Nutrition DL is a series that gives you the download on seasonal fruits, vegetables, or pantry staples. Once you learn about the nutrition, varieties, and how to select and store the featured ingredient, I share a four recipes over four weeks to inspire and feed you with this great seasonal food. Check out other foods I’ve covered here.
When a season is just getting it’s feet wet, shopping at a farmer’s market brings a surprise every week. After a summer filled with spinach and kale, brightly-stemmed Swiss chard reappeared at one of my favorite stalls. Though chard is considered a all-year vegetable, it’s return to that stall got me excited and ready to dive back into cooking with Swiss chard.
Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that comes in a variety of shades and stem colors. The leaves are wide and lush, and stems tall and crunchy. It’s leaves are on the heartier side like kale, meaning they hold up well sautéed, baked, and in soups. Though many recipes call just for the leaves, I chop the stems and treat them like celery, sautéing them with my garlic and onion at the beginning of a dish.
Like most vegetables, Swiss chard is low in calories and fat. One cup of cooked, unsalted chard is 35 calories. Chard also has 15% of your daily value of fiber, meaning you’ll stay fuller longer.
Swiss chard is an amazing source of vitamin K, containing 636% of your daily value in one cooked cup! Vitamin K is essential in helping your blood clot (in a keeping you from bleeding out way, not in a bad, stroke-related way) and maintaining bone health. Chard’s also an excellent source of magnesium, another important mineral for bone health.
In addition to vitamin K, chard is an excellent source for vitamin A, C, and E. These vitamins are full of antioxidants that help protect your body against damaging free radicals, as well as keep your immunity strong and your inflammation low.
Chard’s bright colors and dark leaves show swiss chard is high in phytonutrients and beta-carotene, which is good for eye health.
Not only is Swiss chard low on the glycemic index, meaning a low chance of blood sugar spiking, chard also has syringic acid. Syringic acid also helps regulate your blood sugar by inhibiting an enzyme from breaking down carbs into simple sugars.
Swiss chard is also an excellent source of iron, with 22% of your daily value. This is great for women, who need more iron, and for people with plant-based diets who won’t be getting iron from meat.
If you have kidney stone or gall bladder issues, you may want to eat chard sparingly or pass on it. Swiss chard is high in oxalate, which can lead to kidney stone formation. Consult with a medical professional if you are prone to those issues.
Kinds of Swiss Chard
As you can see, Swiss chard comes in a variety of beautiful colors. The easiest way to differentiate each variety is from their stems. The most common colors you’ll see are white, pink, red, and yellow. You can also find “rainbow chard” at your farmer’s market or grocery store, but that’s just someone combining some of the red, pink, white, yellow or red varieties together into a rainbow bouquet.
Each variety’s leaves change a bit too. Red-stemmed chard has much darker green, sometimes deep maroon color to their leaves. The other varieties have brighter green leaves. The colors don’t really affect the flavor.
Most Swiss chard you’ll find is mature, meaning it’s fully grown and at least a foot tall. You can eat young chard as well, which you can find in salad mixes at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market. Young chard is perfect for eating raw, while mature chard is usually eaten cooked. Mature chard has a sharper flavor that mellows after cooking. But, if you like a sharper green, eat it raw!
Buying and Storing Swiss Chard
When you’re sorting through bunches of chard at the market, avoid bunches with limp or mangled leaves, ones with too many holes (there’s organic and then there’s just a doily), and make sure the stems aren’t split or busted up too much.
Because chard is a leafy green, I strongly recommend buying organic or no-spray, no pesticide options.
When storing chard, I put the bunch into a produce bag leaves first and let the stems hang out. The leaves will naturally wilt faster in your crisper drawer, so cover the leaves. Wash the leaves as needed and not before storing. Swiss chard can last up to a week in the fridge. When it starts to get really limp or soggy, it’s time to compost or throw it out.
Interested in seeing what other foods I’ve covered in this series? Read up on them here.