The Beet Goes On

For some reason, beets have never been that appealing to me.  I’ve tried the dark red vegetables a time or two when going through a salad bar line, but that was the extent of it.  My classmates in my nutrition course always talked about them, but I never really understood the appeal, until this past weekend that is.

My sister Rosie and I stayed with a friend (that’s you Holley!) in North Carolina this weekend, and she prepared the most delicious beet salad for us.   Rosie and I were so impressed that we literally nerded out on beets on our long drive home, looking up all their nutritional benefits and the best way to prepare them on my phone.  Here are a few things we learned.

Nutritional Benefits:

  • Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, which have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.
  • The carotenoids in beets contribute to eye health and age-related eye problems.
  • The betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth.
  • Beets contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
  • 15% of our recommended daily fiber is contained in just 1 cup of beets.  While we tend to lump all food fiber into a single category, not all dietary fiber is alike.  Beet fiber provides special health benefits, particularly beneficial to our digestive tract and our cardiovascular system.

How to select, store and prepare beets:

  • Choose small or medium-sized beets whose roots are firm, smooth-skinned and deep in color.  Avoid beets that have spots, bruises or soft, wet areas.
  • Trim most of the greens and their stems from the beet roots to prevent the pulling away of moisture from the root.  Leave about two inches of the stem attached.  Don’t wash beets before storing.  Place in a plastic bag and wrap the bag tightly around the beets, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible, and place in refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 weeks.  Store the greens in a separate bag.
  • When you’re ready to work with your beets, you may want to wear gloves as they can stain your skin (Don’t worry, it comes off with lemon juice!).
  • Don’t cook the life out of your beets.  Studies show that their phytonutrients are diminished by heat.
  • Steam your beets for 15 minutes or roast them in the oven (400 degrees) for about an hour to maximize their nutrition and flavor.  You’ll know they’re done when you can easily insert a fork or the tip or knife into them.   Once they’re cooked, the skin will come off easily and you can slice and serve!
  • The greens attached to the beet roots can be prepared like spinach or Swiss chard. They are incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals as well as carotenoids such as beta-carotene.

You know who else loves beets?

Just Beet It:

So I whipped up some beet salad last night, and it was super easy.  I wrapped 6 beet roots in foil and roasted them for an hour.  While they were in the oven, I prepared a marinade of olive oil (2 tbs), balsamic vinegar (1 tbs), fresh cilantro (about 1 cup chopped), and salt and pepper.  You can serve the salad hot or let it marinate in the refrigerator and serve it cold.

You can substitute parsley or another fresh herb for the cilantro and add crumbled of feta or goat cheese.

Beet salad makes a great salad topper or side dish. I served mine with baked salmon and sautéed kale.

Overall, my first experience cooking beets was a good one, although my kitchen resembled the set of a horror movie afterward!  Next time I’m going to add a little goat cheese and crushed walnuts to the mix.

I poked around for some more beet recipes on the Internet, and lo and behold, they’re featured on the New York Times website today!  Check it out.

I encourage you to give beets a try.  You can find them year round, but their peak season begins in June.  They’ll add vibrant color and unique flavor to your hum-drum meals!

Do you have a good beet recipe to share?  Please send it my way!

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Filed under Gluten-Free, Rants and Cravings