When I think about celebrating Valentine’s Day next week, beets come to my mind! After all, beet juice was considered an aphrodisiac by the Romans, who used the leaves to cook with and the root as a medicine, as it can protect your heart and blood vessels. Beets have even been used to make homemade wine! Athletes are also discovering how eating beets (and consuming beet juice) can enhance their performance and recovery. If your experience with beets is limited to the canned variety, the recipe below is an easy and delicious way to discover how wonderful beets can be!
Beets can be found in an array of gorgeous colors (red, golden, white and even “candy cane” – with white and red concentric rings), due to specific pigments (phytochemicals) shown to offer many health benefits. When choosing beets, look for firm beets with their greens still attached. The better the greens look, the fresher the beets, and the quicker they will to cook! Ideally, you will want to buy organic beets to maximize nutrient content. Organic beets can be purchased for under $2 per bunch!
Since the entire plant can be consumed, you will want to separate the greens from the beet root when you get home. However, if you leave the greens attached, they will “rob” moisture and nutrients from the roots during storage. The beet greens need to be used within a few days, but the roots can be kept in the crisper drawer in a produce bags for several weeks. When you are ready to prepare your beet greens, soak them in a large bowl of ice water to loosen any dirt/debris and then rinse thoroughly. The greens can then be treated like spinach or chard, and can be sautéed with garlic and onions, or incorporated into a soup or casserole. Tender beet greens can be chopped added to a salad. Beet roots needs to be scrubbed and then can be roasted (unpeeled) or can be peeled and eaten raw, or diced/sliced and steamed.
Beets are low in kcalories (45 kcals/3 oz portion), high in fiber and provide several B vitamins (folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyroxidine), carotenoids and vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, manganese, copper, potassium and magnesium. Beets provide several phytochemicals (plant compounds) shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, homocysteine levels, risk of heart disease and stroke, and may even have anti-aging properties. Since raw beets offer vitamin C and folate (both susceptible to cooking losses), you can boost the nutrition profile of your salad by adding grated raw peeled beet and/or chopped tender beet greens. Beet greens are an even more concentrated source of the carotenoids and flavonoid antioxidants, which can help protect against lung and oral cancers. Don’t be alarmed if you urine is pink after eating beets/beet greens, as beeturia is harmless!
1 bunch of beets (separate roots from greens – you will use both parts)
2 small oranges (zest before peeling)
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar (can add more to taste)
1/4 cup orange juice (can use 1 TBSP orange juice concentrate mixed with 3 TBSP water)
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp spicy brown mustard
Scrub beet roots well, wrap in foil and roast on a foil lined baking sheet at 375 degrees for ~60 minutes or until tender (test by piercing with a knife). Thoroughly rinse any sand or debris from beet greens, dry in salad spinner or on paper towel and chop into shreds to add to salad greens. While beets are roasting, combine reminder of ingredients: orange zest, garlic, black pepper, salt, vinegar, orange juice, maple syrup and mustard, stir in diced orange. Once beets are cool enough to handle, skin will easily rub off. Then, dice roasted beets into small pieces and add to orange/dressing mixture. Will keep well in refrigerator for a week. When you enjoy a big scoop of this delicious beet salad on top of your favorite salad, you won’t need to use any other dressing!
Nutrition Info (per 1/2 c serving): 45 kcals, 10 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g Pro, 0 g fat, 0 mg Chol, 118 mg sodium, 248 mg potassium, 56 mcg folate, 1 mg iron
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.
View this article as published by the Lodi News Sentinel.