THE FOOD SERIES: Beets
The oh so beautiful beetroot. The gorgeous colours it exudes is just so magical and mesmerizing. Let’s dive straight into all about this food that cannot be beat. 😉
The entire beetroot vegetable includes the beet greens with the root at the bottom. Most of us may be familiar with the red/purple coloured beets, but they also come in other varieties such as white, golden or yellow, and even other rainbow coloured roots.
The colour pigments that give beets their distinct and stunning colours are called betalains. The red-violet colours found in many common beets are called betacyanins whereas the yellowish colour found in gold and yellow beets are called betaxanthins. Betalain pigments are subject to bleed easily because they are highly water-soluble and temperature sensitive. If you’ve cut or prepared beets before you will soon notice that your cutting board, your knife and your fingers will very quickly be stained with its rich colour.
Raw beets are crunchy, sweet and somewhat earthy in taste and texture. Whereas cooked beets turn into this soft, creamy textured goodness. The leaves of the plant tastes similar to Swiss Chard, which is more bitter compared to other greens.
When purchasing, look for small to medium-sized beets with smooth skin and roots that are firm. Also look for beets with a deep and uniform colour. If consuming the greens as well, you will want to look for leaves that are fresh and lively green in colour.
Beets are believed to have originated from North Africa and grew along the shores of Asia and Europe. Today, beets are produced by the United States, Russia, France, Poland, France and Germany.
Side note: Whenever I think of a beet farm, I think of Dwight Schrute… anyone else? 🙂
Half a cup raw beets:
6.5 g carbs
1.9 g fiber
0.1 g fat
1.1 g protein
74.1 ug folate (vitamin B9)
0.2 mg manganese
221.0 mg potassium
Beets are a great source of folate or Vitamin B9. I talked about this vitamin briefly in my post about Pomegranates so if you’re interested go take a read. For those who have read it already, I would like to discuss another nutrient that beets have and that is manganese.
Manganese is an essential micro/trace mineral, meaning we need them in small doses; small but essential. It is important to many enzymatic systems such as energy production, protein metabolism, and bone formation. Manganese is also a protective antioxidant, tackling against the free radical damage that our bodies undergo on a daily basis.
Beets are super rich in antioxidants, but what is special about beets compared to other antioxidant rich vegetables is that they contain a different type of antioxidant: betalain pigments (rather than the more common red colour pigment anthocyanins). Current studies are still being done to research the specific effects and benefits of beets and their unique antioxidant properties but expect good things to come.
Beets also contain anti-inflammatory properties, help with our detoxification process, and offer us fibre-related benefits. More specifically, it provides protection against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers such as colon cancer.
WAYS TO ENJOY
If beets are a new food to your palate, it may seem a little intimidating. However beets are really easy to incorporate. If you are afraid of staining your hands, wear gloves before cutting. If steaming the beets, steam them with the skin and once they are cooked, the skin can easily be rubbed off.
There are various ways you can prepare beets into your salads. If you would like to consume them raw, simply grate, spiralize, or cut into whatever size and shape you would like. Otherwise you can steam the beets for around 15 minutes for a softer, more buttery-like texture. I also find that when cooked, they taste even sweeter.
Adding beets into your juices or smoothies instantly turns it into a very beautiful hue. A popular juice combination includes beets and carrots, I mean can you just imagine the gorgeous swirl art you can get?! For smoothies you can honestly combine them with anything, try a mixed berry, banana, beet smoothie and feel free to add whatever greens you please.
Typically sauerkraut (a fermented vegetable dish) is made with cabbage, but you can take this up a notch and add some beets. This will instantly turn the sauerkraut into a popping pinkish, reddish and purplish dish that will sure catch your eye on any plate; additionally it will add in some different textures and flavours as well!
- Both beets and Swiss chard are different varieties that come from the same plant family.
- Beeturia is referred to as a reddening of the urine after beet consumption and is estimated to be experienced by 10-15% of all U.S. adults.
- Beets are the main ingredient in borscht which is the traditional Eastern European soup.
- The colour of beets can be changed depending on what ingredients are added during preparation and cooking. Adding an acidic medium such as lemon juice or vinegar will brighten the colour; whereas an alkaline medium such as baking soda will deepen the colour. Adding salt seems to dull the colour, so add it at the end of the cooking process if possible.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES