The Beet Buzz: Learn More About and Embrace the Beet

When you were little, I bet you wrinkled your nose at the idea of eating beets. But in recent years, beets have turned over a new leaf, becoming a trendy menu item brimming with nutrition mystique. They’re showing up on pizzas, in pasta noodles, in yogurts, and even in pancakes…and yep, it’s all delicious!

Let's break down down the beet. I'm providing you with fun beet facts and giving you ways to embrace their taste and diversity.

A Few Beet Basics

  • Did you know? The term “beet” is actually a nickname for the formal term “beetroot,” alluding to the root portion of the plant. Beets are also called garden beets, golden beets, red beets and/or table beets.
  • While many people expect a bitter flavor, beets are actually very sweet and can be converted into sugar. The leaves are the bitter portion of the plant.
  • Beets can be grown in summer, fall and winter, making them a versatile ingredient in fresh summer dishes and hearty, cold weather meals.

The Nutrients & Health Benefits

It is likely no surprise that beets are chockfull of nutrients that serve a variety of important functions. First, beets are a rich source of antioxidants, substances that protect your cells from damage and aging (note: chocolate is also rich in antioxidants). Beets are also a terrific source of folate. While folate is especially important for women of childbearing to prevent certain birth defects, it is also important in everyone for preventing certain cancers and reducing risk of heart disease.

What else? Beets are a great source of fiber, manganese and potassium! You really can’t beet it.

The Beet Buzz

In recent years, researchers have discovered that beets are also an important functional food, meaning they serve a purpose other than just providing nutrition. First, beets are a rich source of nitrates, a compound found in food that can be converted in the body into nitric acid.

Nitric acid is a power vasodilator (meaning it can increase the width of your blood vessels), subsequently helping with diseases associated with poor vascular health, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

More specifically, a 2013 study found that regular consumption of beet juice can help reduce blood pressure in men. In addition, these nitrates help increase blood flow to areas of the brain, making them an excellent food for boosting memory.

Embrace the Beet

I get it… beets can be intimidating. Here are a few ways to introduce these deep purple veggies to the menu:

  • Roasted - Simply peel, slice thin and roast. Top with cheese and spices for added flavor.
  • As a Topping - Use chopped up beets as an ingredient on pizza or in tacos. If you’re making a salad, toss ‘em in.  While they pair great with arugula, goat cheese, quinoa and/or avocados, they’ll blend right into any combination you prefer.
  • Beet Greens - Don’t forget about the greens. The leaves on the beet plant are also nutritious and taste similar to spinach when boiled or steamed. Create a chopped beet salad on a bed of beet greens with your other favorite toppings to be super resourceful.
  • Beet Brownies - If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can add beets into brownies. Seriously. You cannot taste them because they’re sweet, and it is a great way to reap the health benefits if you aren’t quite ready to eat them alone.
  • As a Juice – Want to try a beet bevy? Whip up my Beet Carrot Ginger Juice. You’ll get antioxidants and nitrates from beets, plus vitamin C and beta-carotene from other ingredients. Health never tasted so good!

I encourage you to “turn up the beet.” Remember, if life gets hard, “the beet goes on!”

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

Sources:

Coles, L.T. & Clifton, P.M. (2012). Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition Journal, 11, 106.

Higdon, J., Higdon, J., Drake, V.J., Delage, B. & McNulty, H. (2014). Folate. Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information.

Miller, G.D. (2013). Beets go mainstream. Journal of Nutritional Disorders & Therapy, 3(13).

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