Chard Your Course

Meet your match, kale. This leafy underdog is ready to go the distance.

In the arena of superfoods, leafy greens are the crowd favorites, offering a low-calorie, low-fat source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But with spinach and kale stealing the spotlight, one nutritional all-star is often overlooked. Part of the goosefoot family of vegetables, along with spinach and beets, chard goes by many names, including Swiss chard, spinach beet and silverbeet, to name a few. But no matter what you call it, there’s no doubt it touts plenty of health benefits.

Worried about weight? Simply washing your dishes after dinner will be enough to burn off the calories you take in from a serving of raw chard—one cup has only 7 calories (about the same as raw spinach), and a cup of cooked chard has approximately 35 calories (that’s about 5 minutes of light jogging, if you’re counting). It’s also lacking in fat (less than 1 gram in 1 cup cooked) and sugar (2 grams), leaving room for more of the good stuff, including about 700 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin K, which supports bone and blood health. It delivers a substantial amount of vitamin A, which promotes eye health and boosts immune function, and it’s a significant source of vitamin C, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium. Chard is also believed to be beneficial to those with diabetes because it contains an antioxidant called syringic acid that studies have shown may help to regulate glucose levels.

Available in green, red and rainbow varieties, chard can be purchased at most supermarkets, usually alongside kale and other leafy greens. Look for crisp stems and healthy leaves that aren’t wilted or brown. Store chard by wrapping it in a dry paper towel, placing it in a plastic bag that is left unsealed, and keeping the bag in the refrigerator. Depending on freshness, it will last from several days to as long as a week. Chard has the same culinary flexibility as its cousin spinach: as a salad base, in a frittata, sautéed with garlic, or simply braised or steamed. To prepare chard, wash it well in cold water, taking care to remove any grit, and cut the leaves away from the stems (the stems can be cooked separately in soups or a stir-fry).

What exactly is in a name? In the case of this vegetable, a lot of confusion. Often called Swiss chard, it’s actually believed to have originated in Italy and is a staple in Mediterranean diets. In fact, no one is quite sure where the “Swiss” part comes from. Some believe “chard” originated from the French word carde or the Latin word carduus, both referring to an artichoke thistle plant. In South Africa, it is simply called “spinach.” —Liz Donovan

"One cup of chard gives you a whopping 575 micrograms of vitamin K. This underrated vitamin is important because it keeps calcium in the bones and out of the arteries, which results in strong bones and reduces the risk of arterial calcification.” —Julene Stassou, registered dietician, Fort Lee and Englewood Cliffs

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