A couple of years ago I went to a healthy cooking demonstration here on campus. The goal of the demo was to introduce different ways that veggies could be incorporated into a meal. They started out with a beet smoothie. Beets were not something that I had incorporated into my diet at that time, but I’m always game to try new things and I like smoothies, so I gave it a try.
Now, before allowing us to sample the smoothie they instructed us that we should carefully wash the beets and they recommended peeling it to remove the earthly taste. They also suggested adding strawberries or some other fruit to add a bit of sweetness. They passed round the samples for us to try and well let’s just say I was not impressed. To be honest I felt it tasted like dirt. Blah! Needless to say I was not enamored with the beet.
Fast forward a couple of years and I have joined an organic co-op, where they deliver a bag of fresh veggies to me every week. And one week – yes, they include beets. Not just the bottom portion which is what I would have considered to be the beet, but the whole plant, leafy greens included. I must admit I was baffled. Why not cut off the greens? Were they just being lazy? Or is this part of the organic thing – to give you the whole plant?
I did a bit of research and found that the whole plant is edible and that the greens offer benefits as well as the bulb or root. Here are some of the health benefits of a beet as a whole:
- Low in calories with zero cholesterol and a small amount of fat
- Rich source of glycine betaine which can lower your risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular diseases.
- Raw beets (ugh, think dirt) are an excellent source of folates which are necessary for DNA synthesis within cells. Cooking, however, significantly reduces the folate levels.
- Rich source of B-complex vitamins.
- Moderate levels of potassium which lowers heart rate and regulates metabolism
- The greens are an excellent source of vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant.
- The greens are an excellent source of carotenoids, flavonoids antioxidants, and vitamin A which is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for vision.
I have now embraced the beet, all of it, bulb/root and greens. I, however, choose to roast the bulb with a bit of olive oil and garlic powder. This removes the earthy taste and actually makes it kind of sweet. The greens – those I put into a smoothie with a banana and berries. Much, much better than the bulb!
I should caution you, however, that there is a very noticeable side effect from eating beets. A day or so after consumption you will see a noticeable color change in your stool and potentially in your urine as well.
Tina Comston, M.Ed.