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I’ve officially declared the month of February “detox” month! All month long I will feature recipes with natural antioxidant powerhouses to help rejuvenate and energize your system to fight off those winter colds!

This week’s star: Swiss Chard!

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Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that is in the same family as the common beet. However, while the root of the beet is usually eaten, it is the leaves of Swiss chard that are most often consumed.

Even though it is called “Swiss” chard, it originated in Sicily and today remains an important part of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. It also happens to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Here are 8 health benefits you may not have known about Swiss chard:

Antioxidants
The reason Swiss chard is so colorful is because it is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet (antioxidants are responsible for the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables). It contains beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, quercetin, kaempferol, and many other disease fighting antioxidants.

Blood Sugar Regulation
Swiss chard contains syringic acid and fiber and syringic acid, both of which help to regulate blood sugar levels. If you are at risk for diabetes or you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you should eat more leafy green vegetables such as Swiss chard.

Bone Health
Swiss chard, like other leafy green vegetables, is an excellent source of calcium which helps to strengthen the bones and teeth. One cup of Swiss chard provides about 101 mg of calcium. It also contains vitamin K and magnesium, both of which are important for strong bones.

Cancer Prevention
Swiss chard is one of the super foods that is known for its cancer preventative properties thanks to the fiber, chlorophyll, phytochemicals, and other plant pigments it contains. Studies have found that leafy green vegetables are particularly beneficial against colon cancer.

Brain Health
In addition to strengthening the bones, the vitamin K in Swiss chard is crucial for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system because it is essential in the formation of the myelin sheath, the protective layer around nerves.

Healthy Blood
Swiss chard is high in iron, which is essential for maintaining the health of the circulatory system and the prevention of anemia. The vitamin K it contains promotes healthy blood clotting and prevents excessive bruising and bleeding.

Hair Health
Swiss chard is rich in biotin, an important hair vitamin that promotes hair growth and strength. Research has found that 30 mcg per day of biotin is beneficial for the hair and one cup of Swiss chard contains about 10.5 mcg. Swiss chard also has high amounts of vitamins C and A, both of which assist the hair follicles in the production of sebum.

Eye Health
One cup of Swiss chard contains a whopping 9,276 mcg of lutein, an antioxidant that is essential for eye health. Researchers suggest that consuming between 6,000 and 10,000 mcg of lutein per day can maintain the health of the eyes and possible prevent or delay the onset of age-related eye diseases.

This week’s stew is packed with Swiss chard which adds an amazing texture to the soup in addition to its stellar nutrients. Let’s get cooking!

Ingredients:
– 2 Tbs olive oil
– 1 1/4 lb Swiss chard, leaves and stems chopped separately
– 2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced half inch thick (2 cups)
– 3 medium carrots, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
– 2 medium stalks celery, sliced (1 cup)
– 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
– 4 cups vegetable broth
– 1/2 cup medium pearl barley
– 1 cup frozen baby lima beans

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1. Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Stir in chard stems, leeks, carrots, celery, and nutmeg. Cook 7 to 9 minutes, or until vegetables release juices but are still brightly colored, stirring often.

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2. Add broth, barley, and one and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Add lima beans and chard leaves. Simmer 10 minutes more, or until lima beans are tender.

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Enjoy!

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