Beets can add a healthy boost to your diet. Beets are a good source of riboflavin, which helps build healthy red blood cells. And, (fun fact), they come in multiple varieties, including red, golden, and white.
Health Benefits of Beets
With the season of red and green before us, consider adding beets to your holiday menu. Both the beet root (red or orange varieties) and beet greens are highly nutritious. Beets are low in calories and because they are plants, contain no cholesterol.
Beet roots are juicy, red or orange morsels of nutrition. The striking color comes from a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to defend against cancer, heart disease and stroke. When consumed raw, beet roots contain nitrates which can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and improve circulation. Athletes who consume raw beet roots improve both athletic stamina and performance. Beet roots also contain a good amount of potassium that helps regulate metabolism and protects against high blood pressure.
Note: Some people notice red-stained urine after consuming beet roots, but this is harmless.
Beet greens are high in B vitamins, including folate, which helps form healthy red blood cells important for carrying oxygen to tissues. Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin C, beta carotene and other antioxidants that fight aging and disease. In addition to vitamins, these greens also contain minerals like iron and magnesium that protect arteries and bones.
When choosing fresh beets, select bright, firm beet roots with intact bright greens. When you get them home, wash thoroughly to remove sand, dirt and insecticide residues. Chop off greens and store them separately from the roots, since the greens can absorb moisture and nutrition from the roots.
Both beet roots and beet greens can be consumed raw. Peel the outer layer of roots and grate into fresh salads for a mild, citrus flavor. You can also toss into cabbage slaws or cucumber salads. Use raw beet greens in salads and smoothies, or as a sandwich topper.
Roasting brings out the best flavor for cooked beet roots with just a brushing of olive oil, salt and pepper. Steamed or slightly sautéed beet greens can be a great side dish with a drizzle of olive oil or lemon juice. Or toss raw greens into cooked soups or stews just minutes before serving.
Make beets a bright addition to your holiday meals for red and green accents that provide color, texture, flavor and an abundance of good nutrition.
Shopping and Cooking Tips
Beets should be round and firm with smooth skins and a deep color. If the greens are attached, they should be fresh, not wilted. Small to medium sized beets (up to 21⁄2 inches across) have better flavor. Choose beets that are about the same size so they will cook evenly. The larger the beet, the longer the cooking time will be.
You can use beet greens raw in salads or cooked as a side dish. Remove leaves from beets, if still attached, and store separately in an open bag. Use within 2-3 days.
Fresh beets are available year round but might be cheaper and fresher in summer and early fall. Buying canned beets might save you money and time.
Beet and Carrot Salad Recipe
1 large carrot, sliced thin or coarsely grated
1⁄4 cup minced fresh onion
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
1 3⁄4 cups (bite sized pieces) beets, cooked from fresh or canned/drained
1. Cook carrots (if desired) until just tender. Try microwave or steaming.
2. In a medium bowl, combine onion, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and cilantro, if desired. Add beets and carrots and stir to coat evenly. Serve warm or cold.
3. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.
PDF recipe download includes shopping and cooking notes, Beet and Carrot Salad and Tropical Beets recipes.
“Health Benefits” article by Stephanie Polizzi, MPH, RDN. Recipe and fact sheet provided by Oregon State University Extension Service with Healthy Bytes Community Networking Initiative.
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