Ordinary Super Foods: Beets
Continuing our Ordinary Super Foods series, today we’ve got beets. Beets get a bad rap, but they’re tasty, easy to prepare, and fantastic for the body. If you’re still in doubt after reading about all of the benefits, just give one of the recipes a try.
I’ll admit to being a beet hater until I had a fantastic salad with gorgonzola, candied walnuts, and fresh beets over spinach. I was instantly converted after falling in love with that dish. Many thanks to Wolfgang Puck for serving it on his menu at Downtown Disney in Orlando!
Whether you’re looking to prevent disease, purify the body, or love as long as the famous Russian centenarians, beets are a vital part of a healthy diet. And contrary to what you may have experienced from the canned variety, fresh beets are delicious!
Super Food, Super You
Beets contain phytonutrients called betalains. These compounds act as both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents in the body, as well as helping it detoxify.
One particular betalain is betanin. This pigment found in both the peel and flesh of the beet has been shown to lessen tumor cell growth in lab tests. Many cancers were tested, including colon, stomach, nerve, lung, breast, prostate and testicular tissues.
In addition to their cancer-kicking properties, beets are also a great source carotenoids. The most common carotenoid is beta carotene, but beets contain two newer carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin. These have already been proved to be great for ocular health, but are also showing promise in keeping the nerve tissues healthy.
Where vitamins and minerals are concerned, beets can’t be beat! They contain significant amounts of folate, manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, tryptophan, iron, copper, and phosphorus.
Even one possible negative of beets can, in fact, be positive. Beeturia is a condition where urine turns pink or red after consuming beets. It only affects about 15% of people. Strange color in the bowl aside, beeturia can indicate an iron imbalance, both too much and too little in the body.
If you have beeturia after eating beets, check with your doctor. It might be the cheapest diagnostic test you’re likely to see from a physician!
You can eat both the beet root and the greens. The greens taste much like Swiss chard (which makes sense, they’re in the same family) and can be prepared the same ways. I don’t personally enjoy them fresh, but a light 1-minute steam is perfect. I like to squeeze a little lemon juice and pour on a drizzle of olive oil.
Of course, consuming beets raw is the best way to preserve their amazing nutritional properties. If you choose to cook them, be careful to steam beets lightly (15 minutes is the optimal time) because the betalains are extremely heat sensitive. Limit roasting time to an hour or less.
The beet root is also fantastic with the same preparation of lemon juice and olive oil (I prefer a touch of salt as well). Cut beets into quarters and drop into boiling water, skin still on. After steaming, don a pair of kitchen gloves and rub the skin off with a paper towel. You may also chop some fresh herbs on top for a little brightness.
A super easy way to have enjoy these beauties is to grate them over salad. If you don’t like to get your hands dirty (and beets will stain), run them through the food processor. The texture will be nearly identical but the mess will stay inside the bowl. If you do happen to stain your hands, lemon juice will take the color away.
I’ve got three recipes for you today, and they’re three of my favorites. The first comes from Green Smoothie Girl, Robyn Openshaw. The second was, hands down, my favorite meatless dish from my time in Russia last year. The third is a delightful side salad that I make about once a week in the winter. Enjoy!
Hot Pink Breakfast Smoothie
Recipe from Blendtec.com
- 1 ½ cups young Thai coconut juice (best raw, or from a can, both can be found at Asian markets and health food stores)
- 1 large carrot, cleaned and cut in 3 pieces (or 5-6 baby carrots)
- ½ a medium raw beet, peeled
- ¼ cup cashews
- ¼ cup chopped dates (inexpensive in bulk foods at a health food store)
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 12 frozen strawberries
- optional: 1-2 Tbsp. hemp protein (available at health food stores or on Amazon)
- optional: 2 Tbsp. kefir or yogurt
Puree all ingredients except strawberries and hemp protein in BlendTec for 90 seconds. Add strawberries and puree on high until smooth. Add hemp protein for the last 5 seconds.
Recipe from Cooks.com
- 2 quarts beef stock
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
- 1 cup potatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup carrots, diced
- 1 stalk celery, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
- 1/2 cup juice (from can of beets)
- 1 cup cooked or canned beets, diced
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- chopped dill or parsley (for garnishing)
- sour cream
In a large heavy pan, melt butter and lightly sauté cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery and onion for approximately 5 minutes. Add beef stock.
Blend canned tomatoes or press through a sieve until fine. Add pureed tomatoes and beet juice to stock. Cover and simmer over low heat until vegetables are firmly tender but not soft.
Beet Salad with Almonds and Chives
Recipe modified slightly from allrecipes.com
- 1 1/2 pounds beets – red, yellow, the candy-striped Chioggia, or a mixture
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, roasted
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 1-2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- A few whole chives for garnish
Place beets in a medium pot and cover with water. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook 15 to 25 minutes, until a beet is easily pierced with a fork. Drain, let cool, and use a paring knife and fingers to slide off skins.
Cut beets into bite-sized pieces and place in a large salad bowl. Add almonds, olive oil, chives, lemon juice and salt, and toss gently. Sprinkle with feta, lay whole chives across salad as garnish, and serve.
The Beet Goes On
With their digestive support, cancer killing ability, antioxidant richness, bone-building minerals, and blood purifying betalains, you’ll want to get at least one beet into your body per week (two would be better). Two organic beets cost about $2.00 here in the Atlanta area, definitely worth it for all the good they do.
Well, there you have it! A super food that fits into just about every diet and budget. Don’t let memories of canned beets (eww) or fear of cooking fresh beets keep you from discovering their delightful sweetness and amazing health benefits.