5 Ways To Enjoy Beets This SummerWednesday, July 2, 2014
This star ingredient of borscht (a Russian beet soup) can easily be incorporated into a wide range of your favorite foods. Pick up a bunch at your local market and get cooking!
The Beauty of Beets
The beet as we know it is actually the taproot (or the largest root) of the beet plant, which is why it’s also called the beetroot. Beets get their gorgeous color from betalains, a group of red and violet pigments also found in flower petals and used as a natural dye. Another extraordinary characteristic of the beet is its ability to increase the delivery of oxygen to muscles by helping to relax and widen blood vessels. This special property has been found to help increase the endurance and speed of cyclists who drink beet juice before competitions.
The Nutrition Low Down
A cup of this colorful root vegetable is an excellent source of folate and a good source of potassium and vitamin C. Besides being packed with nutrients, beets might also indicate your iron status. The pinkish-red color that urine takes on after you eat beets is known as beeturia. About 10 – 14% of people experience this phenomenon and it’s more likely to occur if your iron levels are low!
These babies also show promise for protection against cancers, heart disease, and type II diabetes. They also help fight inflammation in your body and are rich in antioxidants, which help protect your cells from damage.
Cooking with Beets
Pick up a bundle of beetroot and you will find the red beet bulb attached to its green, leafy stems. Both parts of the plant are edible and offer very different, unique flavors. The stems are known as beet greens and are similar in taste to Swiss chard. They are a great complement to the sweet, earthy beet. Here are simple and healthy techniques to enjoy this versatile superfood:
1) Steamed or boiled
Detach the beet from the stems and cook either whole or cubed. Steam or boil them for 15 – 30 minutes, until fork tender. Season the cooked beets with your favorite seasonings, like black pepper, chives, parsley, cilantro, or a touch of melted butter, making them great sides or toppers for your favorite salad.
2) Raw and shredded
After carefully washing and peeling the beet, shred, then toss in olive oil and your favorite vinegar. Alternatively, squeeze fresh orange juice or sprinkle with zest for a citrusy twist. Season with sea salt and coarse black pepper for a fresh, raw beet slaw!
3) Grill ‘em
Cube beets and toss with a touch of olive oil or cooking spray. Then wrap in foil and place on the grill for 30 to 40 minutes. If you love the grill marks, remove beets from foil after 20 minutes, slice and re-oil them, then place directly on the grill.
4) Work the stems
Tired of spinach? Blanch beet greens for a healthy accompaniment to your main dish, or incorporate them into soups, stews, and your favorite morning egg dishes like shambles, omelets, and quiche! They’re also great for stir-frying with garlic and sauces (like soy), or olive oil.
5) Get creative!
Fresh beet greens can be juiced or added to salads, and are a great variation for kale in your green smoothies. Try them in your favorite pasta dish, tossed on pizza, or to make a fresh pesto.