Featured Vegetable: Beets
Originally from Europe, beetroots, or simply beets, have been making their way into American kitchens since farmers began cultivating them here in the 1800s. Although you’re probably most familiar with red beets, these juicy root vegetables actually come in a variety of other hues, such as white, pink, golden, and candy stripe (Chioggia beets). Check out the selection at your local grocery store or farmers market, and try eating a beet of a different color!
Can’t Beet This.
From root to leaf, beets supply many essential nutrients. For only 37 calories,1 a half-cup of the cooked root provides nearly 2 grams of dietary fiber and is a good source of folate. The beet greens are tasty and healthy too! A half-cup of cooked greens has over 2 grams of dietary fiber and is a good source of potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K, and riboflavin—all for less than 20 calories.2 But the benefits of beets don’t stop there! Research suggests that beets may help improve blood pressure and running performance.3,4
Selection and Storage
Beets are available all year long and can be found canned, pickled, or fresh. If you’re using fresh beets, choose ones that are firm and smooth with bright green leaves. Avoid cutting or piercing the root before storing, as this will cause moisture and nutrients to “bleed” out. Another way to prevent moisture loss is by removing the greens (leaving about an inch), so they don’t steal water from the root. Beets will last up to three weeks in the refrigerator when stored in a plastic bag, except for the greens—use them within a couple of days!
Just like other veggies, you can prepare beets in several ways. Each method brings out a different texture and flavor, so find out which one you like best! Boiling is the most popular cooking method, but roasting them brings out their natural sweetness. You can even steam or grill them. Remember to leave an inch of greens on the root to prevent nutrients from leaching, regardless of the cooking method. The earthy, sweet taste of beets lends itself to many great dishes. Cut them up for a salad, puree them for a soup, or even pickle them. As for the greens, you can eat them raw in a salad, or cook them on the stovetop. Get creative!
Need some inspiration? Check out these recipes:
Now beet it!
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26., http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2913
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2013. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26.,
- Siervo M, Lara J, Ogbonmwan I, Mathers JC. Inorganic nitrate and beetroot juice supplementation
reduces blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Nutr. 2013;143(6):818-26.
- Murphy M, Eliot K, Heuertz RM, and Weiss E. Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112:548-552.