Botanical name: Beta vulgaris
Napoleon set aside 70,000 acres to explore the beet root’s sugar-producing potential. In an era of sugar shortages due to wartime blockades, France was then able to produce its own sugar. Since then, beets of varying hues and varieties, including the sugar beet that is now a global sweetener source, are widely cultivated. Beets are commonly boiled, baked, and pickled. They also can be grated raw into salads to add color and a tasty crunch.
Many people don’t realize the importance of keeping four or five inches of stem on the beets when boiling. That’s where the deep red color comes from. Adding vinegar also helps preserve the deep red color. Beets are easier to peel after cooking, and it’s at that point that you take off the shortened stems.
While beets contain more sugar than any other vegetable on the table, they’re low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. They’re also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, and folate, which helps make and maintain RNA and DNA cells and prevent anemia.
They also contain potassium, which is necessary for building muscle and regulating the heart’s electrical activity, and manganese, which helps maintain muscle and nerve function, build bone strength, regulate blood sugar levels, and promote a healthy immune system.
Betaine, an amino acid in beets, inhibits the formation of cancer-causing compounds and is protective against colon and stomach cancer.
When a study of 27 of the most commonly used vegetables in the U.S. was conducted to determine their cellular antioxidant activity (CAA) and oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) values, beets, along with broccoli and red pepper, were shown to be the highest. Consuming beets may lead to a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. 1
Research at the London School of Medicine and Bart’s Hospital in London, and by Russian research specialist Mikhail Tombak revealed new information about beets. Studies showed young beet leaves to have a higher concentration of iron than spinach, and beets to be rich in phytonutrients with detoxification, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, able to control hypertension and heart attack risks.
Beets are one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, highly beneficial for eye health. Lab studies on tumor cells in humans showed beets to significantly curb tumor growth. Daily consumption of beet juice reportedly boosts blood flow to the brain, which in turn restricts frontal lobe degeneration. Beets also contain betaine, which enhances serotonin production in the brain. 2
Spoon the beets onto a bed of lettuce chopped into bite-sized pieces, and top with the mandarin oranges. Dollop the sour cream on top, then sprinkle on the chives for a colorful and tasty side salad!
Because of their deep red color and staining capabilities, beet juice can be used to color Easter eggs.
While beets may be unappreciated by some, they’re enjoyed by many more for their rich flavor, firm texture, and intense coloring. Pickled beets are a popular style of preparing them with vinegar, sugar, and cinnamon to give them a flavor profile as intense as their coloring. The Harvard style – not pickled – is closer to the beetroot cooked straight up with a little salt. Beets are versatile for table use, have innumerable nutritional qualities, and store well.
Sources and References: