Unless you tend a home garden, where Swiss chard is a perennial favorite that can be grown with relative ease, you may not be particularly familiar with this leafy green. Now is an excellent time to get acquainted. Also known as silverbeet, spinach beet, and perpetual spinach, Swiss chard is a distant relative of spinach. Of course, spinach is a healthful superfood that makes regular appearances on many Americans’ tables.
Like spinach, Swiss chard is a dark green leafy vegetable chock full of beneficial dietary nitrates. Among other significant benefits, dietary nitrates are extremely beneficial for cardiovascular health. That’s because nitrates from leafy greens are converted in the body into nitric oxide (NO). NO is a tiny molecule with an outsized impact on blood pressure. By signaling the involuntary muscles surrounding blood vessels to relax, these crucial molecules help keep blood pressure in check, while helping to improve athletic endurance and performance.
Natural Blood Pressure Control
Research has shown that people with elevated blood pressure who consume dietary nitrates from nitrate-rich whole foods such as beets experience a normalization of blood pressure levels. Healthy adults with normal blood pressure levels are not affected in this way by dietary intake of nitrates. Presumably, their bodies already possess an ample supply of NO. Thus, there’s no danger of getting too many dietary nitrates from foods such as beets, spinach, and Swiss chard. Research suggests that less healthy people, who may not get enough natural nitrates in their diets, may benefit significantly from increasing their intakes of these plant-based nutrients.
Dietary nitrates from foods such as Swiss chard may benefit vascular health through a variety of mechanisms, such as the aforementioned reductions in blood pressure, and reductions in platelet aggregation (meaning blood clots that could lead to a heart attack or stroke are less likely to occur), and preserving or improving the health of the delicate, specialized tissue lining the interior of blood vessels; the endothelium. All of these beneficial effects help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A Bone Health Boost
Research suggests a majority of Americans consume too few whole plant foods. Whole foods such as Swiss chard and spinach supply other important nutrients, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium (also linked to natural regulation of blood pressure), and vitamins A, C and E. Even better, it’s an excellent source of the often-overlooked nutrient, vitamin K.
Vitamin K is a key nutrient necessary for the maintenance of optimal bone health. By modifying bone matrix proteins and improving calcium absorption, vitamin K enhances bone modeling and density, improving bone strength and enhancing natural resistance to breakage.