Swiss chard is one of the unsung heroes of the salad, quiche, stir fry and numerous other dishes. It's also one of the most nutritious greens available, and it features both edible leaves and stalks. Varieties of Swiss chard vary from white stalks to very bright ornamental vegetables that add a touch of color to a wide variety of healthy meals. Despite having many health benefits and being packed with nutrients, Swiss chard is not in very wide use through much of the United States, though it's generally available in most supermarkets.
Choosing chard. In general, healthy chard exhibits stalks free of scarring and is an even color. Depending on the variety, it might be white, orange, bright pink or other similar colors. The consistency will be similar to slightly soft celery. Leaves should be deep green and not show evidence of withering or molding. However, chard that has wilted in your refrigerator can generally be revitalized by soaking it in ice water with a tablespoon of vinegar. Swiss chard is no longer edible when it dries up, molds or turns to mush. If it's kept in cool conditions, chard can be stored for up to several weeks.
Benefits of Swiss chard. You may have heard that you need to take extra calcium to help ensure bone health, and it's certainly true that many people benefit from calcium supplements. However, in order to properly absorb the calcium, you also need a nutrient that Swiss chard has in abundance — vitamin K. The University of Maryland Medical Center states, "There is increasing evidence that vitamin K improves bone health and reduces risk of bone fractures, particularly in postmenopausal women who are at risk for osteoporosis." There may also be a link to high levels of vitamin K and reduced risk of some cancers, but it hasn't yet been borne out in clinical studies. Chard is also very high in vitamin A and vitamin C, and it contains appreciable amounts of several B vitamins, potassium, fiber, vitamin E and iron.