Beets are low in calories and are a great source of nutrients, including fiber, folate, and vitamin C. Beets are packed with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Beets are also high in betaine – a key nutrient formed from choline. Choline regulates inflammation in your cardiovascular system.
The part of beets that gives it its dark red color is beta-cyanine. Beta-cyanine is a powerful antioxidant that’s important in fighting disease. This includes cancer prevention, especially colon cancers.
Today, sugar beets (unfortunately often genetically modified) are a common raw material used for the production of sugar, but many people are missing out on including them in whole form in their regular diet.
Drinking beet juice can help lower blood pressure. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points. The benefit likely comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
If you need a boost, beet juice may prove valuable. Those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. The benefit is thought to also be related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide, which may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.
The betaine in beets helps protect cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. As reported by the World’s Healthiest Foods, eating beets can help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent chronic diseases.
The powerful phytonutrients that give beets their deep crimson color may help to ward off cancer. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water, for instance, while beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.
Beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas). Beets also contain the B vitamin folate, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.
The betalin pigments in beets support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, which is when broken down toxins are bound to other molecules so they can be excreted from your body. Traditionally, beets are valued for their support in detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver.
The green tops of the beets are loaded with important nutrients like protein, phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Beet greens also supply significant amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Beet greens have more iron than spinach.
How to Buy
You will often see the beets with the greens still attached during the summer and early fall. Or, you will find them loose in a bin. Pick small to medium-sized beets similar in size to ensure even cooking.
There are a couple of color variations. The red are the most common. These are the beets used in borscht. They have a sweet and earthy flavor. The golden colored beets are milder but still sweet. These are good choice when you don’t want red color to spread. There is a striped beet called the Chioggia or Bull’s Eye. This Italian hybrid is the mildest beet. The stripes fade when cooking, so to get the full effect, thinly shave them and add to salads.
How to Store
Store beets and their greens separately. Gently twist the greens at the base, near the root, to break them off. This will leave behind an inch or two of stem. Unwashed vegetables stay fresher in the fridge longer. The greens can be wrapped in a damp paper towel to stay fresh.
How to Cook
Wash and dice beets, place them on a lined cookie sheet and bake until just tender – 30 minutes, this will depend on the size.
Add beets to roasted vegetables.
Cooked beets and goat cheese are a great combination.
Thinly slice beets into salads.