Latin name: Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Other names: crab beet, perpetual spinach, silverbeet, spinach beet, Swiss chard
What is Chard?
A leafy vegetable from the same family as beets and spinach, chard shares the same slightly bitter taste. Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with crunchy stems that come in all colors of the rainbow including red, pink, white, yellow and orange. Young chard can be eaten raw in salads, but mature chard leaves and stalks are usually cooked or sautéed, which fades the bitter taste.
Swiss chard isn’t actually native to Switzerland, as the name would suggest. The botanist that gave chard its scientific name in the nineteenth century was Swiss, and since them, the name stuck. Chard is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, and indeed, one of the first passing mentions of chard was in the fourth century BC by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
What are the health benefits of Chard?
Considered neutral and sweet in nature, traditional Chinese medicine uses chard in the treatment of dysentery, boils, and skin lesions.
The ancient Greeks, and later the Romans celebrated chard for its many medicinal properties. Modern science has caught up with this wisdom. Nutritionally, chard is packed with many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin E, copper, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and protein, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, folate, biotin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. It is also a good source of dietary fiber.
Chard’s high amounts of vitamin K, as well as the magnesium and calcium, are important for maintaining bone health. Both vitamin A and beta-carotene support vision health. Additionally, research indicates that for smokers, vitamin A-rich foods, such as chard, increase your lifespan. Because of its potassium and magnesium content, chard is helpful at preventing high blood pressure and protecting against atherosclerosis. Also, many research studies have suggested that chard is especially beneficial for protecting against colon cancer. One cup of chard provides nearly one-fourth of your daily intake of iron, keeping your immune system healthy and helping your body produce energy.
Are there any precautions for Chard?
Be aware that chard contains high amounts of oxalic acid, which has been implicated in gout and kidney stone formation.
Where can I find Chard?
Chard can be found in most grocery stores and outdoor markets in season. Available year round, chard is most abundant and is best from late spring to fall.
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