Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of healthy living. This week we will learn more about a wonderful leafy green known as Swiss chard. Read all the way through where we share a couple amazing recipes for you to test out!
Swiss chard 101
Swiss chard is a plant grown for its green leaves and edible stalks. It is a member of the same family as the sugar beet (bearing the same scientific classification but lacking the enlarged bulb root), spinach, and amaranth.1 Swiss chard is quite cold-tolerant and can be grown and harvested from mid to late spring until the first few frosts of fall.
Swiss chard is a biennial plant meaning that its growth cycle spans two growing seasons. It can grow to a height of about 28 inches and has a bitter flavor due to the presence of oxalate in the leaves. Young leaves (baby Swiss chard) that are harvested at a height of four inches or less are lower in oxalate and can be eaten raw in salads or other dishes. Larger, more mature leaves and their stalks are typically cooked which causes the bitterness to fade and results in a flavor that is delicate and more mild than that of cooked spinach.
Swiss chard is well-known for its nutrient content, ranking among the top three most nutrient-dense by World’s Healthiest Foods behind broccoli and spinach.1 It contains many beneficial nutrients in the forms of vitamins and minerals as well as an array of important phytonutrients. Swiss chard is an especially rich source of Vitamin K, as well as vitamins C, E, B2 (riboflavin) and B6.2 In terms of minerals, it provides ample amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese.2 Other nutrients include choline, biotin, and fiber. In addition to these traditional nutrients, Swiss chard is also rich in phytonutrients including carotenoids (which the body can convert to vitamin A), flavonoids, and phenolic acids.
Where does Swiss chard come from?
The first uses of Swiss chard date back about 2,500 years ago. Interestingly, it is not native to Switzerland as the name would have you believe. Swiss chard is actually a derivative of the wild sea beet and is native to the Mediterranean region, growing along the border of the Mediterranean Sea in countries along the northern coast of Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe.1 Once people learned of its culinary uses, it quickly became a domesticated crop grown in many geographic regions around the world and can now be found virtually everywhere in many different types of cuisines.
Swiss chard is widely available in grocery stores. It is common to find organic varieties in conventional supermarkets. When purchasing Swiss chard, it is important to choose chard that is held in a chilled display as this will help to ensure that it has a crunchier texture and sweeter taste.1 The leaves should be bright green in color with no browning, yellowing or wilting. The leaves also should not have tears or tiny holes in them. The stalks come in a variety of colors including white, red, pink, purple, orange, yellow, and silver. They should appear firm and crisp without blemishes, bruises, or marring. Swiss chard is highly perishable. It should not be washed before storing and is best stored in a cool environment such as the refrigerator.
How does Swiss chard help my health?
Swiss Chard is worthy of the classification as a nutrient powerhouse vegetable whose vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients promote a number of health benefits. Swiss chard is rich in the carotenoid pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of which have been proven to improve visual memory, visual processing speed and more in older adults.3 The combination has also been shown to significantly improve other measures of cognitive functioning such as complex attention and cognitive flexibility.4 Swiss chard is also particularly rich in a phenolic compound called syringic acid. Research has found that syringic acid inhibits the formation of new fat, prevents fat accumulation, and acts as an antioxidant.5 Kaempferol and quercetin are two flavonoid phytonutrients found in Swiss chard. Recently published research has revealed that these two compounds have anti-fungal activity and the ability to slow the growth of and decrease the size of fungal biofilms.6
What medical conditions/symptoms is Swiss chard used for?
- Protects liver health
- Supports healthy cholesterol profile
- Promotes bone health
- Bolsters insulin production
- Preserves kidney function
When should Swiss chard be avoided?
Barring an outright allergy or sensitivity to the plant itself, Swiss chard can safely be consumed by most people. Some people however, particularly those on blood thinning medications like Warfarin/Coumadin, should consult with their physician before consuming Swiss chard. It is also high in oxalic acid which can be problematic for those with gout or kidney stones.
Let’s try out Swiss chard with these delicious and nutritious recipes!
Sautéed Swiss Chard with Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts
1 1/2 lbs. Swiss chard, stalks cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces (keep stalks and leaves separate)
2 T pine nuts
2 T olive oil
1/3 c golden raisins
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Wash chard, leaving some water clinging to stalks and leaves; set aside. In a large saucepan with a lid, toast the pine nuts over medium-high heat, shaking pan to brown evenly, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside.
- In same saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add stalks, and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add leaves, raisins, and garlic. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until tender, 6 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pull lid back slightly, and tilt pan to pour off water. Stir in vinegar and pine nuts; season with salt and pepper.
Thank you to Everyday Food for this great recipe.
Lemony Chicken and Rice Soup with Swiss Chard
2 T olive oil
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) chicken broth
8 c coarsely chopped Swiss chard, kale or spinach
2 large carrots, finely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium lemon, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 c lemon juice
4 t grated lemon zest
1/2 t pepper
4 c cooked brown rice
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken; cook and stir until browned. Transfer to a 6-qt. slow cooker. Repeat with remaining oil and chicken.
- Stir broth, vegetables, lemon slices, lemon juice, zest and pepper into chicken. Cook, covered, on low until chicken is tender, 4-5 hours. Stir in rice; heat through.
Thank you to Taste of Home for this great recipe!
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