Yes, Swiss chard stems are a highly nutritious and healthy part of the plant. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The stems provide a good source of plant-based nutrition.
Swiss chard stems are low in calories but packed with nutrients. One cup of raw chard stems contains (1):
- Calories: 10
- Fiber: 1.6 grams
- Vitamin K: 177% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 24% of the RDI
- Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 10% of the RDI
- Potassium: 10% of the RDI
In addition, Swiss chard stems are a good source of manganese, iron, copper and vitamin E.
They contain very little fat and no cholesterol. The fiber content is impressively high for a low-calorie vegetable.
This nutritional profile shows that chard stems provide a powerful package of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
The high fiber content of Swiss chard stems sets them apart from many other vegetables.
One cup provides 1.6 grams of fiber, which is a significant amount for a serving of veggies (1).
Fiber has been tied to many health benefits, including improved digestive health and enhanced weight control (2, 3).
Some studies show that increasing intake of dietary fiber can help promote weight loss by increasing feelings of fullness and reducing appetite (4).
High fiber foods like Swiss chard stems take longer to chew and provide bulk that slows down digestion to keep you feeling fuller for longer (5).
Fiber works by binding to water in the digestive tract to form a gel-like substance that helps regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation (6).
Some types of fiber can be fermented by the beneficial bacteria in the intestines and support the maintenance of gut health (7).
Overall, the fiber in Swiss chard stems makes them very filling and supports regularity, making them an excellent dietary source.
Swiss chard stems are one of the best plant-based sources of vitamin K available.
Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone health. It activates proteins that give calcium direction to areas where it’s needed, like bones and teeth (8).
One cup of raw Swiss chard stems knocks it out of the park, supplying 177% of the RDI for vitamin K in a single serving (1).
Some studies have found that a higher intake of vitamin K is associated with a reduced risk of bone fracture. Men and women with the highest vitamin K levels appear to have superior bone density and strength (9).
Vitamin K may also improve heart health. It prevents calcium from accumulating in blood vessels to lower the risk of arterial calcification and cardiovascular disease (10).
The high amount of vitamin K in Swiss chard stems supports strong bones and heart health.
In addition to vitamin K, Swiss chard stems are high in vitamin A.
Vitamin A has antioxidant properties that can neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Chronic oxidative stress has been linked to health problems like cancer and heart disease (11).
This important vitamin also supports immune function, vision health and cell growth. It’s essential for maintaining healthy mucous membranes in the eyes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts (12).
Vitamin A deficiency can cause visual impairment and blindness, weaken immunity and increase mortality rates (13).
Swiss chard stems are packed with antioxidants like vitamin A to fight cellular damage by free radicals and keep your body healthy.
Swiss chard stems are a good plant-based source of vitamin C, an essential micronutrient with antioxidant effects.
Vitamin C helps regenerate other antioxidants in the body, including vitamin E. It protects cells from harmful free radicals that can build up with factors like stress and pollution (14).
This key vitamin is also needed for growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. Your body relies on vitamin C to make collagen, L-carnitine and certain neurotransmitters (15).
Through its antioxidant effects, vitamin C shields cells from damage and supports immunity against pathogens like viruses and bacteria (16).
Although vitamin C deficiency is rare, it can cause fatigue, joint pain, muscle weakness and bleeding gums (17).
The vitamin C content of Swiss chard stems supports collagen production, immune function and antioxidant defenses.
Swiss chard stems provide a valuable dose of magnesium.
This essential mineral acts as a cofactor for over 300 enzymes in the body that regulate diverse biochemical reactions (18).
It plays central roles in muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, blood pressure regulation and DNA and protein synthesis (19, 20).
Most people do not meet their daily magnesium needs. Low magnesium levels have been associated with chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, migraine, Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease (21, 22).
Magnesium deficiency can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat and osteoporosis (23, 24).
The magnesium in Swiss chard stems helps prevent deficiency and supports many vital bodily processes and organ functions.
Swiss chard stems are a good source of potassium.
This mineral and electrolyte is important for fluid balance, nerve transmission and muscle function (25).
Many people do not hit the recommended daily intake for potassium of 4,700 mg per day. Low potassium levels are linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney stones (26).
Potassium supports heart health by relaxing blood vessels to reduce strain on the heart and increase blood flow. Studies associate higher intakes with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of stroke (27).
The potassium in Swiss chard stems helps regulate fluid balance and may promote heart health by lowering blood pressure.
Beyond vitamins A and C, Swiss chard stems contain beneficial plant compounds with antioxidant activity.
Chard stems are high in polyphenols, including quercetin, kaempferol and syringic acid (28).
In lab studies, quercetin and kaempferol have been found to inhibit cancer cell growth and induce cancer cell death (29, 30).
These polyphenols exhibit strong antioxidant effects, protecting cells from damage that can cause disease. They fight inflammation and may lower blood pressure as well (31, 32).
Research shows that people who eat diets high in antioxidants have a lower risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer (33, 34).
The polyphenols in Swiss chard stems provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant protection.
Swiss chard stems are considered very healthy. However, there are a few downsides:
- Their fibrous texture may not appeal to some people.
- Raw stems can be slightly tough or stringy.
- Cooking softens the texture but results in some nutrient loss.
- They contain oxalates, which some people are sensitive to.
- May impact thyroid function in people with impaired thyroid when consumed raw in excess.
These drawbacks are minor compared to the many health benefits Swiss chard stems provide.
They can be enjoyed cooked or raw. Cooking them briefly softens the texture.
Those with sensitivities can cook the stems thoroughly or limit portions. For most people, Swiss chard stems are highly nutritious and healthy.
Best Ways to Eat Swiss Chard Stems
Here are some delicious ways to enjoy Swiss chard stems:
Thinly slice or shred raw chard stems and add to:
- Nutritious dips like hummus and guacamole
Chop stems and mix into fresh juices, green smoothies or slaws.
Grate or shave them over grain bowls, pasta dishes, soups and stews.
Lightly cook chard stems by:
- Sautéing in olive oil or broth for 2–5 minutes
- Roasting at 400°F (200°C) for 15–20 minutes
- Boiling or steaming for 3–5 minutes
- Pickling in vinegar
Incorporate cooked chard stems into:
- Stir fries
- Pasta dishes
Try roasting stems until crispy for a healthy snack or salad topper.
- Prioritize cooking greens over stems to reduce any bitterness.
- Balance their texture in dishes by mixing stems with leaves.
- Start with smaller amounts if you’re new to eating them.
- Remove stems from raw chard if the texture bothers you.
Explore creative ways to enjoy the nutrients, fiber and crunch of Swiss chard stems. They are incredibly good for you.
Here is a quick summary of the many health benefits of Swiss chard stems:
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, polyphenols and phytonutrients that fight cellular damage by reactive molecules called free radicals.
2. Excellent Source of Vitamin K
Just one cup meets 177% of your daily vitamin K needs for strong bones and heart health.
3. High in Fiber
The 1.6 grams of fiber per cup promotes healthy digestion, weight control and gut health.
4. Provides Vitamin C
Vitamin C supports immunity, collagen production and iron absorption.
5. Contains Vitamin A
Vital for eye and immune health. The vitamin A in chard stems has antioxidant effects.
6. Good Source of Magnesium
Magnesium is needed for energy, muscle and nerve function, bone health and heartbeat regulation.
7. Provides Potassium
Potassium balances fluid levels in the body and supports heart health by lowering blood pressure.
8. May Lower Blood Pressure
Via the blood pressure-lowering minerals magnesium and potassium. Polyphenols may also improve blood pressure.
9. Supports Gut Health
The fiber feeds beneficial gut bacteria. These microbes bring health benefits like reduced inflammation.
10. Helps Control Blood Sugar
Magnesium balances blood sugar levels. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar to prevent spikes and crashes.
The Bottom Line
Swiss chard stems are low in calories but rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Both raw and cooked chard stems provide a very healthy addition to your diet.
They make an excellent source of nutrition to complement the leaves of the Swiss chard plant.
Enjoy them regularly for the diverse benefits to your health.