The next time you visit your favorite European restaurant and your waitress asks you, "chicken dumpling or Borscht soup," think twice before answering as you may be missing out on some tasty health benefits in a bowl -- beets.
This often overlooked, underdog vegetable is loaded with antioxidants such as fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Because of its folate-rich properties, just one half cup of cooked beets meets 17 percent of the daily recommended folate intake.
These colorful root vegetables that traditionally come in red are also available in gold and white and contain powerful nutrient compounds that can help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
Six Health Reasons to Add this Superfood to Your Diet
- Help Prevent Cancer
Lab studies conducted on human tumor cells have confirmed that beets reduce the risk for colon, stomach, lung, breast and testicular cancers. It was discovered that betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their red color, is responsible for reducing the development of cancerous cells and inflammation linked to heart disease.
The high fiber in beets is another key to warding off colon cancer because it increases the production of special immune cells that destroy cancer cells in the colon.
- Boost Your Brain
Studies have shown that the antioxidants in one dose of beet juice a day triggers an increase in the blood flow to your brain, helping to keep your mind sharp and building a line of defense against developing dementia as you get older. This happens through the antioxidants working to lower the levels of harmful free radicals in your body, which are prime culprits for damaging brain cells and other body regions.
- Lower Blood Pressure
Beets improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. A British study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertensionfound that the rich nitrate levels found in beet juice work to open up blood vessels, which helps lower blood pressure and prevent blood clotting and inflammation.
- Antioxidant Benefits
Beets contain a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains that have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. The betalains found in the peel and flesh of the beet allow for these health benefits.
- Protect Your Vision
According to a recent study from Italy, two important carotenoids found in beets, lutein and zeaxanthin, are especially big factors when it comes to reducing the development of common age-related eye problems surrounding the macula and retina areas.
- Folic Acid Powerhouse
Beets are a rich source of folic acid, an especially important nutrient for pregnant women or anyone undergoing physical healing. Folic acid works to prevent birth defects like spinal bifida and is also responsible for the production and maintenance of new cells.
Four Delicious Beet Recipes to Serve to Your Family or Dinner Guests
At first glance when looking at a beet it's hard to imagine that this hard exterior could be transformed into a soft, buttery and delicious-tasting treat once cooked. But beets can be prepared in a variety of creative ways. You can steam, boil, pickle, roast or cut them up and eat them raw in a salad of mixed greens.
If time is a factor you can put together a dish in 15 minutes by cutting them in quarters without removing the skin, steaming them and serving them as a colorful side dish to your meal.
Below are three tasty ways to prepare these naturally sweet and nutrient-rich vegetables and add them to your weekly menus.
This is the easiest and one of the most delicious ways to prepare beets. There is virtually no preparation, no clean up and the beets are sweet and delicious and can be used warm or cold in a variety of dishes.
If you are cooking a lot of beets, they can be roasted in a roasting pan, covered with foil. If cooking just a few, roast them in a pouch made of aluminum foil. Roasted beets can be eaten warm right out of the oven dressed with a little olive oil and salt, added to a roasted vegetable mix, served cold with French lentils or as a warm beet and mushroom salad.
Warm Roasted Beet and Portobello Salad
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as an entrée:
- 3 medium beets
- 3 Portobello mushroom caps
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3.5 ounces goat cheese
- 10 ounces arugula or baby spinach
- 1/4 cup picked parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
- 2 shallots, sliced into thin rounds
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
Scrub the beets and place on a large sheet of foil, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fold the sides up to make a sealed pouch.
Wipe off the mushroom caps, place them on another large sheet of foil, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and fold the sides up to make a sealed pouch. Place both pouches in the oven.
Bake the mushrooms for approximately 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Bake the beets for approximately 45 minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a knife.
Meanwhile, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard and olive oil and set aside. When the beets and mushrooms are fully cooked, remove from the oven. Slice the mushrooms into strips. With a knife, remove the tops of the beets, slide the skins off with your hands.
Slice the beets and toss with the warm mushrooms and goat cheese, cover with foil so they stay warm until you serve them.
In a salad bowl, toss together the arugula, walnuts, shallots, parsley and dressing. Place onto plates and top with the beet and mushroom mixture.
This is one of the snacks currently being served at Washington, D.C.,'s Minibar as part of a 30-course tasting menu. It comes from Chef Katsuya Fukushima.
- 1 medium beet
- 3 cups vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
Preheat oil to 340 degrees.
Peel beet and cut off ends. Slice into thin strings using Japanese Benriner cutter or pressing hard with a zester. Measure strings into 1/3-ounce portions, a little less than a tablespoon.
Place a single portion of string into hot oil for 8 seconds. Remove from oil, quickly place on towel to drain and salt liberally.
Within 5 seconds after leaving oil, work hot string between the palms of your hands until it hardens into a ball the size of a ping-pong. You may have to try several times to get the proper shape. Repeat process until you have used all the beet strings.
Serve as a snack or as a little bite before the meal begins.
Roasted Beets with Blue Cheese Sauce and Spiced
- 4 medium beets
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 6 ounces Maytag blue cheese
- Spiced walnuts (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
If beets have stalks, trim stalks 1/2 inch from beet. Wash beets gently under water, then wrap individually in aluminum foil.
Roast beets for 1-2 hours depending on sizes. A knife should slide easily into the beet, through foil, when done. Allow to cool to room temperature.
While beets are roasting, put cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add blue cheese. Stir constantly until cheese has been fully incorporated into the cream.
Pour the cheese mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Remove beets from foil, then remove beet skins using a paper towel. (Wear kitchen gloves to avoid staining your hands.)
Cut roasted beets into desired shapes. Drizzle cheese sauce over beets, then top with chopped spiced walnuts.
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Dash cayenne pepper
- Dash sea salt
- Black pepper to taste
Melt butter over medium heat in small saucepan. Add walnuts, then spices and toss for 30 seconds. Allow to cool to room temperature.
If you're looking for additional recipes on beets and preparing other healthy and delicious raw food dishes, Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes is a great resource to consider.
World's Healthiest Foods: Beets
WebMD.com "There's No Beating the Beet"
Medical News Today