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Food Of The Month. Beets


( Let’s hear it for beets! Beets. I couldn’t get enough of them as a kid. To eat them only for their flavour would be good enough but to know they’re full health promoting properties and nutrients is simply a bonus, not the least of which is boosting the liver’s ability to detoxify the body.

Beets have been cultivated since pre-historic times in the Mediterranean area and were originally grown only for their leaves. Their edible leaves can be prepared in the same manner as Swiss chard (also known as the spinach beet). During the Roman empire, people began to eat the roots as well. Today, beets and beet dishes are still widely popular throughout the world.

Beets - A Versatile Root

Beetroot is a versatile vegetable and can be cooked in variety of ways. You can eat beets raw (juiced or grated into salads), baked, steamed, pickled, in soups, or served as a side dish alongside entrees. The greens attached to the beet roots are delicious and can be prepared like spinach or Swiss chard. They are incredibly rich in nutrients, concentrated in vitamins and minerals as well as carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin.

Beet Nutrition

One-cup of beet root only has 75 calories, 17 g carbohydrate, 3.4 g fiber, of which 2.4 g is soluble fiber (which when eaten consume in the neighbourhood of 15 g per day, can help to lower triglycerides and small-dense LDL, or the ‘bad’ cholesterol). One-cup is also an excellent source of beta-carotene and potassium and a moderate source of folate and magnesium.

Beets are also a great source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification properties. The detoxification support provided by betalains includes the enhancement of Phase 2 detoxification enzymes in the liver involving glutathione. It is for this reason that beet root has been used for centuries to support the health of both the liver and gallbladder.

Foodland Ontario is a great resource for learning more about foods from Ontario including recipes, and availability, and they have a great entry for beets!’s Home Cooking – How to cook beet root offers the following tips

  • Be gentle when washing beets. You want the thin skin to remain intact for cooking.
  • Although beets can be eaten raw, they are generally boiled, baked, steamed, fried, grilled or otherwise cooked before eating.
  • Choose beets of uniform size to promote even cooking.
  • To retain nutrients and colour, boil, bake or steam without peeling first. The skin will easily rub off under cold running water after they are cooked.
  • When trimming, leave at least an inch of the leaf stems attached and do not remove the root. The stem and root are removed after cooking.
  • If you must peel before cooking, a swivel vegetable peeler works better than a paring knife.
  • For best flavour, bake beets instead of boiling or steaming. Wrap them in foil to avoid staining.
  • Plan on 3 to 4 small beets per serving.
  • 1 pound/454 g fresh beets trimmed = about 2 cups sliced or chopped
  • 1 pound / 454 gfresh beets trimmed = 3 to 4 servings
  • Complementary herbs and spices include allspice, bay leaf, cloves, chives, dill weed, garlic, mustard seed, thyme, and citrus.
  • To remove beet juice from fingers, rub with wet salt and lemon juice and then wash with soap and water. For cutting boards and plastic containers, use a bleach solution.
  • 1 Tablespoon of vinegar added to beet cooking water will not only reduce the odour of the cooking beets, but also help them retain their bright colour.
  • For older beets, try adding a pinch each of sugar and salt to each cup of cooking water to revive sweetness and colour.
  • Beets are naturally high in sodium, so no salt is necessary in the cooking water.

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.