Beets may seem like ho-hum vegetables, but these ruby-red roots are nutritional powerhouses
Beetroots and their leafy tops are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and offer a myriad of health benefits. The distinctive deep-red color of beets is caused by a natural pigment called betalain, which scientists have found can reduce chronic inflammation associated with obesity and heart disease.1 Beets also contain a natural substance called dietary nitrate, which is converted in the body to nitric
oxide, a very useful substance that expands blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.2,3 Nitric oxide is known to work on the mitochondria in cells, which are the part of cells that generate energy, and, for that reason, beets are being studied as “performance-enhancing” foods for athletes.4,5 Nitric oxide is also thought to improve blood flow to the brain, suggesting that consumption of beets may improve cognitive function.6,7 Beets have even shown cancer- fighting effects: In animal studies, beetroot extract appeared to reduce tumor growth, and in a study using human cells in a test tube, beetroot extract appeared to reduce the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells.8,9 Additionally, beets are very high in fiber, and diets that are high in dietary fiber have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease while improving control of blood sugar and insulin levels in the blood.10,11 And finally, considering how low in calories they are, beets pack a surprising protein punch and can promote a feeling of fullness and reduce appetite, making them a worthy addition to a healthy diet, particularly for those individuals wishing to reduce their weight.12
Beets are versatile—They can be eaten raw, pickled, boiled, steamed, roasted, or even juiced. When buying beets in the supermarket, don’t forget that, in addition to the deep-red bulbous roots, their big green-and-red leaves and stems can also be eaten— cooked or raw—much like spinach. On the next page, you’ll find two simple, but delicious, ways to prepare beets and introduce their hearty goodness to your healthy diet.
- Martinez RM, Longhi-Balbinot DT, Zarpelon AC, et
al. Anti-inflammatory activity of betalain-rich dye of Beta vulgaris: effect on edema, leukocyte recruitment, superoxide anion and cytokine production. Arch Pharm Res. 2015;38(4):494–504.
- Jones T, Dunn EL, Macdonald JH, et al. The Effects
of beetroot juice on blood pressure, microvascular function and large-vessel endothelial function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study in healthy older adults. Nutrients. 2019;11(8).
- Bahadoran Z, Mirmiran P, Kabir A, et al. The Nitrate- independent blood pressure-lowering effect of beetroot juice: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Adv Nutr. 2017;8(6):830–838.
- Dominguez R, Cuenca E, Mate-Munoz JL, et al. Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(1).
- Dominguez R, Mate-Munoz JL, Cuenca E, et al. Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on intermittent high-intensity exercise efforts. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15:2.
- McDonagh STJ, Wylie LJ, Thompson C, et al. Potential benefits of dietary nitrate ingestion in healthy and clinical populations: a brief review. Eur J Sport Sci. 2019;19(1):15–29.
- Curry BH, Bond V, Pemminati S, et al. Effects of a dietary beetroot juice treatment on systemic and cerebral haemodynamics: a pilot study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016;10(7):Cc01–05.
- Nowacki L, Vigneron P, Rotellini L, et al. Betanin- enriched red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract induces apoptosis and autophagic cell death in MCF-7 cells. Phytother Res. 2015;29(12):1964–1973.
- Lechner JF, Stoner GD. Red beetroot and betalains as cancer chemopreventative agents. Molecules. 2019;24(8).
- Threapleton DE, Greenwood DC, Evans CE, et al. Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2013;19(347):f6879.
- Weickert MO, Pfeiffer AFH. Impact of dietary fiber consumption on insulin resistance and the prevention of typer 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2018;148(1):7–12.
- Kerr G. Are beets good for losing weight? 2019. Livestrong site. https://www.livestrong.com/ article/309915-are-beets-good-for-losing-weight/. Accessed 26 Nov 2019
Roasting these ruby-colored, vitamin-packed roots brings out their natural sweetness while toning down the strong earthy flavor of raw beets, making them the perfect side dish for savory entrees, such as herb-roasted meats and fishes.
Prep time: 15 mins; Cook time: 30 to 45 minutes Preheat oven: 400 degrees F
8 medium to large fresh (raw) beets with or without the greens attached
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary or thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut off the tops (leaves and stems) and bottoms (any stringy, dangling roots) from each beet, if present. Set aside the leaves and stems to be prepared separately, if desired.
- Scrub and rinse the trimmed beets well under cold running water. Use a vegetable peeler to remove any tough skin. Dry each beet with a cloth or paper towel to remove excess water. Slice each beet into halves (for medium sized beets) or quarters (for large beets), placing the pieces on a cookie sheet or in an oven-proof roasting dish.
- Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the beets, tossing them briefly with your hands. Next, sprinkle the beets with the rosemary or thyme and salt and pepper (to taste), tossing them again for even coverage of spices and oil. Spread the seasoned beets in a single layer on the baking sheet or dish.
- Roast beets, uncovered, at 400 degree F until desired tenderness is achieved (~15 mins), flipping them once, halfway through
the cooking time. If desired, roast them an additional few minutes under the broiler set at high heat to crisp them up. Serve them hot as a side dish or appetizer or serve cooled as a fresh green salad topping.
Nutrition (per serving):
Calories, 151; total fat, 7.5g; saturated fat, 1.1g; cholesterol, 0mg; sodium, 193mg; dietary fiber, 4.4g; total sugars, 15.9g; protein,3.5g NHR
This low-fat vegetarian variation of the beet-based soup loses none of the bold, hearty flavor associated with traditional Eastern European borscht recipes.
Prep time: 15 mins; Cook
time: 30 to 45 minutes
3 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of coarsely chopped
fresh tomato or one 15oz can
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 cup raw beets, shredded or very finely chopped 2 tsp salt*
*If you are using salted vegetable broth, you may not need to add any additional salt, so make sure to taste the soup first before adding salt.
- Pour the vegetable broth into a large pot, add the tomatoes, and bring to a gentle boil.
- While the broth is getting to the boiling point, chop the vegetables.
- When the soup comes to a boil, add all of the veggies and salt to the pot, turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes. The vegetables should be tender. Adjust seasoning as desired.
- Serve hot with some lemon juice or a dollop of low-fat sour cream
Serving suggestion: Sometimes borscht is served cold, but this recipe is better served hot.
Nutrition (per serving): Calories, 48; total fat, 0.1g; saturated fat, 0; cholesterol, 0mg); sodium, 859mg; total carbohydrate, 10g; dietary fiber, 1.9g; total sugars, 4.1g; protein, 1.7g NHR