Super Food: Beets

Fall is here; the leaves are turning color and scattering the ground with beautiful flecks of yellow, orange and red.  What are the leaves telling us? It is time to pull out those delicious root vegetables, tubers and bulbs from the ground for fall harvest!

This past weekend one of our Dietitians Susan helped her family finish harvesting the vegetable garden planted at the farm. It took a while to dig up bags of potatoes, onions, and carrots. But one of the highest yields they had was all of the beets! Beets stand out from the rest of the produce with their tall leafy beet greens sprouting from the tops of their deep purple heads, trailing a root tail behind. There is something very satisfying about uncovering these extraterrestrial root vegetables from ordinary soil!

Beets eaten raw are crunchy, and have unique sweet-bitter flavor. When cooked, beets take on a buttery, soft texture. The ancient Romans were one of the first populations to cultivate and eat the actual beetroot as food. Previous to this, people more commonly ate just the beet greens tops. Today we do not discriminate and enjoy both the beetroot and beet greens as nutrient packed additions to any meal.

Why is it healthy?

Beets are rich in color pigments that range from yellow to deep crimson. These color compounds called betalains give beets both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help protect against cancers and cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis. These pigments dissolve in water, and can “bleed” out from the root. This property makes beets great for another use in the food industry as natural food dye! Betalains are however are sensitive to high temperatures, so to maximize health benefits cook beets gently or not at all. Fresh shredded beets have a sweet pleasing crunch and taste delicious in salad!

Other benefits of beets:

–          High in manganese, which plays a role in protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

–          A good source of Vitamin C that helps in wound healing, skin integrity and preventing infection

–          A source of folate and iron important in the maintenance of healthy red blood cells

–          A source of potassium that functions to control blood pressure as well as nerve and muscle function

–          A source of dietary fibre

Including beets in your diet:

When buying beets choose those that are smooth skinned and are deep in color. Dodge the ones with dark spots, bruises or wet patches. You can skip washing your beets and place them in an airtight bag before storing in the refrigerator. This will help them last longer (2-3 weeks).

Raw: Beets will add a pop of color and sweetness when grated into any homemade salad or slaw.

Cooked: Prepare beets by steaming in a steamer for about 15 minutes or roasting in the oven until tender. After cooked the skin should rub off easily with a paper towel. Sliced cooked beets work well in a spinach salad, marinated in fresh herb vinaigrette, pureed in traditional borscht soup, pickled or as a simple roasted side dish to round out a healthy plate.

*In this month’s newsletter, we’re sharing a recipe for Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets*

Did you know that…

Beetroot juice contains natural nitrite oxide? Nitrite oxide is a molecule that acts to dilate blood vessels allowing more blood and oxygen to flow to organs and muscles. For this the reason some athletes use beetroot juice supplements to improve their performance! However, like most nutrition queries, more research is needed to define dosage, timing and use of this supplement as studies have shown mixed results.

October 1, 2013
Revive Wellness