I have to admit that beets have never been a favorite food of mine. My Dad, on the other hand, just loves beets, and he asks me almost every spring, “Paula, when are you planting your beets?” I have always reminded him that I don’t like beets and am not planning to plant them ( yet again.) (Sweet potatoes, squash, and tomatoes are always in my garden.) However, maybe this year I will actually plant some beets – especially since I have learned that they offer some great health benefits. Plus, I’m sure I can learn to like them if I try preparing them a few different ways. And, of course, Dad would be happy too.
Beets are root vegetables with two parts, the bulbs and the leafy green leaves. They are members of the Beta vulgaris botanical species. ( Sugar beets and Swiss chard are also members.) While most beets you find in the supermarket are red beets, there are also white and golden varieties.
What nutrients are found in beets and beet greens?
Beet roots are an excellent source of the vitamin folate, and also offer modest amounts of fiber, iron, and potassium. One beet ( 2″ in diameter) provides 89 micrograms of folate (22% of the Daily Value for both men and women) . Folate helps repair damaged DNA, lowering the risk of cancer-causing mutations. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar, iron helps prevent anemia, and potassium helps control blood pressure. Red beets derive their red color not from lycopene ( found in tomatoes) nor from anthocyanins ( found in eggplant), but from unique phytonutrients known as betacyanins, which have strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying properties. In particular, betacyanins help to eliminate environmental toxins from the liver, keeping it healthy, and limit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the blood, which can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries and contribute to heart disease. One betacyanin known as betanin is used as a red food colorant.
Beet greens are loaded with vitamin K ( 1/2 cup of cooked beet greens provides 346 micrograms of vitamin K, which is more than 3 1/2 times the daily recommended intake for women and more than 2 1/2 times the daily recommended intake for men). Vitamin K promotes both bone and heart health. Beet greens are also rich in vitamin A, which is necessary for proper immune function, as well as the health of the eyes and skin. Beet greens are a great source of several minerals, including calcium, potassium, copper, iron, and magnesium.
What are the health benefits associated with drinking beet juice?
Beet juice has been shown to lower blood pressure. An Australian study published in Nutrition Journal found that men who drank 17.6 ounces of a beet juice beverage ( about 3/4 beet juice and 1/4 apple juice) saw a drop of 4-5 points in their systolic blood pressure six hours later. The nitrates in beets are thought to be responsible for the effect. Nitrates from beets and leafy green vegetables are converted in the body to nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels and dilates them. This helps blood flow more easily though the vessels and lowers blood pressure.
Beet juice also helps your body respond better to exercise. One study involved 10 men who engaged in moderate- or severe- exercise on 6 different occasions after drinking 70, 140, or 280 ml of beet juice or a placebo. While neither the placebo nor the 70 ml dose of beet juice had any effect, the 140 ml dose ( about 1/2 cup) reduced oxygen consumption by 1.7 % during moderate exercise and and 280 ml dose ( a little more than 1 cup) reduced it by 3.0%. In addition, the time it took for the muscles to become fatigued was extended by 14% and 12%, respectively for the 140 ml and 280 ml doses of beet juice.
How do I use beets and their greens?
Beets can be eaten raw. Just peel and grate them into a salad for added crunch and color. They also can be boiled or roasted. When boiling beets, it is best to leave their skins on during cooking, so that they don’t “bleed” their red juices. Beets are ready when you can easily pierce them with the tip of a sharp knife. Then you can drain them, run them under cold water briefly, and peel them. Once peeled, they can be cut into slices, quarters, or cubes. Warm, cooked beets can be served with a splash of lemon or orange juice and herbs. (Acid from citrus juices or vinegar helps to retain their bright red color.) Chilled cooked beets can be added to salads; they work well with oranges, carrots, or chickpeas. They also can be pureed to make a beet soup known as borscht or a hummus-like dip. Raw beet greens can be added to a leafy salad. They also can be lightly steamed, like spinach or kale.
With so many ways to eat beets, surely you can find one you enjoy!
You can start by trying this beautiful ruby colored beet dip. Serve it with crackers, pita bread wedges, or crudites or use it as a pretty topping for your baked potato.
You can get the recipe : Beet Dip.
Note: Red beets can stain your hands and clothes, so you may wish to wear an apron and proceed with caution when preparing this dish.