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Swiss chard: all healthy, no holes

These healthy leaves are going in a soup pot in a few minutes.
These healthy leaves are going in a soup pot in a few minutes.
VL Jackson

Unlike Swiss cheese, the leafy green vegetable named Swiss chard comes without holes, but even if it had them, they contain so many nutrients it would be hard to lose them all. As with all plant-based foods of this description, they come with a cornucopia of goodness that does far more than nourish the organism itself. Leaves may enable photosynthesis, transpiration and growth for their plants, but many of them go on to feed other creatures, including humans, as well.

Swiss chard, also known by the name silverbeet, has been around for millennia, originating in the Mediterranean region, which is famous now, of course, for being the source of such heart-healthy meals and lifestyles. Is it any surprise, then, that this vegetable (a chenopod, like its relatives, beets and spinach, for example) is a major contributor of anti-oxidants and other important healthy nutrients? Coming in a variety of colored stems (red, pink, purple, orange, green) in addition to having dark green leaves with rich texture, holding its goodness intact, this natural anti-inflammatory is a great addition to meals designed to keep your heart ticking for a long time. It can also help you with prevention of cancer thanks to its ability to fight the free radicals responsible for this disease. In general its leaves and stalks have plenty of good ingredients to tackle whatever might come along, as many dark colored plants do.

High in Vitamin C, which helps with healing, detoxifying, and fighting off a variety of health complaints, Swiss chard also is host to many other vitamins. Vitamin K, usually thought of only in regard to blood clotting, tops the list. In fact, you’ll get almost seven times the daily recommended allowance (RDA) of this nutrient in a single serving of this veggie. Vitamin K also plays a role in preserving the structure of bones, which is of great importance as the body ages. (Are you reading this, Baby Boomers who are now experiencing osteoporosis?) Vitamins A, B1, 2,3,5 and 6, and E as well as a plethora of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, plus quercetin (for the heart) and lutein (for eye health) will all be found in abundant measure in a simple half-cup serving of Swiss chard.

A very important benefit of this green comes in its role in controlling blood sugar. With diabetes being of epidemic proportions in Western society today, so many people are having problems in this area and find that exercise isn’t enough. Nor are the numerous pills currently on the market always effective; in fact some of them are absolutely harmful, being investigated and sometimes even taken off the market for the harm they do, by the Food and Drug Administration. Yet the addition of healthy natural foods to the diet, without being in massive amounts, can go a long way toward helping maintain healthy blood glucose levels. A phytonutrient called syringic acid found in Swiss chard has the ability control the enzyme, alpha-glucosidase, which helps break carbohydrates down. When food has been eaten, syringic acid helps slow this process so that the body will not have a rush of carbohydrates into the blood all at once. Along with the fact that the leaves and stalks are extremely good sources of fiber, it’s easy to understand how this works to regulate the body’s blood sugar levels.

Although some nutrition experts maintain that the plant’s stalks contain too much oxalates, which can be harmful to the kidneys, others believe that by discarding the water in which it is cooked, this may be avoided. Whether you choose to discard the colorful stalks (there goes a load of anti-oxidants, though), cook only the leaves, or eat them raw, you are in for a tasty dose of natural medicine. They also can be frozen like spinach and most other tough-leaved vegetables. The main idea is, however, try Swiss chard: it tastes great, has more than enough good health effects stemming from it (OK, had to get in a pun) and you’ll be back for more.

For far more information on this excellent vegetable, see http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=16