One of the earliest local crops to come into season, Swiss chard also is one of the first to appear at the market in the springtime. As summer approaches, now is the perfect time to fall in love with Swiss chard if you haven't already. Whether or not you're familiar with the culinary potential this green has to offer, you will be surprised by the immense nutritional value packed into every serving.
Despite all of the hidden benefits chard has to offer, once you get to taste this delicious veggie, you won't need anything beyond its complex flavor to get you hooked for the rest of the season. This article will describe some of chard's lesser-known qualities, and give you tips on cooking it.
About the Plant
Swiss chard, or simply "chard", is a leafy green vegetable, with firm, brightly colored stalks and matching bright veins throughout the dark, sometimes-wrinkly green leaves. Contrary to what its name suggests, Swiss chard originated not in Switzerland, but further south, in the Mediterranean region. Chard is in the same family of plants as beets, but unlike its root cousin, the chard is grown almost exclusively for its leaves. Swiss chard is also related to certain leafy greens like spinach, whose similarity in flavor is hard to overlook.
Regulate Blood Sugar
Tests on animals have shown that the syringic acid found in chard helps to inhibit the function of a certain enzyme called alpha-glucosidase in the blood. That enzyme is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates into sugars, so by inhibiting the enzyme's activity, chard regulates blood sugar levels. This can help prevent many medical issues, including the development of diabetes.
Other Health Benefits
Antioxidants certainly are a desirable trait for health foods to have, and Swiss chard is packed full of them. From vitamins A, E, and C to the minerals zinc and manganese, chard contains a plethora of natural antioxidants. Now what do these antioxidants do for you? Besides reducing the risk for diseases that come as a result of oxidative stress, antioxidants also are anti-inflammatory agents. By preventing chronic, low-level inflammation, antioxidants lower the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis, just to name a few.
How to Prepare
Swiss chard makes a wonderful side to most meals, and complements seafood and pork especially well. When prepared on its own, chard is best cooked by boiling for just three minutes. This tenderizes the fibers and reduces some of the oxalic acid, the chemical that makes it bitter, without any significant decrease in the nutritional benefits.
A simple, yet tasty twist on the traditional preparation of Swiss chard is a recipe from Martha Stewart's kitchen called "Spicy Chard with Ginger." This chard recipe creatively combines the bitterness of chard with the acidity and spiciness of peppers and ginger in a playful side dish that is sure to be a favorite. The full recipe can be seen here.
CATEGORIES: Diabetes, Recipes, Blood Sugar, Vitamins & Minerals, Vegan, Vegetarian