I recently attended a national health conference that focused on the relationship between food and chronic disease. We’ve known for a long time that one of the most protective lifestyle choices you can make is to eat a predominately plant-based diet. MyPlate, the latest eating guide from the USDA, recommends that half your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables. What current research shows, though, is that the addition of leafy greens to one’s diet is particularly protective.
I have tried to be more adventuresome in my choice of greens, adding kale, oak leaf lettuce, and baby spinach to my plate the last few years. However, a new (to me anyways) favorite is Swiss chard. My neighbor grew some last summer, and I was invited to share in her bumper crop. I was amazed at how mild and tasty it is, and made the decision to grow some in my own garden this year.
Animal studies have shown that Swiss chard has the potential to regulate blood sugar. A flavonoid in chard inhibits an enzyme that breaks down carbs, so fewer carbs get broken down and blood sugar is able to stay more level. Chard also contains a good amount of fiber and protein. Foods high in fiber and protein stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing digestion.
Ancient Greeks and Romans prized chard for its medicinal properties. It provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Inflammation increases your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and arthritis. Not a milk drinker? Chard is bone-protective with its high levels of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K. Foods rich in K help prevent osteoporosis.
Leafy Green Requirements
Every week, teens and adults should eat at least two cups of dark green leafy vegetables. Children 4-8 years old should eat one cup and children 2-3 should eat a half cup. When shopping for greens (and this includes chard), try to purchase fresh, or better yet, grow your own.
Do not wash chard until ready to eat. It should be stored in a tight plastic bag with as little air as possible. Chard can be eaten raw or cooked; it is actually a little sweeter when it is boiled and eaten warm. If you get a big crop next summer and can’t eat it all, blanch the leaves and freeze for winter enjoyment.
Written by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, email@example.com
Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, firstname.lastname@example.org