Beets are an easy winter vegetable to love, but most people either love them or hate them. A nutritional powerhouse, beetroot is high in B vitamins, which control homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine contribute to the formation of blood clots and atherosclerotic plaque formation in blood vessels in the development of heart disease. Beets are an excellent source of minerals, high in iron, magnesium and manganese, as well as potassium. Beet leaves are high in carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamin A, higher amounts than in the roots themselves. Raw beets are high in folates and vitamin C, both of which are destroyed during cooking. The best way to use them raw is to grate them into salads or juice them for a refreshing beverage.
Roasting is a good way to treat all root vegetables. With organic beets, there is no need even to peel them. Just give them a good scrub, trim away the root and stem ends, and reserve the leaves for steaming or wilting. Slice the beet root into equal sized chunks, about ½”- ¾” across and as long as the beet itself. Cutting into equal sized pieces promotes even cooking. Place in a baking dish, dot with 1 tbsp. coconut oil cut into pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss with 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until just tender, at 375°, and serve hot or toss with salads. Roasted beets pair prettily with roasted cubes of butternut squash and sliced red onion in a salad of butter lettuce and arugula. For complete nutrition, alongside the roasted roots serve the chopped greens wilted with garlic and dried red pepper flakes in a little olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Cooked greens can be used to top a pizza, or added to an omelet or frittata, or blended with chopped kale and spinach for a nutrient dense side dish made tasty with grated Parmesan cheese.
Sliced crosswise about ½- ¾ inch thick, beets can be steamed over lightly salted water, and served in a salad with earthy goat or blue cheese, sliced red onion, toasted pine nuts or walnuts, and drizzled with best quality olive oil and a little reduced balsamic vinegar.
If you have a juicer, raw beets can be turned into a refreshing beverage along with apples, carrots, and a little ginger root. The recipe is adapted from one in Bon Appetit magazine from August, 2011, and makes 4-6 servings.
Beet, Apple, and Carrot Juice
6 medium beets, trimmed
4 large carrots, trimmed
2 Gala apples, chopped
1 knob (1” long) of fresh ginger
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Force the beets, carrots, apples, and ginger through a juicer, and stir in the lemon juice. Serve at once. The acid of the lemon makes the minerals more bio-available, and the ginger adds a touch of heat or bite as punctuation to the sweet beets, carrots, and apples.