Chard is one of the vegetables with the highest contribution of minerals and vitamins that we can find. It is a very healthy vegetable, essential to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. That is why it is very popular in the Mediterranean Diet. Widely used in cleansing and diuretic diets, chard has many more properties and benefits that we will see later. If you want to know more about this magnificent food, join us to discover it.
Swiss chard is a biennial herbaceous plant, which means that it flowers in the second year after cultivation. It is characterized by its large bright green or reddish leaves, depending on the variety. In addition, we can find them for much of the year, as they have a wide season, as we saw in our calendar of seasonal vegetables.
Chard is a vegetable native to Europe, especially the Mediterranean coast, and is consumed all over the world. In ancient times, they were already known for their culinary uses. It is a very versatile food and highly appreciated for its nutritional value. They can be consumed in a multitude of ways, even raw, used in salads if they are very tender. In addition, the whole plant is used, both the leaf and the stem, the white part. Except for the larger leaves, as the stem can be bitter.
As we said, it is highly appreciated for its enormous nutritional qualities. It has a high fiber content and very few calories. Among the nutrients it provides, we find vitamins A, B1, B3, B5, B6 B9, C, E and K. In addition to minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium, copper, iron and phosphorus. It also contains Omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids and beta-carotene.
But first, let’s go through a bit of history
The origin of Swiss Chard is in Europe, specifically in the lands bathed by the Mediterranean Sea. Many experts agree in pointing to Italy as the first place where this vegetable began to be cultivated.
It is even believed that already in the IX century B.C., in ancient Mesopotamia, this vegetable was consumed.
For centuries, chard has been a fundamental food source for both humans and animals, thanks to its enormous properties and health benefits.
During the 5th century B.C. it was a common ingredient in the Egyptian and Greek peoples, where its cultivation began. It was also used for its medicinal and therapeutic properties.
Centuries later, its role was relegated to people with little purchasing power; it was even used as fodder for animals.
During the 19th century, the consumption of its root was only used for the production of sugar and the extraction of alcohol.
Nutritional value of chard, a food loaded with nutrients
As we mentioned before, chard is a vegetable that is highly appreciated for its nutritional value. It is rich in vitamin C, a vitamin with antioxidant effects that helps our body to absorb iron. It is also rich in vitamin A, which helps our body to fight infections; at the same time it is an essential vitamin for the skin, hair and eyes.
Just 100 g. of chard cover 50% of our daily iron, 30% of calcium and 20% of potassium needs.
But it is also a vegetable rich in beta-carotene, iodine, folic acid, vitamin E and magnesium.
Benefits and Properties of Swiss Chard
As you can see, it is a vegetable with important nutritional contributions. That is why, a regular consumption of chard gives us a multitude of properties and benefits. Let’s see them in detail:
- It is an essential ingredient in slimming recipes. Chard has a low calorie intake, only 19 Kcal per 100 g.
But in addition to its low calories, it provides us with all the nutrients necessary to maintain a balanced diet. That is why they are a perfect choice for those who follow slimming diets. In addition, they have a high satiating action, helping us to reduce the amount of food eaten or prevent us from snacking between meals.
- Another of the great qualities of chard is its contribution of dietary fiber, necessary to control the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. But it is also responsible for improving intestinal transit and combating constipation.
It favors digestion. Its contribution of dietary fiber, mentioned above, also helps us to have a good digestion after meals, in addition to detoxify the kidneys.
- Chard’s other property is its ability to strengthen the skeletal system. This is thanks to its vitamin K content. Numerous studies agree that people who include vitamin K in their diet on a regular basis are less likely to suffer bone fractures.
- It is also a source of calcium, another great ally in maintaining good bone health. All this prevents osteoporosis problems in adults. And in children and young people, it promotes proper bone development.
Chard has an alkalizing effect, that is, it helps our organism not to lose minerals
- Vitamin K is also responsible for improving blood circulation. Helping our organism in the prevention of hemorrhages and the appearance of hematomas.
- It improves our cardiovascular health due to potassium, since it maintains a balanced blood pressure; and, on the other hand, due to its antioxidant effects and its contribution of phytonutrients, which also prevent cardiovascular diseases.
- Chard also has dermatological properties, helping us to maintain a healthy skin, while stimulating the hair follicles, which translates into shiny and healthy hair.
- In addition to their alkalizing effect, they also have a diuretic effect, which makes them a depurative food, and they help us to relieve irritations in the urinary tract.
- And finally, chard provides us with a large amount of folates, which are responsible for preventing neurological disorders in babies.
Uses in the kitchen, What is the best way to cook Swiss Chard?
As we have mentioned before, chard is a very versatile food in the kitchen. We can prepare them in a multitude of ways. But, if we want to benefit from all the nutritional properties of chards, it is best to eat them raw, since, in this way, they will not lose any of their nutrients and contributions. And the fact is that any food, when cooked in any way, loses nutrients to a greater or lesser extent.
Although we are not very accustomed to consume chard raw, we can use them in this way in delicious salads. Of course, we recommend that they are tender and young specimens, since they will be more appetizing for this type of dishes.
If we prepare them in salads we must take into account their bitter touch. Therefore, we must combine them with ingredients that compensate it. For example, they will be better with avocado, raisins, orange…
The best way to consume them without losing any nutrients is raw, either in salads or drinks
The next healthiest option for cooking chard without losing too many nutrients would be boiled or steamed, although for this type of food the former is recommended.
If you are going to prepare boiled chard, a trick to avoid losing too many nutrients during cooking is to do it with little water. The water should barely cover the food. If we boil it in too much water, it will lose more nutrients. We will also cook it in pieces as large as possible, or even the whole leaves. Another option is to add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to the cooking water, as it prevents the loss of certain vitamins.
And finally, what should we take into account when buying fresh Swiss chard?
When buying these fresh vegetables, we must first look at the stem or stalk, that it is very white (or, if they are other varieties, since there are chard with colored stems, that it has a bright and uniform color); and that the leaves are firm and uniform.
If, on the other hand, the leaves are too large, rough to the touch, and the greenness of the leaves turns yellowish, it means that the chard was about to bloom or had already done so. The stalk of these specimens will have a much more bitter taste, so we recommend that you avoid it.
As you can see, there are many benefits and properties that chard offers us. It is a food that, undoubtedly, we have to include regularly in our diet if we do not already do so. In addition, with so many options to taste them we will never get bored of this vegetable.
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