Why We Love Beets
These bright red-purple, nutrient-rich veggies are all-stars and have a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains, that have shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and detoxification support. Additionally, the naturally occurring nitrite is converted to nitric oxide helping to improve blood flow and enhance exercise performance. Surveys have even revealed those who eat beets regularly have a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity than those who do not consume beets. Beets are a good source of folic acid, and also contain vitamins A, C, choline, iodine, manganese, and fiber. They also contain beta cyanin, a phytonutrient that helps to speed up detoxification of the liver, proving to be a helpful “hangover cure”.
Beets are loaded with natural electrolytes, potassium and sodium, and can help to naturally replenish electrolytes lost through sweat during an exercise bout. The natural ingredient, sodium nitrate, helps to increase blood flow to muscles, and reduce the amount of oxygen required so that you can go faster and longer in your next workout. Beets can also help to relieve muscle related fatigue. Not only that, but beets may have natural aphrodisiac properties! They are rich in boron, which has been shown to elevate testosterone in men and women. It’s no joke when people say this is a “Veggie Viagra”.
Be aware – one reason we don’t love beets… beet-uria (a reddening of the urine) after consumption. This phenomenon is not harmful, and 10-15% of the population experiences beet-uria. However, if you have any reason to suspect iron-related problems, it is recommended to consult your doctor.
How to Shop for Beets
Choose beets that are firm, smooth-skinned, and rich in color. If available, choose those with their leaves attached. Not only do their leaves provide amazing health benefits, but they help to indicate the age of your veggies. Look for bright green leaves, avoiding those that are wilted yellow or discolored. NOTE: Beets sold without their leaves can be on display for weeks because the roots are much slower to “look” aged.
When you’re at the farmers’ market or grocery store, look for beets that are rich in red color. If the names are available, look for Detroit Dark Red and Red Ace, two of the most nutritious varieties available. While white, golden, and pinwheel stripped beets are other options and won’t discolor other veggies when cooking together, they do not offer these betalain phytonutrients found in red beets.
How to Store Beets
Store the greens and roots separately. Cut off the greens, wash well, towel dry, and store in a plastic bag pricked with holes. The leaves last only 2 days so eat them quickly. Store beetroots unwrapped in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
How to Prepare Beets
Beets can be enjoyed in many ways – juiced, blended, raw, steamed, cooked, baked or canned. Be aware beet roots can stain cutting boards- use gloves if you don’t want to get your hands red when working with them! Also, note that despite the sweet flavor of beets, most people don’t like them due to a compound called geosmin, which causes an earthy odor and flavor. You can tone done this earthiness by peeling the beet before juicing, or adding condiments such as dark balsamic vinegar when cooking. Don’t forget to eat or juice beet greens too – research has shown the leaves actually have more antioxidants than the roots and more iron than Popeye’s favorite veggie.
Juice: Wash beets well then add through juicer chute at a high speed. These sweet veggies go well with carrots, apples, greens, and ginger for a popular post-workout juice.
Blend: Roasted beets are wonderful blended up to make a non-traditional hummus.
Raw: Fresh, raw, beet roots are excellent grated raw in salads. A mandolin is a helpful kitchen tool to slice your beets paper-thin.
Cooked: Scrub beets well and add cook with their skins on to retain their water-soluble nutrients. Once cooled, slip off the skins. You can either steam or roast your beets in an oven at 450F. TIP: Beets’ phytonutrients are easily lost to heat-To retain the most nutrients, steam no more than 15 minutes, and roast no longer than 1 hour. You can even cook them sliced thin to make beet chips as a snack.
Pickled: Peel, grate, and add water, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and sugar to let stand for at least 8 hours at room temperature for a fermented slaw that is delicious and benefits your gut flora.
Canned: If purchasing canned beets, they will contain more salt than fresh. Rinse before using, to reduce the amount of sodium up to 40%.
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Although research is still being conducted, beet juice looks to provide the most concentrated source of betalains, which you can see in an extracted rich red-colored juice. Beetroot juice may be the best way to improve stamina during exercise performance. Research suggests consuming 300-600 ml beetroot juice 2-3 hours before a heavy workout. This red juice is one of the richest sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates, which help to improve blood flow through the body. One to two cups of beetroot juice a day has been shown to have significant effects to lower blood pressure. While eating cooked beets provides fiber, juicing the beets can allow for rapid absorption for improved blood pressure lowering effects.
Aside from beetroot juice, cooked beets are more nutritious than raw. However, the phytonutrient betalains, can be destroyed easily with heat, so it is important to monitor cooking time (15 minutes maximum to steaming, 1 hour maximum to roast).
Whether you decide to juice, roast, steam, or slice raw, this unique rich, red-colored vegetable will offer you amazing health benefits that can be hard to come by elsewhere!