If you have not been experimenting with Swiss chard in the kitchen, now is the time to start. Like it's wildly popular green cousin kale, Swiss chard packs a powerful nutritional punch, providing over 700% of your daily needs for vitamin K and over 200% of daily vitamin A needs in just one cup.
Swiss chard is also commonly known as silverbeet, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, crab beet and mangold. Along with other leafy greens and descendants of the beet family, Swiss chard contains high levels nitrates, which been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of Swiss chard and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more Swiss chard into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming Swiss chard.
Contents of this article:
Nutritional breakdown of Swiss chard
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one serving (one cup) of cooked (boiled, without salt) chard (about 175 grams) contains 35 calories, 3.3 grams of protein, 0.2 grams of fat, and 7.2 grams of carbohydrate (including 3.7 grams of fiber and 1.9 grams of sugar).
Swiss chard is also commonly known as silverbeet, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, crab beet and mangold.
One cup of raw Swiss chard (about 26 grams) contains 7 calories, 0.7 grams of protein, 0.1 grams of fat, and 1.4 grams of carbohydrate (including 0.6 grams of fiber and 0.4 grams of sugar).
Possible health benefits of consuming Swiss chard
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like Swiss chard decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
Lowering blood pressure
People who consume diets that are low in the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium are more likely to have high blood pressure. These minerals are thought to bring blood pressure down by releasing sodium out of the body and helping arteries dilate.
It is important to note that taking these minerals in supplement form will not provide the same health benefits as when they are consumed in food. Swiss chard contains all three of these healthy minerals and can help improve intake, especially with magnesium.1
According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods high in dietary nitrates like Swiss chard have been shown to have multiple vascular benefits, including reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.
Swiss chard contains chlorophyll, which has shown to be effective at blocking the cancer-causing heterocyclic amines generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.2 Make sure to consume leafy greens and other vegetables high in chlorophyll along with grilled meats to hinder some of their carcinogenic effects.
Swiss chard contains an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes. Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreases in peripheral neuropathy or autonomic neuropathy in diabetics.4
Of note, the alpha-lipoic acid studied was administered intravenously, and it is not yet clear if oral intake will elicit the same effects.
Adequate vitamin K consumption can improve bone health by acting as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improving calcium absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium. Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk for bone fracture.3 Increase your vitamin K intake with leafy greens such as Swiss chard, arugula and spinach, which also add extra calcium to the diet. Raw Swiss chard contains more than 300% of your daily need for vitamin K in one cup!
Improving athletic performance
Dietary nitrates have been shown to improve muscle oxygenation during exercise, suggesting that an increased dietary nitrate intake has the potential to enhance exercise tolerance during long-term endurance exercise and possibly improve quality of life for those with cardiovascular, respiratory, or metabolic diseases who find activities of daily living difficult because of lack of oxygenation.
In one study, beetroot juice (high in dietary nitrates) improved performance by 2.8% (11 seconds) in a 4-km bicycle time trial and by 2.7% (45 seconds) in a 16.1-km time trial.5 Swiss chard rivals beetroot in nitrate content.
How to incorporate more Swiss chard into your diet
Look for Swiss chard with firm, deep green leaves. Smaller leaves will be tenderer and have a milder flavor. Store chard in the refrigerator to keep fresh.
Add a handful of fresh Swiss chard to an omelet or scrambled eggs.
Swiss chard can be enjoyed raw in salads or on sandwiches or wraps, braised, boiled, sautéed or added to soups and casseroles.
Here are some tips to incorporate more Swiss chard into your daily routine:
- Add a handful of fresh Swiss chard to an omelet or scrambled eggs
- Throw a handful of Swiss chard into a fresh juice or smoothie before you blend
- Sauté Swiss chard in a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Eat as a side dish or top your baked potato
- Add Swiss chard to your salad, wrap, sandwich or flatbread.
Also try these some of these healthy and delicious recipes developed by registered dietitians:Mediterranean millet salad wraps
Chicken tenders with Swiss chard and Israeli couscous
Vegan sausage, sweet potato and chard stir fry
Swiss chard frittata
Potential health risks of consuming Swiss chard
If you are taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) it is important that you do not suddenly begin to eat more or less foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.