Swiss chard is a leafy vegetable which is mostly used in cooking Mediterranean dishes, although it is quickly becoming popular in the US where it is used in quiche, stir fry, salads and plenty of other dishes. Chard is often considered among the healthiest vegetables thus making it a valuable and wonderful addition to healthy diets. Some of the common names used to refer to chard include silver-beet, spinach beet, spinach, bright lights, crab beet mangold and seakale beet. Even though chard is part of the beet family, the stalks and the leaves are the ones popularly used as opposed to its roots. Swiss chard have green or dark-green leaves while the stalks tend to vary in color such as red, white, red, green purple, yellow, pink and green.
Selection and Storage of Swiss Chards
The best varieties of Swiss chard are available during the periods of summer between the months of June and October. The harvesting can be done when the leaves of the vegetables are tender and young. However, if you prefer, you can even harvest them once they have matured particularly when their leaves are bigger and have attained tougher stems. As you shop for chard from the stores, choose fresh leaves that appear crispy and crunchy. Furthermore, the best varieties have a bright dark-green color.
Bear in mind that chard is a highly perishable vegetable. Consequently, you need to consume it as soon as you can after purchasing or harvesting. If you choose to store in the refrigerator, set the temperature lower than 35 degrees Fahrenheit. High humidity levels on the other hand ensure freshness is maintained for about 3 days.
The Healthiest Ways of Preparing And Cooking Chard
Just like all other vegetables, chard should be washed by running through cold water for a while. Afterwards, you can rinse in saline water so that soil and other forms of dirt are removed. The rinsing also removes any insecticide or fungicide residues that might be left. To get the most from chard, you can use it as an addition in raw salads while the more mature stalks and leaves of the vegetable can be braised, cooked or sautéed and the bitter taste usually fades once cooked. Remember however that the antioxidant properties of chard tend to decrease quite significantly should you choose to steam, fry or boil chard. People in the Mediterranean and Italian regions prefer consuming it in the form of Silverbeet pie together with raisins and pistachio. Others also prefer to eat it in cheese stuffing which is also a favorite in the region.
Among all the vegetables, Swiss chard only ranks second to spinach in terms of nutrient-richness. Despite this, you need to boil it in order to reduce the high concentration levels of oxalic acid. Once you have sliced the leaves and the stems, you can boil for approximately three minutes.
Since the vegetable is rich in calcium, vitamin K and magnesium, it can easily improve and strengthen your bone structure including your teeth. Chard also has cancer fighting properties. It is considered a super-food which has the capacity to fight off cancer and this is attributable to the anti-cancer properties considering it has an abundance of phytonutrients, fiber and other numerous antioxidants.
The vegetable is also rich in iron that is essential for making sure a good and healthy blood circulatory system is properly maintained. The other nutrient, Vitamin K on the other hand is vital for promoting blood clotting thus preventing excessive bleeding and bruising after an injury. Consequently, you will be glad to learn that chard contains significant amounts of iron.
Chard is also good for maintaining good eye health since it contains lutein in huge amounts. Lutein is an antioxidant that is required for good eye health. Furthermore, it could also possibly delay or even prevent macular degeneration that usually comes about during old-age.
Swiss chard also contains syringic acid and fiber and both of these nutrients are important for regulating sugar levels in the blood thereby changing the rate within which sugar consumed is absorbed. In addition, chard is also vital for maintaining good brain health. Other than strengthening bones, vitamin K found in the vegetable is vital for proper brain functioning. Just like the brain, the nervous system also benefits from the vitamin K since it aids in the creation of a protective layer for the nerves which are referred to as myelin sheath.
The antioxidant properties are also benefits derived from consumption of chard since the vegetable is counted among the foods which are richest in antioxidant in the world. It contains vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, zinc, quercetin, kaempferol, zea-xanthin and many more disease fighting components.
If you want your hair to grow healthy and long, then you might want to consider consuming chard since it promotes the growth of good and healthy hair. It contains biotin which is a vitamin essential for aiding growth and strengthening hair. Vitamin A and vitamin C also help hair follicles produce sebum thus enabling your skin and hair to remain supple.
Due to the high content of vitamin K in chard, patients being treated using anti-coagulant therapy like warfarin are strongly discouraged from using the vegetable as it increases concentration of vitamin K in blood while this is what drugs used for the treatment procedures attempt to lower. This can consequently make it necessary for dosages to be increased thus leading to toxicity.
Oxalic acid is also present in Swiss Chard. Oxalic acid is a substance that naturally occurs in most vegetables and it may crystallize and turn into stones inside the urinary tract, but this only happens to some people. For this reason, people with urinary tract complications associated with oxalic should avoid chard as much as possible. Instead, you can drink sufficient amounts of water in order to ensure you have normal urine outflow.