When you look for new vegetables to add to your diet for health benefits, consider the nutritional value of beets. It may be an unappealing looking vegetable straight out the ground, but it is full of nutrients and can be very tasty when correctly prepared.
Nutritional Value of Beets
You've probably heard the saying that the most colorful fruits and vegetables contains the most nutrients. This is certainly true in the case of beets. They are a good source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, fiber and the B vitamin folate, which is important for pregnant women to consume as it helps to prevent birth defects. The nutritional value of beets is also important for maintaining heart health and preventing and fighting cancer.
Betanin is an antioxidant found in beets, and according to a study published in the Journal of Aricultural and Food Chemistry, it can lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol. The folic acid in beets can help break down homocysteine, which was been linked to increased risk of heart disease. According to a scientific study by researchers at Barts and The London School of Medicine, "drinking just 500ml of beetroot juice a day can significantly reduce blood pressure."
Betacyanin, a cancer fighting agent, is responsible for the purplish pigment of beets. According to a study by researchers at UW-Madison, these beet pigments "may boost levels of proteins, that help detoxify potential cancer-causing substances and purge them from the body." Beets have been proven especially effect at preventing and fighting colon cancer.
How to Select Beets
Beets are available year-round, but they are considered '"in season" June through October. A root vegetable, beets have a bulbous shape and are typically rough and brownish red on the exterior and purple-ish red when cut in half, though there are other varieties such as golden beets. They also have edible green leaves. Look for firm beets with unblemished skin and deep color. The younger the beet, the more tender it will taste.
How to Prepare Beets for Maximum Nutritional Benefits
Beets can be pickled, roasted or juiced. Fresh beets retain the most nutrients, but cooked beets are still a very healthy addition to your meal. If you've tried canned beets and were turned off by the taste, don't give up! The flavor of freshly prepared beets is far superior: a hint of earthiness with a buttery finish.
A traditional Russian soup, borscht includes beets and other healthy vegetables. It is relatively easy to prepare and great for cold weather. There are many variations on this recipe:
Roasting beets is one of the most common ways to enjoy this vegetable. Chop off the leaves save for a couple of inches of the stems. Scrub the beets well and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil in a casserole dish. You may sprinkle them with olive oil and salt if you prefer. Fold the foil around the beets to seal them like a package. Bake at around 375 degrees for approximately 30 to 60 minutes, checking them occasionally. They are ready when they are tender. After they cool, remove their peels, though you may consider wearing gloves to prevent staining your hands purple. You can then chop the roasted beets and serve them as a side dish or add them to salads or casseroles.
Beets are regarded as a natural cleanser that removes toxins from the body. Try juicing beets to reap these benefits. On its own, beet juice can be overpowering, however. Mix it with apple or carrot juice to improve the flavor and add additional nutritional benefits. You can also purchase pre-made beet juice.
Don't Forget the Greens
The leafy greens that crown beets are edible, too. They contain plenty of fiber, protein, Vitamin A and C, as well as calcium and iron. Add them into your salad mix for a healthy boost.