FOOD PROPERTIES OF CHARDS
Nutritional properties of chards
Chards are very rich in betacarotene
Chard contains very high amounts of vitamin A. They are only surpassed by other vegetables (greens, spinach and watercress) and some vegetables (carrots, onions or peppers) Chard, like spinach or other dark green vegetables, is rich in beta carotene, a component that, once within the body, is transformed into vitamin A.
This vitamin is commonly known as "vitamin of sight" because their presence in the body ensures good eye health. Eating plenty of chard helps to prevent or even cure many eye diseases and vision loss, night blindness, cataracts or glaucoma. It also helps the eyes to overcome bacterial infections such as conjunctivitis.
Vitamin A also helps in strengthening the immune system, being stronger against infections and against infectious diseases of the respiratory system as sore throat, flu, colds, pharyngitis, sinusitis, bronchitis. The presence of this food on the table will also promote the health of the hair, skin or mucous membranes.
Our skin will gain in brightness and freshness and chard will keep our hair stronger. Vitamin A helps in preventing dry skin, healing wounds or other skin imperfections. This food is appropriate to prevent or improve certain skin ailments like eczema, acne, psoriasis, dry skin, herpes, cuts, wounds, burns, etc.
Chards are very antioxidant
Chard one of the best antioxidant vegetables
But among the most important functions of vitamin A are its antioxidant properties, ideal for eliminating free radicals which high presence in the body may be responsible for many degenerative diseases.
It has been shown that cultures that eat foods rich in antioxidants have a better health status.
Chard also has a lot of vitamin K
Chards are also very rich in vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and the maintenance of bones. Eating chard can help make bones stronger and prevent injuries from bleeding for a long time and prevent the apparition of bruises.
Chards are very good for pregnancy
Besides calcium, chard contains high levels of folic acid or vitamin B9. This vitamin is necessary for the fetus to develope normally. Folic acid is needed to prevent neural tube defects, which will eventually become the central nervous system (brain and spine)in the developing fetus.
Folic acid is also involved in the functioning of cells, both in what is called hematopoiesis (blood cell formation) and DNA synthesis.
Chards are rich minerals
Other important minerals in chards
Main curative properties of chards
Besides a lot of iron, chards also contain:
Chard is high in calcium
Calcium is very useful in the formation of bones and teeth and very necessary in the prevention of osteoporosis. Young people should include regularly this food in their diet to achieve harmonious growth. Older people should also include it to strenghten their fragile bones.
Not less important is this vegetable for sportsmen, because calcium helps in preventing cramps in the calves which tends to happen quite often in football players, for example. Pregnant or nursing women should include this vegetable in their meals because they need an extra injection of calcium, to which this food can contribute.
Another very interesting mineral in chards is potassium
Chard contains significant amounts of this mineral. Potassium helps to establish the body's water balance, counteracting the sodium. Eating chard will help to eliminate liquids and therefore help in the diet of those people who have problems with obesity or fluid retention.
We must not forget that chard contains more than 90% water and very few calories, and thus it represents an ideal food for those who are dieting to lose weight. Combining chard with potatoes is a good way to enhance diuresis because both foods are rich in potassium and because both can satisfy the hunger for a long time without having to resort to other caloric foods. The combination of boiled chard and potato results in a nutritious and healthy dish.
The green color of this vegetable indicates that these plants are rich in chlorophyll, in which composition enter the iron and magnesium. The importance of iron in the prevention of anemia is a fact recognized by everybody.
Chard contains very high levels of magnesium
Picture of Swiss chard with flowers
This mineral is essential for the health of the body as it is involved in many functions. Together with phosphorus and calcium, it is involved in bone formation.
Chards are a high-fiber vegetable
Chards are rich in soluble fiber in the form of mucilage. This type of fiber is extremely interesting for the maintenance of health. In addition to promoting intestinal transit and prevent constipation, this component is very important in the prevention of cholesterol and purification of the toxic elements of the intestine, which could be responsible for intestinal diseases or the development of other diseases such as cancer.
Soluble fiber acts by "catching" the toxins in a gelatinous mass that makes the intestinal absorption of these hazardous substances and facilitates their expulsion to the outside through the feces.
Do not forget the importance of fiber in the prevention of intestinal putrefaction, responsible for such unpleasant anomalies such as excess of gas, intestinal fermentations or belly pain.
A regularized bowel function, which avoids constipation, is very important in the prevention or treatment of hemorrhoids. Softer feces allow their passage easily, so people with hemorrhoids will not feel so much pain; a soft consistency of feces is more appropriate to prevent this disease.
Beware! Chards are rich in oxalates
Chards, like spinach, leeks, parsley, are capable of producing much sodium oxalate as a result of plant metabolism. This component, when combined with calcium in the body, produces calcium oxalate. The oxalates were considered among the primary responsibles of developing kidney stones composed of calcium oxalate. For this reason many experts recommend that people with these problems should not eat these food and in any case, should not exceed 50 mg of oxalic acid. (¼ cup of chard per day maximum)
It should also be noted that the oxalate is deposited in the joints of the body and can cause injuries by friction in them, especially in people with sensitive articulatory joints due to illnesses such as arthritis.
Other specialists are not as strict and believe that one should not strictly avoid or restrict foods high in oxalates. In their opinion, the ingestion of such plants is only partly responsible for the development of kidney stones. Other factors such as very high calcium intake, excess of protein in the diet or the habit of drinking a little water seem to have a higher impact than the intake of these plants in a fixed amount. It is preferred to talk of a moderate consumption, appropriate to each person´s tolerance.
These foods should be avoided by people with physical abnormalities that cause an increase in oxalate, such as, for example, those with primary hyperoxaluria, a condition in which, for lack of enzymes, the body produces more oxalate than the normal.
The best way to eat chards
Although chards can be eaten throughout the year, from a dietary point of view, the best time to eat chard is winter, since it is the time when the leaves are dark green and with a higher content in principles, especially in vitamins.
Chard combines well with many foods, but it is particularly interesting when combined with legumes. Legumes contribute with their high protein content, while the greens provide their high level of vitamins and minerals. Chards promote digestion of proteins from legumes and prevent indigestion and the dreaded flatulence from legumes.
Due to its high levels in minerals, the greens are vegetables with a very good natural flavor. This means that, when cooking, you do not need to spice it too much, because one can eat them easily beacuse of their natural flavour.
In fact, we would not need to add salt, because the greens are very rich in sodium. A good portion of boiled chard with a teaspoon of Olive oil makes a delicious and nutritious dish. This does not mean that this vegetable can not be cooked with more sophisticated techniques; it can be boiled and fried, au gratin, served in tortilla with cheese, with vinaigrette, etc.
Be prudent in the cooking time of this vegetable, its leaves should not be boiled for a long time, so their vitamins are not destroyed and they do not lose their flavor; if they do, we will turn them into a worthless and completely tasteless nutritional blob. Chard cooked for too long loose all their vitamins and taste.
About 20 minutes will be enough for boling. If we fry the chard with a little garlic, do it for two or three minutes in a pan with hot oil. When combined with other foods that require longer cooking, like rice or dried beans, you can start to cook those foods first and add the chard at the end of cooking.
The chard stalks are harder and should be boiled twice as long as the leaves
Once boiled, they should drain well and be placed on another serving plate. They can be eaten like this, dressed with lemon juice or olive oil. They are delicious when they are covered with bechamel sauce and au gratin in the oven. If we want to cook the chard with the stalks, it is best to cook the stalks for about 20 minutes only the leaves, then add the leaves and let everything cook for about 20 minutes more.
We must never keep the chard leftovers for the next meal or keep them in the fridge. Chard, as happens with spinach, is a vegetable that ferments easily and therefore, should be prepared for the meal of the day.
Nutritional composition of chards
The main components of chards are:
The best chards
There are many varieties of chards available throughout the season in the grocery stores and supermarkets. Chard is a cheap and healthy vegetable and must always be present in the shopping cart.
The best market chards are the most tender ones. Tender chards have smooth and glossy dark green leaves, with small nerves in the leaf. As the plant grows, the leaves become more stilted and straight and the stalk is harder and thicker. When the beets are old, their flavor becomes bitter and too tough to eat.
How to preserve chards
If you want to keep the greens, they must be stored in a plastic bag and kept in the refrigerator up to two days, with the condition that they have not been washed before and have not been cut. The stalks can last even longer, provided they areseparated from the leaves.
The chard stalks should be smooth, either white or, in the case of the colored varieties, the colour shold be very bright and uniform. When the plant ages, the leaves should be rejected, but the stalks can be still eaten and they will have a little more spicy taste. (Some people prefer this stronger flavor and let them mature to prepare their dishes with them)
More information about chards in the listing above.
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This material is for informational purposes only. In case of doubt, consult the doctor.