High in nutrients and low in calories, the simple garden beet contains a plethora of health benefits, including antioxidants. Try these delicious beet recipes.
High in nutrients and low in calories, the simple garden beet contains a plethora of health-protective antioxidants. Eating a cup of beets is really like consuming a power-packed and tasty multivitamin—a simple and wholesome way to boost your health and well-being.
Most of us have eaten them now and again, in borscht or pickled. Today with the resurgence of fresh culinary inspiration brought by a growing culture of North American foodies, we can experience these delicious vegetables in a wide variety of innovative and delectable ways.
Red beets are tops
Beets can be found in a lovely array of vibrant colours ranging from white and yellow to deep crimson or candy-cane striped. While all of these can be used in a successful beet dish, some of the beet’s most beneficial phytonutrients—betalains, including betacyanin and betanin—are found specifically in the red pigments of this nutritious vegetable.
Yellow beets have another type of betalain called betaxanthin. Betalains exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and have been found to be of great assistance in general detoxification.
Raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, pureéd, or juiced—don’t be afraid to experiment with your own recipes for this palatable root. The garden beet is truly one of Mother Nature’s treasures; for nutritional value, flavour, and versatility, it simply can’t be beat!
The garden beet is rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and manganese, all of which have significant antioxidant value. While the particular antioxidants found in beets are especially beneficial for supporting eye and nerve tissue health, the anti-inflammatory properties of some of these components, including betalains and betaine, render the humble garden beet a potentially invaluable ally to those fighting cancer or heart disease.
To add even further to its health benefits, beetroot is high in:
- soluble fibre, a known cholesterol buster
- folate, essential for normal tissue growth, protective against Alzheimer’s disease
- boron, involved in the production of sex hormones
- nitrate, which lowers blood pressure
- iron, which combats anemia and fatigue
- silica and calcium, which help to prevent osteoporosis
- Steamed Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
Did you know?
Like spinach and chard, the beet is a member of the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae). Its ancestor is the wild beet, or sea beet, which dates all the way back to prehistoric times. Originally eaten for its leafy green tops, the roots were cultivated by the ancient Romans. By the 16th century they had become popular not only as livestock fodder, but also in family kitchens throughout northern Europe.
Selecting and storing
Available year-round, the best time to buy beets is during their growing season from June through October. Choose the smaller, thinner-skinned roots with good colour and tender, vibrant greens. To store, cut the greens off about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 in (3 to 4 cm) above the base of the roots; store in separate, airtight bags in the fridge for a few days (greens) or weeks (roots).
To prepare beets, wash under cold water; scrub roots lightly with a vegetable brush if necessary. Since the phytonutrients in beets, particularly the betalains, are quite vulnerable to heat, the less cooking you expose them to, the better.
Steaming is the simplest and quickest way to get this gem of a vegetable to your table: leave on some of the stem and taproot, then quarter and place in steamer for 15 minutes. Remove peel from cooled roots if desired. If your hands become stained, rub with lemon juice to clean them
Preparing beet greens
Don’t compost all of those lovely beet tops—by weight they are richer in certain nutrients than the roots. High in beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, and iron, they’re a leafy vitamin shot in the arm. Use the larger leaves in any recipe that calls for spinach or Swiss chard; the smaller, tender leaves make a great addition to any salad. Here’s a quick and easy way to add the greens to your next meal:
Cut washed beet tops into strips 1/2 to 3/4 in (1 to 2 cm) wide.
Heat some olive oil in a pan; add some chopped shallots or garlic. Add sliced beet tops; sauté uncovered until wilted, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat, add a dash of lemon juice and sea salt, and sprinkle on sesame seeds or chopped nuts of your choice; toss.