Taste the Rainbow

And no, we're not talking candy. With its vibrant mix of colors and hefty dose of nutrients, rainbow chard will brighten your health.
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For years, health experts have, recommended a diet filled with different colored foods to encourage the intake of a wide range of vitamins and minerals. But what if you could dine on shades of red, white, pink, orange, purple and gold (bright and pastel variations included) courtesy of just one vegetable? You can.

Rainbow chard—featuring the intense flavor of Swiss chard, the mildly nutty flavor of golden chard, the sweetness of red chard and more— contains a bevy of betalain pigments that provide its eye-catching array of colors. And while it may not be on as many menus as the better-known Swiss chard, it’s certainly worthy of some prime real estate on your dinner plate.

Power Up
One cup of cooked rainbow chard contains just 35 calories, and man, does it pack a nutritional punch: Along with the minerals manganese and zinc, the leafy vegetable contains high levels of vitamins A, C, K and E. Even better, those betalains have been shown to help with the body’s detoxification process and combat inflammation. They also contain carotenoids and flavonoids that help prevent LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) from being deposited in the arteries.

When shopping for rainbow chard, avoid bunches that have wilting leaves or brown stalks—seek out ones that have brightly colored leaves and fresh-cut stems. The veggie can be stored in the fridge for a day or two, loosely wrapped in plastic, but if you want to keep it for longer, separate the leaves and stems, then store the stems loosely wrapped in plastic. The leaves, meanwhile, should be rolled up in paper towels and then put in a plastic bag—they’ll stay fresh for about a week.

When preparing the veggie, be sure to rinse it thoroughly, or you’ll risk tasting a bit of grit. Sautéeing or stir-frying is best—for the most even cooking, start heating the stems before adding the leaves. One of the most popular chard dishes is blissfully simple and quick: Heat some olive oil in a large pan, then sauté two cloves of garlic until they’re fragrant. Add the chard, stir it to coat, then cover and cook for eight minutes.

Just keep one thing in mind: Those healthy betalains aren’t heatstable, so long cooking times can decrease their presence (and, hence, their benefits).

Did You Know? Chard is used as a substitute for spinach; it goes well with vegetables like tomatoes, artichokes, beets and peppers; grains like rice and barley; meats such as bacon and chicken; and cheeses like parmesan and pecorino. —Lance Debler

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