Beautiful Beets: Beyond Borscht

red beetsMahalia Freed, ND

Beets have always appealed to my aesthetic sense, with their rich colour, and the beautiful rings that show when you slice them the right way.  One of the few vegetables available locally, year round, beets are affordable, nourishing, and easy to prepare. Furthermore, they are a traditional blood building and liver cleansing food.  March heralds spring, the season for liver support and cleansing. What better time to get reacquainted with beets?

The pigment that gives purple beets their gorgeous colour, betacyanin, is an antioxidant known to have powerful cancer-fighting properties. In the research, it is particularly effective against colon cancer. Beets are known as a “liver food” due to their betaine content. Betaine, or trimethylglycine, specifically supports phase II liver detoxification. It is also anti-inflammatory. Beyond their fibre content, beets contain folic acid (136 mcg per cup, boiled). While folic acid’s importance for preventing neural tube defects in utero is well known, the nutrient is essential for healthy cell division in general, making a diet rich in folic acid important for cancer and dysplasia-prevention. As well, beets have been researched for their ability to help normalize elevated blood pressure, increase HDL (good cholesterol), and decrease triglycerides. Who could have guessed? For cardiovascular health, liver health, detoxification, and fertility, go, beets!

NB: If your urine or stool is red after consuming beets, don’t be alarmed! It is simply the beet pigments. You may actually use this to assess your bowel transit time and kidney function: how long until you see red?

For more information about beets, from history to nutrition to health benefits, see the write up at World’s Healthiest Foods: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49

Simple Beets

Add this side dish to a quick, healthy week-night dinner

  • 1 bunch (or 3-5) beets, whole and unpeeled, with greens* removed
  • 1-2 Tbsp Umeboshi Vinegar (or substitute Apple Cider Vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp Good Quality Olive Oil
  • (Celtic Sea Salt to taste, if using apple cider vinegar only)

Wash beets well, and add to a pot of water without peeling. Bring to a boil. Simmer until tender when punctured with a fork. (15-40 minutes, depending on size and age of the beets).

Drain into a colander and slip off the skins under cold water. Cut in rounds.

Add vinegar and olive oil. Toss. Adjust to taste. Eat.

Variations: Substitute toasted sesame oil & rice vinegar, add cayenne for kick.

* If your beets come with greens attached, cook them up separately. Beets are a variant of swiss chard, and the greens can be used as you would chard or spinach. Add to mixed green sauté, omelet, etc.

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