Swiss chard, along with kale, mustard greens and collard greens, is one of several leafy green vegetables often called “greens”. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in white, red or yellow along with a wide fan-shaped green leaves. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares similar tastes. It possesses the bitterness of beets and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves.
Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible and carry an impressive nutritional resume. Just one cup of boiled Swiss chard contains over 700% of the daily value of vitamin K, over 100% of the daily value of vitamin A, and over half of the daily value of vitamin C. Other nutrients include magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin E, dietary fiber, copper, calcium, tryptophan, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, folate, biotin, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5. You can find all of these nutrients in 1 cup (a single serving) of Swiss chard and with only 35 calories per serving.
The nutrients found in Swiss chard help to promote a variety of health benefits, such as bone and lung health, antioxidant protection and immune system support, and heart protection. Swiss chard also provides iron for energy as well as anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits from vitamin E. Benefits continue with fiber to promote digestive health and a healthy weight vision health with vitamin A and beta-carotene. Swiss chard is also a great promoter of hair and scalp health. Take a look again at the list of nutrients that can be found in Swiss chard. There are a lot of nutrients that are important for hair and scalp health which goes to prove once more that a nutritionally balanced diet can do so much more than what we may have expected for our bodies.
So, the next time you visit your local farmer’s market, or favorite grocery store, try taking a second look at Swiss Chard. Choose a chard that is chilled to ensure that it has a crunchier texture and sweeter taste. Look for leaves that are vivid green in color without any browning or yellowing. Also as a tip, do not cook chard in aluminum pots since the oxalates contained in the chard will react with the metal and cause the pot to discolor.
Alcohol and Your Fitness Goals
It’s Friday night (well maybe not yet but bear with me), you’ve had the week from Hades, and you’re so ready to live it up with a night of plenty of booze to make you forget the time between Monday morning and Friday afternoon. But hold on just a minute. If you’ve been working out all week long to reach your fitness goals, then you’d better thing twice before going out and drinking heavily and undo all your hard work. Consuming alcohol in large quantities has a direct effect on your metabolism (decreasing it), causing fat to be stored instead of being utilized as an energy source. Alcohol also contains seven “empty” calories per gram, meaning that these calories don’t provide you with any nutritional necessities to build muscle and keep your body fat within a healthy range.
We are all aware of many of the effects excessive alcohol consumption can have on the body, but there are some you might not be aware of. Excessive alcohol consumption reduces blood to the muscles, causing weakness and deterioration (not very helpful if you’re trying to tone or build muscle). It also reduces testosterone in the blood and increases conversion of testosterone to estrogen, causing increased fat depositing and fluid retention. Excessive consumption of alcohol causes imbalances that can cause low blood sugar, fatty liver and a build-up of fats in the blood stream. The brain, as we all know, also suffers at the hands of excessive alcohol consumption by oxygen supplies being cut off, resulting in a “blackout”. Lack of oxygen supply to the brain can kill tens of thousands of brain cells.
Consuming alcohol in excess can cause physical performance to suffer. Alcohol is well known as a depressant that suppresses the brain’s ability to function. Even though you’re feeling fabulous after several Cosmos, your reaction time, accuracy, balance, hand-eye coordination and endurance all decrease dramatically. Alcohol is a diuretic that may result in dehydration, which can decrease physical performance even during the following day after your night out.
Nutritionally speaking, too much alcohol inhibits the break down of nutrients into usable substances by decreasing the release of digestive enzymes. Regular consumption of alcohol also impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines, disabling the transport of some nutrients into the blood. This interference of nutrient breakdown and absorption may impair physical activity as well as recovery. Drinking a bottle of Gatorade after a hard run isn’t going to help as much with electrolyte imbalance if the absorption of the nutrients is compromised thanks to excessive alcohol consumption. Remember the “empty” calories we talked about earlier? Well they add up really fast with alcohol. Did you know that twelve ounces of beer is roughly equal to about 150 calories, five ounces of wine are about 100 calories and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits equal to about 100 calories? It’s easy to see how excessive drinking can really flush a whole in a person’s quest to maintain a healthy body weight right down the drain.
Ok, now that we’ve seen the ugly side of alcohol many of you may be afraid to have that glass of wine with dinner tonight. We’ll don’t be. When alcohol is consumed in moderation (no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men), it has been shown to have some positive effects such as reduced stress levels, increased HDL cholesterol within one to two weeks and reduced insulin resistance. Notice that the keyword that I used above was “excessive”. So if you want to increase muscle mass, decrease fat or improve general overall health, make sure alcohol is only consumed in moderation, so all your hard work isn’t undone. And remember to ALWAYS be safe and responsible when you do decided to drink.
Until next week…