When it comes to vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemics, Swiss chard is hard to beat.
Numerous studies have found that eating plenty of leafy green vegetables slows cognitive decline in older adults. A steady intake of leafy greens is also thought to help protect against heart disease, stroke, hip fracture and certain cancers.
Swiss chard is also an outstanding source of lutein + zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that guard against cataract and macular degeneration.
Even your gut may benefit from eating more Swiss chard. It turns out, our good gut bacteria extract a sulfur-containing sugar in green vegetables, called SQ for short, to fuel their growth.
Swiss chard packs a serious nutritional punch. It's an exceptional source of magnesium (one cup delivers nearly half a day's worth for women!), potassium, beta-carotene and lutein + zeaxanthin. It's also a decent source of fibre, calcium, iron and vitamin C.
Note: There are no official daily requirements for beta-carotene and lutein. However, experts speculate that a daily intake of 3 to 6 mg of beta-carotene and 6 to 15 mg of lutein is needed to guard against disease.
Nutrient information per 1 cup (250 ml) chopped Swiss chard, cooked:
|Lutein + zeaxanthin
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28
Swiss chard has large crinkly green leaves and stalks that can vary in colour from white to yellow to red. There are thin-stemmed and thick-stemmed chard varieties. Most red chard is thin-stemmed.
- Rhubard chard has dark green leaves and reddish stalks and has a stronger flavor than those varieties with lighter leaves and stalks.
- Ruby chard has a bright red stalk and a deep red leaf that's tinged with green.
- Orange Fantasia has vivid golden orange stalks and dark green leaves. Its broad stems are thick and crisp and have a good chard flavor.
- Fordhook Giant is an heirloom variety noted for its dark green deeply crinkled leaves and thick white stems and mild flavor.
- Lucullus is another heirloom variety with light green deeply crinkled leaves on thick, white, long smooth stems.
- Silverado has broad white stems that support heavily crinkled, glossy dark green flavorful leaves.
Choose Swiss chard with bright green leaves that are shiny with a fresh green color. The leaves should not be yellowed or browned and should not have any marks, tiny holes or blemishes. The chard portion should be white, juicy and crisp, not spongy or wilted.
Wrap unwashed Swiss chard in damp paper towels. Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper for two to three days. If necessary, sprinkle lightly with cold water to keep it crisp.
Wash chard leaves and stems under cool running water before using to remove any sand or grit. To be sure, separate the leaves from the stems and swirl the leaves around in a large bowl of cool water. Carefully lift out. Remove the fibrous membrane if desired.
BLANCH If the Swiss chard is more mature then it's a good idea to blanch it before using in other dishes such as omelets or tarts. Blanch as you would any other vegetable by dropping the stems and leaves into boiling salted water for about two minutes. Drain and pat dry.
BRAISE In a skillet, start out by sautéing the stems as they are tougher and take longer to cook. Then add the greens and sauté a minute or so longer. Add a small amount of broth, water or wine and cook until chard is tender and minimal liquid remains, about five minutes.
MICROWAVE In a microwave safe dish, place chard that has been washed but not dried. Cover loosely and cook on high until tender. Cooking time will vary depending on how mature the chard is and on how much you are cooking. Watch closely as it can dry out and burn.
SAUTE For extra flavor, sauté sliced stems in a skillet with a little olive oil and garlic for about three minutes. In the same way that you would cook spinach, add leaves that have been washed but not dried. Sauté until liquid from greens has evaporated and chard is tender, about five to seven minutes depending on the quantity you are cooking.
STEAM Steaming is best for tender chard. It can be steamed whole or coarsely chopped. Place chard in a skillet and add about 1/2-inch of water, broth or wine. Cover and cook, stirring the chard occasionally, until the chard is soft and wilted, about five to seven minutes.
Swiss chard leaves can be used anywhere spinach would be. Its large crinkly leaves can also be used to wrap around stuffings or fish filets for steaming or roasting. The stems can be sauteed and served as a side dish or as an ingredient in other recipes, like soups and stir-fries.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy
- Add chopped Swiss chard to omelets, frittatas and other egg dishes.
- Serve Eggs Florentine with sautéed Swiss chard instead of spinach.
- Use raw (washed) Swiss chard leaves in salads along with lettuce and spinach.
- Add torn Swiss chard leaves to soup just before serving for a nutrient boost.
- Top off a sandwich with a few leaves of Swiss chard.
- Lightly sauté Swiss chard with olive oil, garlic and either balsamic vinegar or lemon juice for a quick side dish. Season with sea salt and pepper. Click here for a recipe.
- Substitute Swiss chard for spinach in soufflés.
- Use Swiss chard leaves and its colourful stalks as a pizza topping.
- Use Swiss chard in place of spinach when preparing lasagna and other pasta dishes.
- Serve a spicy Swiss chard side dish with grilled fish or chicken. Try this recipe!