Robin's Healthy Take: Behold the Beets

It’s beet season, so let’s celebrate those vibrant, nutrient-dense roots! Don’t shy away from beets because cause you don’t like them pickled or you don’t want stained hands (wear gloves!). I eat them straight from the oven after roasting, but there are countless ways to enjoy these roots (and their greens). Here are some of my favorites, plus, find out why these roots are so good for you.

It’s beet season, so let’s celebrate those vibrant, nutrient-dense roots! Don’t shy away from beets because you don’t like them pickled or don’t want stained hands (wear gloves.) I eat them straight from the oven after roasting, but there are countless ways to enjoy these roots and their greens. Here are some of my favorites, plus, find out why these roots are so good for you.

All About Beets

Beets are mostly grown for their roots (the sweet bulb that ranges in color from red to yellow to white and even striped), but the greens are equally amazing and reminiscent of their spinach and Swiss Chard cousins. And, thanks to their deep color (purple flesh and red and green leaves), they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals. To name a few:

Vitamin A: super antioxidant; might help reduce wrinkles

Beta-carotene: precursor to vitamin A; helps prevent cancer

Vitamin B6: used in more bodily functions than nearly any other nutrient; required by the nervous system to function properly

Folate: helps the body form red blood cells; protects against birth defects.

Vitamin C: powerful antioxidant

Riboflavin: needed for the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates

Thiamine: important for cardiovascular health

Vitamin K: necessary for cardiovascular and bone health

Iron (in the greens): involved in oxygen transport; essential for regulating cells

What to Do With Beets

Canned beets are okay, but fresh beets have an earthy quality that can't be beat.  But a couple of bunches of beets, remove the greens (save for later use) and prep them for use later in the week one of these simple ways:

Roasted: Roasting beets intensifies their flavor, brings out their earthy sweetness and makes them easy to peel. Rinse away dirt and debris; remove the greens; wrap whole beets in foil and roast at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until tender. Let cool slightly, then peel away skin.

Boiled: Place whole beets in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover and a little lemon juice or vinegar (to prevent color "bleeding.") Bring to a boil; boil for 45-60 minutes, or until tender.

Once your beets are ready to eat, the options are endless. There’s nothing better than warm beets tossed with a little vinegar, sugar and salt, but beets are versatile, too -- here are some of my favorite ways to use them:

Beet-Gorgonzola Salsa: Combine 2 cups chopped cooked beets, 1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt or Greek-style yogurt, 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over grilled or roasted chicken or pork chops.

Beet and Apple Salad With Pistachios and Goat Cheese: Combine 2 cups thinly sliced cooked beets, 1 sliced Granny Smith apple, 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 1 tablespoon honey; toss to combine. Fold in 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (regular or herb-flavored) and 1/4 cup roasted pistachios and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Penne with Beet Greens, Cranberries and Almonds: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 cup chopped shallots and 3 minced garlic cloves; cook 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup vermouth and bring to a simmer; add 2 bunches chopped beet greens; cover and cook 3 minutes, or until leaves wilt.  Stir in 12 ounces cooked penne (with 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid if necessary) and 1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries, cook 1 minute to heat through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with 1/3 cup toasted, slivered almonds.

TELL US: What are your favorite ways to use beets?

 Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.

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