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For me, the weekly shopping trip is a daunting task, especially when you reach the vegetable aisle. Leafy greens loom above you, stacked to the ceiling. Daunting rows of foreign vegetables stretch across the length of the grocery store. With all these options, we surrender to the ingredients for our classic Caesar salads and vegetable medleys, ignoring what seems unfamiliar. What surprises me is that many people are unfamiliar with Swiss chard, walking by it without a second glance. Swiss chard is the leafy green vegetable that is probably beside the lettuce and spinach. When grown in a home garden, it resembles rhubarb, with reddish, yellow or white stalks. Sometimes all three colors are sold together, making a beautiful, colorful bunch. Unlike rhubarb, both the stalks and the leaves of this plant are edible, making it extremely versatile for cooking. Swiss chard is in the same family of vegetables as spinach and beets, meaning it contains some of the same botanical qualities. With a mild taste and a vast amount of nutrients, Swiss chard is a great place to start experimenting with new vegetables.
Vitamins and Minerals
Swiss chard, like its cousin, spinach, is a dark green leafy vegetable. The combination of the green color and the leafiness are a jackpot when it comes to nutrition. Cabbage, spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard all contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals with a low fat content. Filling up on leafy green vegetables is a great way to get your nutrients and keep a healthy calorie count. What makes these foods so magical? Let’s take a look at what one cup of Swiss chard has to offer your body.
Vitamin K: The amount of this vitamin in Swiss chard is off the charts—300 percent or more in a one-cup serving. If your bones were able to have a best friend, it would be vitamin K. When bone tissue begins to deteriorate, often due to aging or poor diet, vitamin K stops the process by rebuilding the tissue.
Vitamin A: This leafy green offers almost half of the required daily intake for vitamin A. One cup of Swiss chard offers 44 percent of the recommended intake. Vitamin A is often overlooked; however, this vitamin is important for the development of your retina, which is a very important tissue in the human eye and is essential for vision. Vitamin A intake will keep your retina performing at its best.
Vitamin C: Sometimes we just aren’t in the mood to drink our morning orange juice. Swiss chard offers a new way to get a bit of our required vitamin C intake. For one cup of Swiss chard, you can get 18 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C. This vitamin is used by every part of your body by aiding in repairing damaged cells and tissue. What you probably didn’t know about vitamin C is that it can actually slow down the process of aging by providing antioxidants that fight free radicals. So pickup a piece of Swiss chard and prepare to feel younger.
Iron: With a small amount of iron (2 percent), Swiss chard can provide you with a boost of energy. Iron ensures that oxygen is efficiently carried from the bloodstream to the heart and lungs, fighting off fatigue and allowing for a healthier lifestyle.
For less than twenty calories and zero grams of fat, you can enjoy this vegetable raw or cooked. After indulging, you can forget about the guilt complex and feel good about what you’re feeding your body.
Swiss chard makes a great side dish. If you’re getting tired of making the same salads and rice to compliment your main entree, throw some Swiss chard in a boiling pot of water. If you intend on using the whole vegetable, be sure to cook the stalks longer than the leaves. Once they are tender and cooked, the bitterness that’s found in the raw form will subside. For an easy side dish, simply boil the Swiss chard leaves for about three minutes. Keep in mind that cooked Swiss chard will condense, so don’t be afraid to pile the leaves in the pot. Once they’re cooked, season with salt and pepper or lemon juice for a healthy and natural side dish.
If you’re looking for something a bit more creative, try caramelizing one large onion. This can be done on the stove by chopping them and then cooking them with a little bit of oil. Stir occasionally and watch your onions transform into soft, golden strings. In this recipe, you can use the stalks by cutting them into long, slender strips and boiling them for about ten to fifteen minutes. For an extra warm flavor, toast about two tablespoons of pine nuts. Combine all the ingredients and cook in balsamic vinegar, tossing in the remaining leaves of the Swiss chard. Let the combination simmer and exchange flavors for about five minutes. This creates a delicious and healthy side dish that would be complimentary to any meal.
When there’s a chill in the air and you’re looking for a new way to enjoy this vegetable, try a homemade Vietnamese night. Pick up a can of soup broth: with beef broth and a large bundle of Swiss chard, you can make your own Pho soup. Making this soup at home allows you to season it to your taste. I personally love mushrooms, so I load up my broth with them, along with a bundle of Swiss chard, rice noodles, and bean sprouts. Season the soup with lime juice and coriander for a delicious night of foreign food.
With so many health benefits and such a low calorie count, it will be hard to pass by the Swiss chard on your next visit to the grocery store. For a more economical (and organic) way to enjoy Swiss chard, invest in a few plants or seeds and plant in your garden. This is a very low maintenance plant and only requires an occasional watering if the soil is rich and full of compost. Whichever way you get your hands on this nutritious plant, cook, boil, or bake it into a healthy and delicious side dish or snack.