Say hello to beets, our pick this month, which are like diamonds in the rough. To the uninitiated, beets can seem rather intimidating, with a rugged, dull exterior. But the rough peel hides a colorful, nutritious, and tasty gem – when cooked, beets’ texture changes from crunchy to soft, and the sweet taste is a pleasant bonus! If you have only ever tried canned beets, it is worth giving fresh or cooked-from-scratch beets a try, since their taste is quite different. Beets belong to the same family of plants as Swiss chard, and those who have seen the two side by side will notice the striking similarity of the leaves.
Nutrition Tidbits for Beets
- One cup of boiled sliced beets contains:
- Calories: 75 kcal
- Fat: 0.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 16.9 g
- Protein: 2.9 g
- Fiber: 3.4 g
- Glycemic Index (GI): Medium (56 to 69)
Beets are packed full of various nutrients, such as folate (which is important in prevention of neural tube defects in the growing fetus), manganese, and potassium. And their deep purple hue is due to a powerful set of pigments called betacyanins, which appear to be powerful cancer fighters. Some studies show beets to be helpful in reducing inflammation and protecting against heart disease.
When buying fresh beets, look for small or medium-sized “bulbs” that are firm, with smooth or taut skin. Avoid any with soft spots. Besides those with purple shades, you can also find yellow or orange-hued varieties. If the beets are sold with their greens attached, separate the leaves from the roots and use them up within a few days (they’re great stir-fried). The roots will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. When you peel beets, wear gloves because the pigment will stain. If you want to maximize the nutrient retention, cook the beets unpeeled and in as little water as possible (such as by roasting them in the oven), then peel them after they’re cooked.
Ways to Include More Beets in Your Diet
- If you use a juicer, include beets as one of the ingredients in your homemade juice drink
- Puree roasted beets and add them to muffins or loaves
- Add them raw or cooked to salads
- Add grated raw beets to soups (the most popular type of beet soup is borscht)