Remember the canned beets of your youth? If so, you’ll know that it’s no small wonder why many of us have avoided beets ever since. However, the fresh variety….now that’s a different story.
These root veggies come in all colors of the sunset, from purple to red to orange to yellow. The vibrant pigmentation is due the presence of betalains, which are responsible for many of the beet’s health benefits. (They also tend to stain everything in sight, so take caution in the kitchen.)
The Health Benefits of Beets
1. Beets have anti-inflammatory properties.
Research suggests that betalains can have an anti-inflammatory effect, offering further evidence that certain foods can help control inflammation and reduce chronic pain.
2. Beets are a rich source of folate, a B vitamin.
A one-cup serving supplies 35% of the folate we need every day. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that’s important for maintaining a healthy nervous system.
3. Beets help regulate lower blood pressure.
The dietary nitrate in beets (which is different than the unhealthy nitrite salts in processed meats) is converted to nitric oxide in the body, something that tends to deplete as we age. Evidence suggests that nitric oxide keeps blood vessels open and flexible and that it plays a major role in regulating blood pressure. Beets are also a good source of potassium, which may also help lower blood pressure by balancing the action of salt. (A word of caution: If you have kidney problems, consult with your healthcare provider to see if you should limit your potassium intake.)
4. Beetroot can boost exercise performance.
A study published in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating nitrate-rich whole beetroot improved running performance in healthy adults.
How to Add Beets To Your Diet
Raw beets are surprisingly delicious: peel and shred, grate or spiralize them, then sprinkle them on salads. Roasted beets are equally tasty: simply peel, cube and toss with a little olive oil and salt, then roast at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. For a little extra pizzazz, serve roasted beets with feta or goat cheese.
Also, don’t toss those beet greens; they are just as edible as the root. Try sautéeing them, just as you would do with swiss chard. If you happen to like the aforementioned canned variety of beets, no problem. Canned beets retain much of their nutritional value, and are a good staple to have on hand when your produce drawer is bare.