Nothing Beats Beets: Why You Should Fall in Love With Them

everything-you-need-to-know-beets

Think you hate beets? We’ll convince you to give them another try!

A lot of us grew up beet-haters. We were forced to eat mushy, slimy, dirt-flavored chunks of purple from a can—and we forever thought that beets were the single most disgusting food on the planet. If you’re still stuck solidly on the beets-are-gross side of the fence, we sincerely hope you’ll give fresh beets another chance!

Fresh beets are sweet, tender, and incredibly good for you. And if regular red beets are a bit to earthy for your taste, there are more mild versions available that we promise you’ll love. Now let’s learn about beets!

What do they look like?

Beets are round roots that are usually a dark purple or burgundy in color—however, they also come in yellow, gold, orange, bright pink, and variegated. They have long, green leaves (that are also edible!) and are usually the size of a tennis ball, however, you can find both large and small ones in the store. Pro Tip: the smaller the beet, usually the sweeter it is! So while it may be tempting to scoop up those giant beets, if you grab the smaller ones, you’re more likely to have a tastier root.

What do they taste like?

Beets have a decidedly earthy flavor, but when the beets are small and sweet, the earthy flavor is a nice complement to the sweetness—especially when the beets are slow-roasted. The texture of beets, when cooked, is similar to other cooked root veggies: tender, but not mushy.

Why are they good for me?

Along with their cousins chard and spinach, beets are members of the chenopod family—and all members of that family have been shown in recent studies to provide a unique collection of health benefits that are not available in any other fruit or vegetable. Namely, beets have unique pigments (called betalains) that contain carotenoids that help protect our nervous system.

And while most fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, beets have an interesting and unusual combination of antioxidants that are particularly good for eye health and overall body tissue health.

You may notice that purple beets are particularly apt to stain your fingers (you might want to throw on some kitchen gloves while handling them). Use this to your advantage and naturally dye Easter eggs with beets and create all-natural food coloring!

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When and where do I get them?

Beets are usually available all year in the grocery store, but they are at their freshest and sweetest during the colder growing seasons (i.e. early Spring and late Fall). Chances are, if your community has an early Spring farmer’s market, you will find a few vendors selling beets, along with other good-for-you cool weather crops like chard, kale, and spinach.

How do I prepare beets?

Studies show that the best way to maintain the integrity of the phyonutrients of beets is to not overcook them. There are lots of ways to prepare beets, but we like roasting them. Trim off the greens (and reserve those to use just like you would chard or kale), scrub clean the outside of the beet, and wrap each individually in aluminum foil. Roast in a 350° oven for about 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the beet) until fork tender. Let the beets cool to the touch, then peel away the skin and discard. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

You can get the most nutritional punch by eating beets raw. Grate them onto fresh salads for a fun, colorful touch or juice them for a bright pink health juice—but be warned, raw beets are quite earthy!

What are some good recipes?

What’s your favorite way to eat beets?

Photo credit: Beets | Beets 2

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!

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