Chard & Leaf Beets

Chard, also known as Swiss chard, silver beet, and seakale beet has large puckered leaves and broad white or colored stems. They originated in Sicily. Their season is late spring through late autumn. They can easily be grown at home. Chard is particularly popular among Mediterranean cultures. The name Swiss chard was to distinguish between French spinach. Spinach beet or perpetual spinach has smaller leaves and a more slender stem. Both come from the same family as beet root but only the leaves and stem are eaten and have a bitter taste. A serving of chard or leaf beats provides seven times the Daily Value of vitamin K, 100 percent of vitamin A, half of the daily need for vitamin C, and about a fifth of vitamin E. Chard and leaf beets are high in antioxidants and are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and iron as well as a good source of calcium and copper. One cup of cooked chard and leaf beets are 35 calories, 3.3 grams of protein, 7.2 grams of carbohydrates and 3.7 grams of fiber.

High levels of antioxidants as found in these vegetables, have been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. Also, higher dietary intakes of potassium can lower the risk for heart attack and stroke. Other studies have shown that consuming chard reduced precancerous colon lesions.

To retain nutrients, avoid boiling. Sauteing is the best. The stems take longer to cook so they should be in the skillet first with a few tablespoons of olive oil and chopped onion. When the stems are tender, the leaves should be tossed in and then cover and saute until the leaves are also tender. To enhance iron absorption, adding acidic juice such as orange or lemon is a good idea.

Source: Reinhard, Tonia. Superfoods: the Healthiest Foods on the Planet. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2010. Print.

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