Swiss Chard

With its lush green leaves and crunchy stalks that range in colour from white to yellow to red, Swiss chard is as beautiful as it is nutritious.  Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, Swiss chard is a healthy addition to your diet.  It's easy to grow and one of the first vegetables to make its appearance in gardens across the country in late spring.  Whether you grow your own, or buy it from the market, Swiss chard deserves a spot on your menu.

Swiss Chard

Nutrition Notes

When it comes to vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemics, Swiss chard is hard to beat.

Research has linked higher intakes of green leafy vegetables, including Swiss chard, with a lower risk of lung and gastric and ovarian cancers.  In fact, one report from the Iowa Women's Health Study, which followed nearly 30,000 women for 10 years, found that compared to women who consumed few green leafy vegetables, those whose diets provided the most were 56 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer.

Eating more leafy greens might also help ward off heart attack and stroke.  A large study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating one daily serving of green leafy vegetables reduced the risk of heart disease in men and women by 23 percent.

Studies also show that green leafy vegetables help protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration thanks to their high lutein and zeaxanthin content, antioxidants that are concentrated in the eye. They may also play an important role in preventing osteoporosis, thanks to their exceptional vitamin K content.

Swiss chard stands out from other green leafy vegetables thanks a unique phytonutrient called betalain, which comes from its bright red and yellow pigments.  Many of the betalain pigments in Swiss chard have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties.    

Like many other leafy green vegetables, Swiss chard is low in calories, fat-free, high in fibre and a good source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as magnesium, potassium and iron. 

Nutrient information per ½ cup (125 ml) sautéed Swiss chard:


18 kcal


2 g


0 g


4 g


2 g

Vitamin A

268 ug

Vitamin C

17 mg

Vitamin K

303 ug


2 mg


80 mg


11 mg

Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b


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. The variety with dark green leaves and reddish stalks (rhubarb chard) have a stronger flavor than those varieties with lighter leaves and stalks. There is also a ruby chard, which has a bright red stalk and a deep red (tinged with green) leaf. Other varieties include:

Orange Fantasia: Vivid golden orange stalks and veins against dark green leaves. Broad stems are thick and crisp with a good chard flavor.

Fordhook Giant: An heirloom variety noted for its dark green deeply crinkled leaves and thick white stems. Has a nice mild flavor.

Lucullus: 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.


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.

Blanching: 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.

Braising: 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.

Microwaving: 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.

Sautéing: 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.

Steaming: If you have an electric vegetable steamer, follow the manufacturer's instruction for cooking Swiss chard. 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.


If you're not familiar with Swiss chard, try one of my delicious recipes. Again, the leaves can be used anywhere spinach would be. The big crinkly leaves can also be used to wrap around stuffings or small fish for steaming or roasting on the grill. The stems can be served as a side dish or as an ingredient in other recipes, like soups and stir-fries.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Swiss chard:


  • 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 arugula and spinach.
  • Add torn Swiss chard leaves to soup just before serving for a boost of colour and nutrients.
  • 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 alongside grilled fish or chicken. Click here for a recipe.

More Information

Wikipedia -

World's Healthiest Foods -

The Worldwide Gourmet -

Cooking Light-