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Food of the Month


Beets

Instant Energy Source

Beets are rich in carbohydrates, which is why they are termed “instant energy sources.” They can be regarded as body fuel. Carbohydrates are the natural building blocks of energy metabolism, and beets provide them without any of the negative side effects of many other carbohydrate-heavy foods. When the body has a sufficient amount of carbohydrates, it is able to fuel all of the necessary bodily functions, including the important metabolic reactions that keep your organ systems functioning efficiently.

Improves Heart Health

Beets contain betaine, which lowers levels of homocysteine in the body. Homocysteine is harmful for blood vessels. This effect of beets may help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Also, the fiber in beets works to strip excess LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) from the walls and helps to eliminate it from the body quickly.

Lowers Blood Pressure
Research has shown that beets can help reduce blood pressure as well as its associated risks, such as heart attacks and strokes. This is because the high content of nitrates in beets produces a gas called nitric oxide in the blood, which widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Additionally, the high levels of potassium in beets may help lower the risk of strokes.

Rich in Iron
Beets contain high levels of iron, which can improve blood levels and thus increase the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the body. This high iron content also means beets are good for those with anemia, low blood hemoglobin levels, and fatigue.

Promotes Eye Health
Beet greens are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. They also contain a wide variety of phytochemicals that may help improve the health of your eyes and nerve tissues.

Anti-Cancer Benefits
The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in beets makes this food a highly likely candidate for risk reduction of many cancer types including colon, lung, breast, and prostate cancers. Beet fiber may provide special health benefits, particularly with respect to health of our digestive tract, including the prevention of colon cancer.

Reduces Birth Defects
Beets are good for pregnant women, since they are a source of the B vitamin folate, which helps in the development of the infant’s spinal column. A deficiency of folate could lead to a variety of conditions called neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Note:

  • Beets (especially beet greens) are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating beet greens.
  • For some people, eating beets may induce beeturia, a red or pink color in the urine or stool. It is totally harmless!

Tips for Selecting and Storing Beets

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Selecting:

  • While beets are available throughout the year, their season runs from June through October when the youngest, most tender beets are easiest to find.
  • Choose small or medium-sized beets whose roots are firm, smooth-skinned, and deep in color.
  • Avoid beets that have spots, bruises, or soft, wet areas, all of which indicate spoilage.
  • Shriveled or flabby beets should also be avoided, as these are signs that the roots are aged, tough, and fibrous.
  • While the quality of the greens does not reflect that of the roots, if you are going to consume this very nutritious part of the plant, look for greens that appear fresh, tender, and have a bright green color.
  • The difference between the red and the orange beet is the pigment compound. Red beets are rich in betalain pigment while orange beets are rich in betaxanthin pigment. Though their pigment color differs, their nutritional benefits are the same.

Storage:

  • Cut the majority of the greens and their stems from the beet roots, so they do not pull moisture away from the root.
  • Leave about two inches of the stem attached to prevent the roots from “bleeding.”
  • Do not wash beets before storing.
  • Place in a plastic bag and wrap the bag tightly around the beets, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible, and place in refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 weeks.
  • Rinse gently under cold running water, taking care not to tear the skin. Since beet juice can stain your skin, wearing kitchen gloves is a good idea when handling beets.
  • If your hands become stained during the cleaning and cooking process, simply rub some lemon juice on them to remove the stain.
  • Raw beets do not freeze well, since they tend to become soft upon thawing. Freezing cooked beets is fine; they’ll retain their flavor and texture.
  • If planning to consume the greens, store them unwashed in a separate plastic bag, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Place in refrigerator where they will keep fresh for about four days. 

Serving Suggestions

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  • Simply grate raw beets for a delicious and colorful addition to salads or decorative garnish for soups.
  • Try slices of cooked beet on top of your burger.
  • Add fresh, raw beet leaves to your salad with other greens.
  • Add a wedge of raw beet and the greens to a smoothie.
  • For a simple single-serving salad, wash and peel one beet, and then grate it on the widest blade of a box grater. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.
  • For a simple, healthy side dish, sauté beet leaves, along with a minced clove of garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil, in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the leaves are wilted and the stems are tender. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Recipes:

Beet Hummus

Beet Hummus

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized beets
1 19-oz can of chickpeas
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water

1.   In a medium pot, cover beets with water and boil until soft (approximately 40 minutes).
2.   Once cooked, run beets under cold water and peel off skins. Cut into quarters and let cool.
3.   In a food processor, add all ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if needed.
4.   Serve with vegetable crudities, rice crackers, or fresh bread.

Beet and Spinach Salad

Beet and Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

8 cups baby spinach
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups steamed beet wedges or slices
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  1. Place spinach in a large bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, olives, parsley, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add beets, vinegar, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the beets are heated through, about 1 minute more.
  5. Add the beet mixture to the spinach and toss to combine. Serve warm.

Raw Beet Salad

Raw Beet Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1/2 pound beets
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon minced chives, mint, or parsley (or a combination)
Salt to taste
Leaves of 1 romaine heart

1.   Peel the beets with a vegetable peeler and grate in a food processor fitted with the shredding blade.
2.   Combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss with the beets and herbs.
3.   Season to taste with salt.
4.   Line a salad bowl or platter with romaine lettuce leaves, top with the grated beets, and serve.

Lemon-Herb Roasted Beets

Lemon-Herb Roasted Beets

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds golden or red beets, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces or wedges
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried herbs such as marjoram, oregano, and/or rosemary
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

1.   Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 450 degrees F.
2.   Combine oil, herbs, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add beets; toss to coat with the seasoning mixture.
3.   Spread the beets evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
4.   Roast, stirring once or twice, until the beets are tender and browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Toss the roasted vegetables with lemon juice, if desired.

Quinoa Salad with Oranges, Beets, and Pomegranate

Quinoa Salad with Oranges, Beets, and Pomegranate

Ingredients:

3 medium beets (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups red quinoa (see “tips”)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium oranges
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1 whole pomegranate, seeded (see “tips”)

  1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees F.
  2. Trim the root end of the beets and remove any greens (reserving for another use); rinse and pat dry. Wrap individually in foil.
  3. Roast until tender, 1 to 1-1/4 hours, depending on size. (Alternatively, place beets in a microwave-safe dish, add 1/4 cup water, cover loosely and microwave on high until the beets are tender, about 10 minutes, depending on size.)
  4. Meanwhile, bring broth, water, quinoa, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a large serving bowl.
  5. Zest and juice 1 orange. Place the juice in a medium bowl. Working over another bowl, cut the remaining 2 oranges into segments (see “tips”) and set aside. Measure the juice from the first orange. If it isn’t quite 1/3 cup, squeeze the juice from the membranes of the other oranges until you get 1/3 cup. Add the zest, vinegar (or lemon juice), salt, and pepper to the juice; gradually whisk in oil in a thin stream until well combined. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley.
  6. When cool enough to handle, peel and dice the roasted beets. Add to the quinoa, along with dates, and gently combine. Pour the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat. Serve garnished with the reserved orange segments, pomegranate seeds, and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.

Tips:

  • To make ahead, cover and refrigerate beets (steps 1 and 2) and quinoa (step 3) in separate containers for up to one day. Prepare the salad up to 2 hours ahead; garnish just before serving.
  • Red quinoa, which you can commonly find in stores where white quinoa is sold, gives the dish a stunning color. If you can only find white, that’s fine too. Rinsing removes any residue of saponin, quinoa’s natural, bitter protective covering. Most quinoa available in the U.S. has been “scrubbed” of its bitter outer coating—check the label to see if you need to rinse it first.
  • To seed a pomegranate, fill a large bowl with water. Lightly score the fruit into quarters from crown to stem end, cutting just through the skin. Hold the fruit under water, break it apart, and use your hands to gently separate the plump seeds from the skin and white pith. Discard the white pith. Pour the seeds into a colander. Rinse and pat dry.
  • To segment citrus, slice both ends of the fruit. With a sharp knife, remove the peel and white pith and discard. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes. Squeeze juice into the bowl before discarding membrane, if desired