And nutritional riches? Well, on a scale of 1 to 10, chard is a 10+.
This leafy green is an excellent source of bone-building calcium, copper, vitamin K, manganese, and magnesium; antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E; heart-healthy potassium and dietary fiber; beta-carotene and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin; and energy-producing iron and B vitamins.
And the more scientists study chard nutrition, the more they find. At this point in time, about three dozen antioxidant phytonutrients have been identified.
What’s more, all this nutrition-packed power adds up to a mere 35 calories for one cup of cooked chard. Enjoy two cups and you’ve tallied up four – yes, four! – servings of veggies for the day.
So let’s get started!
How To Shop
Look for vivid green leaves with no browning or yellowing, and crisp stalks. Avoid leaves with small holes.
Your best bet? Hit the farmers’ markets. Good-quality grocery stores are worth a look, too. Chard, like corn on the cob, always tastes its best when really, really fresh.
Wherever you go, you’ll likely see a variety of stalk colors like red, orange, yellow, white, and even rainbow bunches (a combination of different colored stalks), but the flavor of chard – bitter yet buttery, and even a tad sweet – does not vary. If you like spinach, you’ll love chard.
Got a vegetable garden? Or know someone who does? Plant some chard. The sweet tender greens you’ll be rewarded with are out of this world.
How To Prepare
Follow these four simple steps to make “ribbons” of chard that wilt down to a lovely velvety texture, and are easy to work with.
- In a sink full of water, immerse and swirl all the leaves from one bunch of chard until they’re free of any grit. Drain and pat till almost dry. (Leave a little moisture.)
- Leaf by leaf, starting from the bottom, cut out the tough center stem. Scissors work well. Cut till the stem starts feeling soft, pliable. Discard what you’ve cut.
- Pile up a few trimmed leaves on top of each other. Then, roll them up tightly like a cigar.
- Slice crosswise through your cigar to form 1- to 2-inch-wide ribbons.
One Sauté Fits All
This oh-so-simple sauté method can serve as your base for all kinds of chard recipes.
- Heat a large nonstick saucepan (one that’s big enough to contain all your chard ribbons) misted with a bit of oil spray over a medium flame.
- Toss in finely sliced garlic (from about 3 cloves) and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté for about 1 minute.
- Add your chard ribbons and cook for about 5 minutes, occasionally flipping the leaves in the pan so that what was on the bottom moves to the top.
Right before your eyes, your ribbons will shrink. You know they’re done when you taste them and they’re tender, but not mushy.
Enjoy your sautéed chard all on its own, or as a veggie addition to your lunch or dinner. Or be a little adventurous! Try any of the following chard recipes and tips.
Simply toss your sautéed chard into just about any homemade, canned, or frozen soup you’ve heated up on the stove or in microwave, including veggie soups, bean soups, chowders, and even chicken noodle. It’s amazing how much flavor and satiety chard adds.
While your egg whites are simmering away in the skillet, use tongs to spread your sautéed chard on top, then fold.
Stuff chard into a whole-wheat, low-sodium pita bread with tuna, sliced cucumber, and a little Dijon mustard.
Serve your grilled fish or chicken on a big bed of your sautéed chard.
Here’s a simple, spicy Asian-style treat – Chard with Ginger and Soba Noodles.
And it’s so fast. You can even sauté your chard ribbons while your noodles are boiling. (Sobas are quick cooking, generally only about 4 minutes.)
For your sauté, change your seasonings. Instead of garlic and red pepper flakes, use 1 to 2 teaspoons of peeled and grated fresh ginger and 1 finely sliced jalapeno pepper. Add them to the saucepan at the same time you put your chard in.
When your chard is wilted, simply toss with your cooked noodles. Yes, just 4 ingredients, and dinner’s done!
Keep branching out. When sautéing your chard, trade the garlic and red pepper for new and different seasonings like smoked paprika, also known as pimenton. Some describe its flavor as a little like barbecued potato chips. (Now we’ve got your attention!) With just a pinch or two, you’ll add a nice smoky kick to your chard greens. Add your paprika to the pan when tossing in the chard.
Or work with lemon zest. Using a zester, like a microplane, shave off some of the yellow skin from a lemon. You don’t need much – probably less than half a teaspoon. But wow, those citrus strands really wake up the natural saltiness of the chard. Add your lemon zest when throwing your chard ribbons into the pan.
Tzatziki and Chard Dip
This is a superb dip for fresh veggies like carrots, celery, and cherry tomatoes. It also works well as a:
- Thick chunky sauce for fish or poultry
- Topping for baked potatoes
- Sandwich spread – a lively, fat-free, very-low-sodium alternative to mayo
It’s easy to whip up, and it’s certainly a healthier choice over many store-bought Tzatzikis, which often contain heart- and belt-busters like sour cream and sodium. Who needs them when ingredients like fresh dill, lemon, and Greek yogurt deliver such tantalizing punch?
First, combine the following 5 ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth.
- 3/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
- 1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
Next, chop up your sautéed chard into smaller pieces. You don’t want ribbons. You want little chunks that will cling nicely to veggies as a dip.
Last step: Add your cut-up chard to your dip. Stir to combine.
Double the recipe if you’re thinking of using your Tsatziki throughout the week – maybe it’s a dip for guests you’re having over tonight, a baked potato topper on Tuesday for lunch, and a gyro spread for Thursday. How easy.
Got a little more time? Maybe a weekend afternoon? Cook up a batch of scrumptious, savory Ribollita, a traditional Italian soup. This recipe’s full of chard as well as another 5-star leafy green – kale.
Ribollita is a great go-to meal for weeknights ahead because it tastes even better a day or two after it’s been made.
Don’t let the long list of ingredients intimidate you. This is truly a chop-dump-stir recipe. If you can pick up a knife, you can do this!
Go For Greens!
Good luck in the kitchen! Let us know on Pritikin’s Facebook page how you’re doing, and what you’ve discovered.
And always keep in mind that you’re cooking with the nutritional big boys when you’re cooking with leafy greens like chard, spinach, kale, collards, bok choy, romaine lettuce, arugula, beet greens, and mustard greens.
Leafy greens, scientists are now discovering, very likely deliver amazing benefits, like protection for our eyes from macular degeneration, sharper minds, stronger bones, and lower risk of diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and more. Yes, a greener diet can certainly mean a much healthier you.