Turn the Beet Around - By Debbie Bowman RHN - On Staff Nutritionist

December 10, 2016 Debbie Bowman

Okay, it’s true, beets haven’t enjoyed the top vegetable status that carrots or potatoes have enjoyed over the decades. Let’s face it, how many dinners have beets on the menu? Not many, I’m sure. In fact, any fan of the TV show The Office will remember when the character Dwight Schrute talks about his beet farm, and his boss Michael Scott tells him, "Dwight, beets are the worst; nobody likes beets!" Personally I love beets. They are delicious cold in salads, or steaming hot as a side dish. But love them or hate them - we’d better get used to seeing more of them, as beets are gaining popularity as one of the healthiest root vegetable we can consume.

Beets Are Best For Betalains. Beets are rich in betalains, phytonutrient compounds that have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and cancer fighting properties. Beets are the richest source of betalains. In fact, the name ‘beta lain’ comes from the Latin name of the common beet (Beta vulgaris), from which betalains were first extracted.

Beets are also high in immune boosting vitamin C as well as folate (helps reduce the risk of birth defects), fibre, manganese (essential for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas), potassium (essential for nerve and muscle function), copper and magnesium.

Beets Make Blood Vessels Bigger. Beets are rich in a natural nitrate, which, once eaten, is turned into nitrite, which is then converted into nitric oxide. Don’t be alarmed - nitric oxide is very different from nitrous oxide, otherwise known as rocket fuel. That being said, although the nitric oxide from beets won’t power a rocket it does make our circulatory system work more effectively. In fact, nitric oxide is the molecule that dilates blood vessels and expands our arteries while also improving blood flow through various other mechanisms. Recent research suggests that dietary nitrate supplementation in the form of beetroot juice or carefully cooked beets not only decreases blood pressure but also reduces the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhances athletic performance. Nitric oxide is rocket fuel for our bodies.

Don’t Bother With Burnt Beets. It’s interesting to note that betalains undergo a very steady loss from beets as cooking occurs. Therefore, careful and thoughtful cooking is necessary to preserve the health benefits of beets. It is recommended that beets be steamed for no longer than 15 minutes and roasted for no longer than one hour.

Organic Beets Are The Best. Although table beets are not yet genetically engineered, sugar beets are - and since they are often grown in close proximity to one another it’s best to only source out organic beets when available. When choosing beets from the produce section look for beets that are firm with smooth, blemish free skin. If you purchase beets with the leaves attached, check to make sure the leaves are bright green. To store your beets, remove any leaves and store both separately in plastic bags in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. The leaves will last for only a couple days, but the beets will stay fresh for two to three weeks.

This blended beet recipe can’t be beat, and is sure to have the most bombastic beet loather begging for more.

Beet and Goat Cheese Hummus (credit: abeautifulmess.com)

1 large beet
1 can chickpeas
2 lemons
1/4 cup tahini paste
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup olive oil

First scrub the beet and chop into large cubes. Bake in aluminum foil or on a baking tray at 400°F until soft enough to pierce with a fork (about 25-30 minutes). Allow the beet to cool. In a food processor combine the beet (and any juices you were able to reserve), the rinsed chickpeas, juice from two lemons, tahini paste, salt and goat cheese. Pulse until well blended. Now while the food processor is running drizzle in the olive oil. Blend until smooth.