Just BEET it!
Fall is an excellent time to enjoy root vegetables and beets happen to be my favourite. Both the roots and leaves are delicious and nutritious. Beets are low in calories (40 calories/1/2 cup), high in fibre (2g) and are a source of potassium (274mg) and folate (72mg). As a root vegetable, they are higher in carbohydrates than leafy greens and contain 7g of sugar per ½ cup.
Beets are also a source of a nutrient called Betaine which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Betaine is also antiaging, anti-inflammatory and may help protect the cells of the liver from chemicals. The red colour is due to anthocyanins, which protect and repair DNA and are also anti-inflammatory and cancer protective. Beets and beet juice contain nitrates which have been studied for their ability to lower blood pressure and improve athletic performance.
The leaves are especially nutritious and can be served steamed like cooked spinach. They are an excellent source of vitamin A or beta-carotene, which is not only necessary for healthy skin, eyes, bones and teeth, but is also an antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralize harmful chemicals (free radicals) reducing the risk for cancer, heart disease and eye disease. The leave also contain Vitamin K, magnesium, iron and lutein, known to help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Buying and Storing:
Choose beets with a firm smooth skin and bright crisp leaves. The best flavoured beets are the small ones, with greens still attached. Beets are available in red, purple and golden. Beware large roots with small hairs on them, as this indicates age and possibly a more tough vegetable. When you get them home, cut the leaves a couple of inches from the root, to retain moisture in the root itself, and store the leaves in a separate bag in the fridge. The leaves should be used within a couple of days. As for the root bulbs, they can be bagged and stored in the fridge or wrapped in paper towel where they will last about a week. Peeled and topped beets can be sealed in bag and frozen, where they will last for months.
Cook beets with their skin on to retain nutrients. To roast beets simply trim the top and bottom, wrap in foil and roast at 350F degrees for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the beet. The skin slips off easily after cooking. Peeled and diced, beetroots can also be tossed with your choice of herbs and other root vegetables, such as potatoes, yams, turnip and carrots and roasted. Beet leaves can be rolled around a rice and herb filling to make a tasty rollup, especially when topped with a sour cream sauce. Try them cold in a salad with blue cheese and walnuts or hot in Borscht. Beets can also be eaten raw, thinly sliced or grated onto a salad or as a sandwich filler. To prevent your cutting board from getting coloured by the beet, cover it in wax paper. Use lemon juice to help remove beet stains from your fingers or wear gloves.
Fun Fact: 15% of adults get Beeturia after eating beets. This is when your urine turns red after eating red/purple beets.