With their knobby, sometimes hairy exteriors, whole, raw beets can intimidate those who have not cooked them. But while they might look gnarly on the outside, the insides of beets reveal vibrant, jewel-like colors that range from deep red to golden yellow — even candy-cane stripes. When cooked properly, beets (also called beetroot) have a sweet, buttery, earthy flavor and a delicate texture. Beet greens are luscious, too, whether sautéed or braised. A relative of nutrient-rich quinoa, as well as of spinach and Swiss chard, beets offer phytonutrients that help your body detoxify, eliminate free radicals and tame inflammation. So go out and track down a bunch of these gems — and enjoy.
Nutritional Benefits of Beets
- Beets are rich in phytonutrients like belatains, which offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and detoxification support. Bruising damages belatains, as does overcooking. To prevent loss of belatains, steam sliced beets for less than 15 minutes or roast them whole for no longer than an hour.
- Betacyanin, a belatain that gives red beets their rich red-violet color, helps guard against colon and stomach cancers.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid phytonutrients that support eye health, are plentiful in beet greens. More lutein is found in the roots (the beet bulb is also called the root) of yellow beets than of other varieties.
- The antioxidants found in beet fiber help to significantly reduce cholesterol, combat colon cancer and support cardiovascular health.
- Beets are rich in the B vitamin folate (also called folic acid or folacin, an important nutrient during pregnancy for normal tissue growth), vitamin C, and dietary minerals like manganese, potassium and iron.
6 Quick and Easy Ways to Enjoy Beets
For a zesty beetroot juice, combine beets, a whole lemon, a couple of apples, a chunk of gingerroot and a stalk of celery. (Beet greens are great in juices and smoothies, as well.)
For quick pickled beets, add sliced steamed or roasted beets to a mixture of rice-wine vinegar, honey, chopped gingerroot, hot peppers and a little salt. The beets taste best after marinating for a couple of days. Store in the refrigerator and consume within a month.
Raw or Sauteed Beet Greens
If you’re lucky enough to get a bunch of beets with the green tops still attached, you can use them raw in salads, cook them as you would any leafy green or add them to smoothies. To sauté, first separate the leafy part from the tough stem. Cook the stems first (with a little olive oil, an acid like vinegar or citrus juice, and salt and pepper) until tender. Add the leafy greens at the last minute and cook until wilted.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash beets, place in a roasting pan with a little water, and cover with aluminum foil. Roast for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on size, until tender.
Steamed or Boiled
Wash beets and cook in a steamer, or simmer in water, covered, until tender. When the beets are cool, rub off the skin with a paper towel. Cut as desired (nice sliced on salads and pizzas).
Slice them thinly for recipes like carpaccio below, or grate for salads.