Chard as Nails … Why Today Popeye Would Prefer Swiss Chard

When I think about chard, I think of eating green leafy veggies … like spinach. Once upon a time, everyone knew about spinach because of Popeye (quite the add campaign, eh!?); but cans of leafy greens? Blech! Today just about everyone knows spinach is good for you even if Popeye hasn’t been seen on TV in over 30 year! Unfortunately, its healthier cousin, chard, lacked the ‘powerful’ cartoon promotions. Maybe this will change soon, though, because chard is so healthy, it is even taken into space.

Heck, kale is a fad food(!), yet few people even know about chard. And that’s really just too bad because it’s an amazing food. So today, let’s set the record straight, starting with a little history . . .

In the history books Swiss chard first shows up as a cultivated food about 2,500 years ago.

Chard’s been used in the Mediterranean for centuries. It’s a favorite added to soups, or tossed with pastas or legume dishes. Its taste is earthier than spinach (in fact, it’s a close cousin to beets (it’s in the chenopod family of veggies). In fact, if you try the two side-by-side, you probably noticed that their leaves have similar taste and texture. Chenopod vegetables have been used for their medicinal benefits for centuries in traditional forms of folk medicine.

When cooked, chard leaves wilt down into nothing, which is the better way to eat the mature stems, but baby chard is an incredible nutritional storehouse that you can eat raw and juice raw.

“Chard” Fun facts:

Swiss chard fits into a category of plants called “biennials.” Growing chard requires a primary growing season, a wintering, and then a second year of growth!

In other parts of the world it’s known by different names: silver beet, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, bright lights, crab beet, and seakale beets, Roman kale, and strawberry spinach.

Chard gets its name from the Latin cardus, for thistle (it kind of looks like a thistle, but isn’t thorny).

Minerals A-Go-Go

What studies have shown, is that Swiss chard is particularly adept at transporting minerals out of the soil and up into its leaves, providing us with remarkable mineral benefits up, up through their often colorful stems, and splayed out in nutritional sequences ladders across its leaf structure.

In terms of essential minerals, few foods top Swiss chard — maybe kale, broccoli, and watercress in their own ways — but chard really does take the cake in many, many nutritional categories. It is a legit Vitamin K Powerhouse. Get this: just I cup of chard = 700% of your daily K1 needs (and at only 35 calories) – now that’s nutrient density. Plus it’s also rich in Vitamins A, C, magnesium, iron, manganese, and copper; very good rankings for calcium and phosphorus; and high in zinc.

This is also a good vegetable to remind us why it’s important to get organic greens from healthy, uncontaminated soils. When we enjoy the large ruby-verdant portions of this vegetable, the very fact that chard is virtually a mineral straw (sucking up nutrients out of the ground), it’s going to suck up the lesser things too. 

Centennial Favorite

If you’re interested in Longevity, and the suggestions of the Blue Zones in the world one of the recommendation is to eat foods that have been eaten for a long time. We’re pretty sure that 2000 years will suffice! While history shows it was first eaten in Sicily, across time chard has been especially well known for its unique chemical properties: they help our bodies’ process free radicals and support our liver in its need for detoxification, and are a total superstar for preventing diabetes and helping to regulate blood sugar, by regulating enzyme activity of alpha-glucosidase, which controls the slow release of glucose.

Here’s Where YOU Can Help, Dear Reader . . . become a health detective  🙂

For two years, I’ve scoured the internet seeking sources that can back up the health and benefit claims of fruits, vegetables, and supplements (sometimes called “boost”).  

In the chart below are the health claims I and others have discovered about chard. Where you see a footnote, you’ll find a link to the source.  If there is not a footnote, then that means that the specific health claim is made, but neither I or anyone I know has been able to locate sources of research or anecdote to backup the claim.

So, if you are aware of a direct source of research or anecdotes to back up the claims, please post them in the comments.  I’ll check them out and if they meet our standards, I’ll make sure that they’re included in the next edition of the blog and give you a shout-out!

Reported Health Benefit Claims of Chard:

Anti-inflammatory [5]

Improves brain function

Antioxidant [1][2][3][4][5]

Lowers blood pressure [5]

Strengthens bones

Strengthens heart [5]

Improves cardiovascular system [5]

Improves eyesight

Prevents some forms of cancer [5]

Prevents osteoarthritis

Quick Oxalate Tip

One word of CAUTION: for this class of greens (including spinach), if you have kidney stones or issues with oxalate prescriptions, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, stay away from juiced and raw chard.