With the arrival of fall, a chill is in the air, leaves in shades of red and yellow are covering the ground, and beets have arrived. Yes, the beet, my favorite root vegetable, is in season and I’m ready for some delicious salads and soups.
Beets Are Nutritious
Both the reddish-purple root and the leafy beet greens are loaded with nutrients. The beet tops are a good source of iron, vitamin A, potassium, and calcium while the beetroot is rich in folate, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, iodine, choline, and zinc. With nearly 3 grams of fiber per 100 gram serving , beetroot is an excellent digestive aid and can help with constipation. Some oriental medicine practitioners recommend beets for their liver and blood cleansing benefits.
Recently, beets have been shown to enhance athletic performance. Two studies out of University of Exeter found that cyclists, who drank a half-liter of beetroot juice several hours before cycling, were able to ride up to 20 percent longer than those who drank a placebo blackcurrant juice. They discovered the high nitrate content in beetroot juice allows cyclists to exercise using less oxygen than normal by reducing the energy requirements of the muscles.
Beets Are Tasty, Too!
Beet greens can be eaten raw or sautéed in a bit of olive oil and tossed with some nonfat feta cheese. Beetroot can be cooked by boiling, roasting or steaming and then eaten as a side dish, in a salad or soup. Raw shredded beetroot is a healthy addition to any meal and pickled beetroot is popular as a condiment. Beets can be juiced and then combined with other vegetable juices for a different flavor.
My favorite way to eat beets is in a soup. I grew up eating my Polish grandma’s barszcz (or borscht), a flavorful soup using both the beetroot and greens. It can be made with diced vegetables, cabbage, potatoes, beets, and heavy cream in a base of beef broth and topped with sour cream. I prefer a healthier version in a vegetable stock base without the heavy cream.
My grandma’s barszcz recipe (with a few healthy modifications)…
½ cup finely chopped organic carrots
½ cup finely chopped organic onions
2 cups finely chopped organic beets
Cover these ingredients with boiling water and simmer gently in a covered pan for 20 minutes. Add the following and let it all simmer for 15 minutes.
2 cups organic vegetable stock
1 cup finely chopped organic cabbage
1 tablespoon vinegar
Garnish with sour cream, beet greens, or grated cucumber and serve it hot or cold. This recipe makes approximately five cups.
If you are pressed for time, and don’t want to get your fingers purple, try my quick and easy recipe – it’s really quick and easy…
1 can of organic beets
16 ounces (half a carton) of organic vegetable broth
Blend both ingredients for 1 minute, pour into a pot and heat it up. This takes about 10 minutes and makes approximately four cups. Quick and easy!
Beets are flavorful, packed full of nutrients, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. I’m looking forward to my next bowl of barszcz!
Stephen J. Bailey, Paul Winyard, Anni Vanhatalo, Jamie R. Blackwell, Fred J. DiMenna, Daryl P. Wilkerson, Joanna Tarr, Nigel Benjamin, and Andrew M. Jones. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol, Oct 2009; 107: 1144 – 1155.
USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/