It can be kind of daunting walking into the grocery store or the farmer’s market and looking at all those “foreign” vegetables wondering, “What the heck is that?” or the even better question, “How the heck do I cook that?” The truth is, there are so many wonderful vegetables to choose from but picking can be a little overwhelming. Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns and grab a vegetable you’ve always looked at but always avoided purchasing ( probably because you have no idea how to cook it or if it would even taste good).
Which brings me to why I’m posting this (also a reader asked if I had any vegetable recipes). Swiss chard is very abundant at the farmer’s market over here and so many people buy them! Sunday after Sunday I’d see many people filling their bags with that leafy green veggie with it’s colorful stocks and I’d think to myself, “I really have to try that.” I kept avoiding it until finally I decided that it was time to purchase my first bunch of rainbow chard.
Here’s the 411 on Swiss Chard-
Chard originated in the Mediterranean region and has been around for hundreds of years. The Romans actually honored chard for it’s medicinal purposes (pretty cool huh?). Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach but is also one of the vegetables that are also referred to the “greens” (along with kale, mustard greens and collard greens). It has a thick, crunchy stalk that can come in a variety of colors and fans-out with a wide green leafy top.
Chard is rich in phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helps regulate blood sugar and supports bone health (rich in magnesium and vitamin K).
On World’s Healthiest Foods website they state this about the phytonutrients-
“As an excellent source of vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and the mineral manganese, and a good source of the mineral zinc, chard offers an outstanding variety of conventional antioxidants. But these conventional antioxidants are only part of chard’s fantastic health benefits with respect to prevention of oxidative stress and diseases related to chronic, unwanted oxidative stress. Equally outstanding are chard’s phytonutrient antioxidants. These phytonutrient antioxidants range from carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin to flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. But the range of phytonutrients in chard is even more extensive than researchers initially suspected, and at this point in time, about three dozen antioxidant phytonutrients have been identified in chard, including betalains (both betacyanins and betaxanthins) and epoxyxanthophylls. Many of these antioxidant phytonutrients provide chard with its colorful stems, stalks, and leaf veins.
As a rule, the phytonutrient antioxidants in chard also act as anti-inflammatory agents. Sometimes they lower risk of chronic, unwanted inflammation by altering the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes. At other times, they help prevent the production of pro-inflammatory messaging molecules. Because chronic low level inflammation (especially when coupled with excessive oxidative stress) has repeatedly been shown to increase our risk of obesity, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several forms of arthritis, chard is very likely to show up in future studies on humans as a key vegetable for lowering risk of these health problems.”
So as you can see this is a vegetable that should definitely be on your weekly menu at least once a week!
Caution for cooking-
Chard contains high levels of oxalate acid. Oxalate acid can be very irritating to the intestinal track and can also block mineral absorption (why have veggies when your body can’t absorb them?). That’s why it’s extremely important to lightly steam or cook them before eating. Make sure you don’t reuse the steaming water because during the steaming process the oxalates leach into the water. On a side note, vegetables that should also not be eaten raw due to high oxalates are spinach (yup, raw spinach is not that good for you!), parsley, chives, purslane and beet greens.
It’s also a wise idea to cook most vegetables with butter because the butter has properties in it to help absorb the highly valuable vitamins and minerals. The best butter to use would be raw, grass-fed butter but if you can not source it than organic butter that has been made from pastured cows with no antibiotics/hormones.
A delicious, easy way to cook chard-
I’ve used this recipe many times over the past couple weeks when I make chard because it’s so easy and so delicious!
**Remember the way to get the most nutrients out of this dish is to use organic (local when possible) ingredients, unrefined salt and dairy products with no hormones or antiobiotics- raw is best.
Ingredients (serves about 2 people, with generous helpings):
- 7-9 large chard leaves (can be rainbow or regular)
- 1/4 cup butter (4 TBL), melted
- feta cheese
- unrefined salt
- garlic powder
- Wash leaves and steams very thoroughly because they can be gritty
- Cut leaves and stems into bite size pieces
- Put the cut up chard in simple blossom type vegetable steamer in a pot of water (water should be just showing at the bottom of steamer)
- Steam until the leaves are wilted and tender (about 5 mins)
- Discard water and put leaves into a bowl to cool
- Add 1/4 (4 TBL) melted butter in bowl while they are cooling
- Once cooled add salt, pepper, garlic powder and feta to taste
- Toss and serve
I hope you find this helpful in introducing a new vegetable into your meal plan and hope it will inspire you to try out another vegetable that you’ve always had your eye on.
Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul