addition to healthful diets” (Wikipedia). Swiss chard is related to the beet family. However, the root is not edible. It grows as a stalk that produces fleshy green ribs. The stalk is known as the leaf stalk and is usually white, yellow or red in color. The large leaves of Swiss chard are known as the leaf blades and can be green or red in color. The leaf blades and the leaf stalks are normally separated from each other and prepared in different ways when they are cooked. It has been used for centuries in Mediterranean cooking. While it may make a pleasant tasting meal, there are numerous health benefits when you include Swiss chard in your diet.
Swiss chard is an excellent source of potassium, magnesium and manganese which are all needed to keep our blood pressure numbers at a safe level. When we do not have enough of these in our daily diets, we run the risk of getting high blood pressure. When you keep your blood pressure lower you run a less risk of getting a heart attack or stroke. The American Heart Association states that food that contains potassium, magnesium and manganese play a key role in reducing blood pressure. Approximately four ounces of Swiss chard gives you 379 milligrams of potassium, 81 milligrams of magnesium and 16% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of manganese. That should be the number one reason why you should include Swiss chard in your daily diets.
Swiss chard is rich in Omega 3s fatty acids which play a role in lowering blood pressure. When you have too much low density lipoprotein (LDL)-also known as the bad cholesterol, the walls of your arteries get built up with fatty plaque. This will cause high blood pressure. This fatty plaque also restricts the blood flow through the arteries and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. “The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week” (HEARTORG).
Four ounces of Swiss chard gives you 5% of your RDA of calcium and more than 100% of Vitamin K. If you want to have and maintain healthy bones and teeth, eating Swiss chard is the way to go and may prevent osteoporosis when you get older. Not only is calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth, we also need it to lower the levels of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), otherwise known as the bad cholesterol.
Swiss chard provides us with 3% of your RDA in Thiamin, or Vitamin B1, which helps “helps the body’s cells change carbohydrates into energy” (medlineplus). This helps speed up metabolism and the rate in which we lose weight. Vitamin B3 (2% RDA)-or niacin-also plays a role in turning our food into energy. In addition to this, it helps raise the level of good cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein or HDL).
Swiss chard contains over 7% of your RDA of vitamin B6-or Pyridoxine-which is necessary in reducing the chances of getting heart disease, lowering the amount of bad cholesterol in our bodies, unclogging arteries and “reducing blood levels of homocysteine, a chemical that might be linked to heart disease “ (WebMD). Higher levels of homocysteine are one of the main causes of damage to the blood vessels and blood clots.
We need anti-oxidants to protect our bodies against free radicals or damaged cells. These damaged cells will attack the good ones and damage them as well. Swiss chard provides a strong anti-oxidant called beta-carotene, which plays a key role of destroying the bad cells before they cause any further damage. While this antioxidant helps repair damaged cells because of free radicals, they also bring about anti-aging properties. Including Swiss chard in your daily diet will help you maintain that youthful look. Not only will you look young on the outside, you also will be young on the inside since these anti-aging properties are effective in fighting against degenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Swiss chard gives us over 12% of your RDA of Vitamin E. This leafy vegetable helps the skin to remain smooth and moist and make your skin younger. Eating this may help clear up many skin conditions such as:
Four ounces of Swiss chard gives us 6% of your RDA of protein. If you work out at a gym, you want to have protein in your diet. The protein is needed to build muscle mass and to maintain it. When you have larger muscles, the body burns more calories. Even if you are not into body building, if you want to lose weight, including body toning exercises with your diet will help you burn off that body fat faster.
Swiss chard is an excellent source of dietary fiber. With almost two grams per serving, you are promoting excellent intestinal health when you include this vegetable in your daily diet. If you suffer from constipation or want to prevent it, eating Swiss chard helps keep you regular.
Swiss chard provides 50% of your RDA of Vitamin C. This is an excellent leaf vegetable that will give your immune system a major boost. If you have a cold or the flu, eating Swiss chard can help fight the symptoms. You can even prevent yourself from getting sick in the first place by including this vegetable in your daily diet.
Swiss chard provides 3% of your RDA in zinc. If you want to maintain good eyesight and prevent conditions such as myocardial infarction include this vegetable in your daily diet. Zinc also plays a role in cellular metabolism which is needed for our bodies to remain healthy.
Swiss chard contains over 20% of your RDA in iron. This vegetable is beneficial for people who have iron deficiencies. Even if you are not anemic, you can prevent anemia and iron deficiencies by including Swiss chard in your diet.
Our bodies need folic acid in order to have healthy cells. Expecting women need this acid to help prevent birth defects in their children. Since many leaf vegetables are high in folic acid, Swiss chard is the way to go.
Swiss chard provides 20% of your RDA in copper. Eating this vegetable may prevent premature graying of your hair. One of the reasons why some people get gray hair early in their lives is because they do not have enough copper in their diets.
Most grocery stores carry Swiss chard when it is in season, which is usually between June and September. There are several ways this vegetable can be consumed. These include:
However, before you consume this vegetable, make sure you wash it well. Talk to your doctor if you are taking blood thinners since this Swiss chard is considered to be a natural blood thinner. Also avoid eating Swiss chard if you have kidney disease or have urinary tract stones. This vegetable contains oxalic acid which may make the condition worse.