Swiss chard (botanical name Beta vulgaris) is gorgeous ornamental type of green leafy vegetable that belongs to the plant order named Caryophyllales and the Amaranthaceae plant family. It has an extremely attractive appearance and is found in an assortment of colors, including white, red, orange and yellow. Although they may have different colors, all varieties of Swiss chards have deep green hued leaves. Only the succulent midribs of the plants have different colors. For example, the color of the midribs of the variety of vegetables known as the 'Bright Light' may be white, mauve, and red, light orange, pink and even vivid golden. Similarly, the midribs of the vegetable varieties called 'Argentata Swiss Chard' and 'Ruby Red' are pearlescent white.
Irrespective of how you eat Swiss chard, as salads or properly cooked as well as sautéed, these vegetables have a distinctive astringent, strong and salty taste, which has a close resemblance to that of the vegetables with which it is intimately related, such as beets and spinach. Nevertheless, when cooked properly, the bitterness of this vegetable is reduced somewhat. Swiss chards are considered to be an exceptional vegetable among numerous vegetables as well as vegetable products owing to their outstanding actions in enhancing the health as well as hygiene of humans. It is best to cultivate as well as consume Swiss chards during the period between June and August. However, these vegetables are now available throughout the year.
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People in the Mediterranean as well as Palestinian regions frequently use this tall and green leafy vegetable in their dishes. They are especially used in the exciting Mediterranean cuisines.
Swiss chard has its origin in the sea beet and is known by several different names. Apart from being called just chard, people also know this vegetable as crab beet, spinach beet, seakale beet, silver beet, perpetual spinach, and mangold. The leaves of this vegetable are glossy and ribbed, which creates a visually tempting texture and color when it is served raw or even cooked.
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When cooked, the flavor of Swiss chard is akin to that of spinach, but not as potent. There are several chefs who sauté chard with their preferred seasonings. Traditionally, butter, oil and salt are used to prepare the green leaves of Swiss chard. However, additional spices and herbs, for instance basil, black pepper, cumin, red pepper, nutmeg and other preferred flavors may also be used to add essence.
There are various dissimilar vegetables that can be successfully used with Swiss chard. Many people prefer serving this leafy vegetable with diced tomatoes, as it imparts a sweet taste and also a contrasting color to the cuisine. You may also use red-skinned potatoes with Swiss chard as both these vegetables go well with each other. In addition, you may prepare Swiss chard with onions and several other vegetables.
You may also successfully use meat in Swiss chard dishes. In fact, steak goes very well with this vegetable and this combination is liked by many. You can also prepare meat pies with steak and Swiss chard. A number of chefs also prepare Swiss chard with cheese, for instance, Parmesan or feta. Swiss chard may also be used in baked foods, sandwiches, wraps, creamy pasta sauces as well as salads.
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When using chard for preparing different food items, it is essential to thoroughly wash the green leaves of the vegetable and draw off the water as much as possible. Subsequently, put a little oil in a frying pan and heat it. Add any preferred seasoning and toss the vegetable, cooking the chard over gentle heat for about five minutes. Several chefs take delight in adding scallions or shallots to the recipe, while there are other cooks who may use lemon juice or balsamic dressing to season the recipe.
It has been found that in its raw state, Swiss chard perishes very easily. Hence, it is necessary to use this vegetable immediately after harvesting or purchasing. When you are cultivating Swiss chard, you may cut the plants at any time of the year for use, irrespective of the plants having young or old leaves. Compared to the tender young chard leaves, the older leaves of this vegetable usually have a harsher texture.
Foods that are members of the chenopod family, such as chard, beet, spinach as well as quinoa, have been continually demonstrating a growing number of health benefits, which are not available readily from foods belonging to other families. Foods belonging to this family contain yellow and red betalain pigments and outstanding epoxyxanthophyll carotenoids
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Although scientists are yet to undertake large-scale studies on humans that would suggest the least amount of intake of foods belonging to this plant family, based on the existing information on chenopod phytonutrients, we are able to suggest that you should incorporate the foods belonging to this botanical family into your diet at least once or twice every week. Provided you prefer taking a leafy food belonging to this family, such as Swiss chard, it is advisable that each serving of the food should be no less than one or two cups. In fact, consuming more of this food will prove to be further beneficial. In any case, you should not take a severing of less than one cupful at one time.
Similar to spinach, Swiss chard is considered to be a store-house of numerous phytonutrients that possess disease prevention and health promotional properties. In fact, the calorie content in chard is very low (the raw leaves contain 19 kcal for every 100 grams of leaves). It also contains very less fat and, hence, it is suggested for people who are trying to control their blood cholesterol levels and also desire to lose additional weight.
In addition, it has been found that the green leaves of Swiss chard are a wonderful resource of vitamin C, the antioxidant vitamin. The fresh leaves of this vegetable supply us with roughly 33 per cent of the recommended levels for each 100 grams. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant soluble in water and assists in eliminating the detrimental free radicals as well as reactive oxygen species (also called ROS) by means of its reduction potential attributes. Scientific studies have suggested that consuming vitamin C rich foods on a regular basis facilitates the maintenance of connective tissues, put off deficiency of iron, and also assist in reinforcing the human body's resistance against contagious agents by means of perking up the immune system.
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Swiss chard is one vegetable that provides us with excellent amounts of vitamin K. It has been found that 100 grams of the green leafy vegetable supplies us with roughly 700 per cent of the recommended intake of vitamin K., which possibly plays a vital role in sustaining the health of our bones by encouraging osteotrophic activity (action that promotes formation and strengthening of the bones). Including sufficient amounts of vitamin K in one's diet helps in restricting neuronal damage inside the brain. Therefore, vitamin K has a proven role in treating patients with Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, chard is an excellent source of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants like ß-carotene, α-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, and flavonoids, It may be noted that inside the body, carotenes change into vitamin A. Chard also contains high levels of B-complex vitamins like niacin, folates, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), pantothenic acid and thiamine, which are necessary for the optimum functioning of the cells during the metabolic process.
Swiss chard is also a store house of various minerals, such as sodium, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, potassium and phosphorus. Potassium is a vital constituent of our cell as well as body fluid which aids in regulating the heart rate as well as the blood pressure by means of neutralizing the consequences of sodium. Our body uses manganese in the form of a co-factor for superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme. Similarly, our body requires iron for the formation of red blood cells (erythrocytes) and for the oxidation process inside the cells.
Besides reinforcing the bones, vitamin K present in Swiss chard is vital for the appropriate functioning of our brain as well as the nervous system, as it is indispensible in the myelin sheath formation. The myelin sheath is the layer that protects the nerves by encircling them.
It has been found that incorporating Swiss chard in one's diet on a regular basis helps to put off anemia, which is caused by deficiency of iron, osteoporosis and deficiency of vitamin A. It is also believed that regular consumption of Swiss chard helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases and prostate as well as colon cancer.
Swiss chard encloses riboflavin, which is an extremely vital co-factor in generating glutathione, which is among the key essential antioxidants produced in our body. The main results of glutathione include defending specific lipids, such as cholesterol, from assault by the harmful free radicals. In fact, the lipids only become a threat to the walls of the blood vessels after they have been raided by free radicals.
Riboflavin has another effect and that is helping vitamin B6 to function properly in our body. On the other hand, vitamin B6 is essential for converting homocysteine (hypothetically a very hazardous molecule) into methionine, a variety of amino acid. This conversion is performed by means of a powerful cellular process known as methylation. In fact, riboflavin functions in the form of a catalyst throughout this cellular process.
One cup of Swiss chard provides us with roughly 14.7 per cent of the daily fiber needed by our body. Consumption of dietary fiber on a regular basis is linked with lower levels of blood cholesterol and, subsequently, putting off atherosclerosis. Dietary fiber is also helpful in sustaining the regular levels of blood sugar in our body and, hence, it is beneficial for people suffering from diabetes. Fiber present in Swiss chards has other health benefits too. It helps to prevent colon cancer.
Swiss chards are also a wonderful natural resource of vitamin A and, hence, they are extremely beneficial for the proper functioning of the eyes. Swiss chard also contains beta carotene. Findings of scientific studies have hinted that consuming beta carotene on a regular basis aids in putting off the development of specific cancer forms, in addition to protecting the cells of the body from damage caused by oxidation.
People who smoke tobacco regularly or are often exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke should ensure that they include plenty of Swiss chards, which are rich in vitamin A content, in their everyday diet. This is primarily because vitamin A assists in neutralizing the detrimental consequences of benzo(a)pyrene (carcinogen) found in cigarette smoke. Intake of adequate amounts of vitamin A avoids emphysema and inflammation of the lungs.
Swiss chards also contain magnesium, which is a natural calcium blocker. Magnesium helps to avoid calcium from rushing into the nerve cells and thereby, also prevents the nerve cells from being activated. In this way, magnesium helps the nerves to relax. Extreme activation of the nerve cells results in too much concentration, leading to health problems such as soreness, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, high blood pressure (hypertension), exhaustion, and migraines.
Swiss chard contains calcium and magnesium - two minerals that are essential for the health of our bones. In addition, these two minerals help to sustain the normal physical structure of the bones.
This green leafy vegetable is also an excellent natural resource of iron, which coalesces with protein to develop into hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen to different cells of our body. In this ways, Swiss chards also help to sustain the health of our immune system and also facilitate the body in generating energy, whenever needed.
While Swiss chard offers numerous health benefits, people using this plant ought to be careful, as it may also result in unpleasant side effects. In fact, this plant contains significant quantities of oxalates and when the concentration of these substances is high in the body, it may form crystals and lead to health problems. Therefore, people who are already suffering from problems related to the gall bladder and/ or the kidneys should keep away from consuming Swiss chards. Apart from this, oxalates present in Swiss chards may also get in the way of the body's assimilation of calcium from ingested foods.