*Written by: Heather Malone*
Consumed since the Middle Ages, if not earlier, beets are truly an unsung hero of the vegetable world. They have been used in such varied applications as dye-making, medicine and even as sugar. They can be eaten pickled, raw or cooked. Both the root and foliage are delicious and packed with nutrients. They really can’t be beat! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself…)
Beets are an excellent source of Folate (B9) and contain good amounts of Potassium, Manganese and fiber. As with many colorful veggies the best benefits of consuming beets come from phytonutrients. The same compounds that give beets their beautiful magenta or golden hue could help stave off high blood pressure and dementia. While more research is needed to fully support those health claims, it is widely agreed upon that adding more fresh, colorful, local produce to your diet has many health benefits, and tastes wonderful too!
Another fascinating aspect of beets is their benefit to athletic performance. You see, beets are a great source of inorganic nitrate, which turns into nitrite and then nitric oxide when consumed. This natural and healthy chemical affects our body’s blood flow, muscle contraction, and more. Basically, it increases our oxygen carrying capacity and allows our bodies to work more efficiently, boosting athletic performance and allowing for increased endurance!
To select the perfect beetroot look for medium sized roots that are firm and vibrantly colored. You can also use the greens for salads! If that’s the case, try to get the smaller, tender young shoots. The larger foliage is great blended in a smoothie or sautéed like spinach. One way I’ve recently found to enjoy beets is as a colorful addition to stir fry. Check out the recipe below for some inspiration to get beets onto your table.
Summer Super Food Stir Fry
This recipe is fast, simple, adaptable and tasty. Need I say more? It’s become a staple in my weeknight repertoire.
1 large or 2 medium beets, diced
1 cup frozen mukiame (soybeans)
Approx. 1 lb protein of choice (I actually chopped up a couple of my favorite veggie burgers)
1 cup carrots, shredded
4 cups cooked grain (I used what we call the 3 siblings blend: red lentils, tri-color quinoa and rice)
Teriyaki sauce, to taste
Oil for sautéing (I enjoy the flavor of sesame oil best for this recipe)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (optional)
1/3 cup minced onion (optional)