by Sara Ryba, R.D., C.D.N
I must admit I am having a love affair with beets right now. I had overlooked this root vegetable for so many years, but now I am making up for it. I love to eat steamed beets, roasted beets, beet salad and pickled beets (though I’m not a fan of borsht/beet soup). Because of this, I wanted to share my favorite beet recipes with you. They are beautiful additions to any meal, and will add vibrant red color to your table.
Before I share my favorite ways to prepare beets, let me tell you a little bit about their nutritional benefits. I could talk about them all day long, but to make a long story short, the ancient Russians (who ate tons of beets) were correct in believing that beets help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer. The powerful antioxidant properties of beets will benefit your entire body, from your eyes to your digestive system. (Don’t get scared if you see some of the beets’ red pigment appear in your toilet bowl — that is normal.)
In order to preserve these extremely powerful health benefits, it is recommended that beets be cooked as minimally as possible. I’ll give better guidelines on that below. In the meantime, here is a quick snapshot of what 1 cup of steamed beets offers:
- 3 grams protein
- 17 grams carbohydrate
- 3.5 grams fiber
- 0.5 gram fat
- 34% RDI for folate
- 10% RDI for vitamin C
- 27% DVI for manganese
- 15% DVI for potassium
- 10% DVI for magnesium
- 8% DVI for iron
Buying and preparing beets
Don’t be scared off by the beet’s seemingly ugly appearance. With a quick cleaning and a drop into boiling water, the skin will fall off and you’ll be left with a beautiful, delicious vegetable. When purchasing beets, look for those that are not punctured and that are uniformly firm to the touch. I try to buy beets that are similar in size so that my cooking time doesn’t vary from beet to beet.
Since it is suggested that the beneficial phytonutrients found in beets can be destroyed with too much heat, cooking times should be limited to 15 minutes when steaming and 40 minutes when roasting.
You can also look for pre-peeled and steamed beets in the refrigerated section of your produce aisle. They are super easy to dice up and throw into salads!
Easiest Steamed Beets
This is the easiest and fastest way to prepare beets. Many people season them afterwards with olive oil and vinegar or fresh or dried herbs, but I like them naked, just the way they are.
Fill the bottom of a pot, or ideally a steamer, with about two inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, wash the beets and cut them at the stem and the root, leaving about one inch on each side. (Consider wearing gloves, as beet juice can stain your hands.) Next, cut the beets into quarters and place them into the pot or steamer. Allow to steam for 15 minutes, or until they feel tender when pierced with a fork or knife. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, slide the skins off (they should fall right off) and enjoy!
Red Beet and Feta Salad
This salad is delicious and colorful with the dark greens, red beets and touch of white cheese!
- 8 small beets
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 8 cups arugula
- ¼ cup crumbled low-fat feta cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the stems and tails off the beets. Do not peel them. Place them into a baking pan (you can line it with foil for easier cleaning) and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork or knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and toss with the arugula in a large salad bowl. Once the beets are cool, peel them with a paring knife or simply slide the peel off of them. (Consider wearing gloves, as beet juice can stain your hands.) Cut each beet into quarters. Top the salad greens with the crumbled feta, the beets, and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!