Care of Laura Wright (blogging at http://www.thefirstmess.com)

chard2We should all know by now that eating your greens is a big step towards good health maintenance and feeling the high vibes. Kale has certainly been getting a lot of attention in the past year or so but what about chard!

Leafy chard, from the same family as spinach and beets, with its various coloured stems deserves a little spotlight too.

Buying it: Leafy, green chard originally hails from Sicily (despite commonly being referred to as Swiss Chard) and has an earthy, slightly salty taste. There are 3 main types available at markets around this time of year and into the early fall: Rainbow Chard with its pink, yellow and white stalks, Rhubarb or Ruby Chard with its deep red stems and slightly stronger flavour and the classic Fordhook Chard with more crinkled leaves and thicker white stems. As with any green leafies, going organic is optimal when buying chard as leafy vegetables in general tend to harbor more pesticide residue than others.

Killer Carotenoids: Vibrant chard is loaded with antioxidants in the form of carotenoids. Carotenoids offer pigmentation to yellow, orange and red produce as well as dark green leafy vegetables. Consumption of these leaves is helpful in bumping up your Vitamin A levels as the body converts beta carotene (a type of carotenoid) into the vitamin. Maintaining a good level of Vitamin A aids in good eye health, boosted immunity and healthy skin.

Holy Vitamin K!: Just 1 cup of chard contains well over 100 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin K. What function does Vitamin K hold for the body? It can protect bones from weakening or fracture. Osteoclasts (bone cells) take minerals from the bones (like calcium) in order to use them for other bodily processes. While this is totally natural, the presence of Vitamin K helps keep this process in check so as not to encourage excess bone demineralization. Eat your greens and keep your bones healthy!