Food of the Week

Beautiful Beetroot

One of my all-time favourite veggies, beets are a two-in-one vegetable as you can eat both the root and the leaves – the leaves are a rich source of nutrients and taste similar to Swiss Chard.

I used to love those pickled beetroots in vinegar you can get at the supermarket, until I realised that they were high in sugar – so I prefer to make my own version now (my favourite recipe can be found at the end of the article).

Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and provide antioxidant protection.  They are also a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoid phytonutrients for healthy vision.  You are more likely to find beetroots with the leaves still on them in vegetable box schemes although some supermarkets do sell them along with the beetroots now.

Why do we love them?

Beetroots are full of phytonutrient pigmentsBetacyanin is the red colour found in beets which can provide powerful antioxidant protection.  Beetroot are also a rich source of folate, a B vitamin which is important for heart health and normal tissue growth.

How should I prepare them for maximum health benefits?

Gently wash if necessary under running water taking care not to tear the skin – if you are going to roast or steam, it’s best not to peel them until after they have been cooked as they will lose much of their vibrant red colour and turn a dull brown. 

Steaming for 15 minutes seems to be healthiest way of cooking, and peel the skins off once cooled.  Roasting them will provide a sweeter taste – just wash and cut off the roots, placing in a 200 degree oven for 1 to 1½ hours depending on size.  

You can also grate them raw to use in salads – for the sweetest flavour, peel before grating –

Raw beet salad
Grate 3 medium beetroots, combine with one dessertspoon of mustard, one dessertspoon of lemon juice, 3 dessertspoons of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt to taste.  Serve on a bed of fresh greens.   Add chopped herbs such as basil or rosemary if liked.  

You can also make a raw soup using beetroot called Borscht, or layer raw beetroot slices with thinly sliced goats, cheese and chopped walnuts.

The best beetroot  salad I ever had was in a restaurant in Banff (Canada) and was made with goat’s cheese, orange segments, rocket and caramalised pecan nuts.  It was absolutely amazing and the flavour combinations were wonderful.  I have never quite been able to re-create it perfectly, it but it was a winning combination.

Why are they good for me?

Beet This for Optimum Health!

Beetroot contain a unique group of phytonutrients called betalainsbetacyanin, the red pigment found in beets is one of these.  These enzymes can protect the liver from free radicals and are thought to help prevent cancerous activity. 

In a clinical trial, beet juice was found to be a potent inhibitor of cell mutations caused by nitrosamines, metabolic by-products of nitrates (preservative chemicals mainly used in processed meats).

Beet greens when compared to spinach, broccoli, carrots onions and celery were found to have the highest phenolic phytonutrient content and the greatest ability to absorb oxygen free radicals.

'Heart' to Beet!

In addition to fibre, heart-healthy nutrients in beetroot include folate, and beet phytonutrient pigments have been found to prevent the oxidation of LDL, one of the initial steps in the development of atherosclerosis.

Did you know?

The colour from beetroots can be modified when cooking - adding an acidic substance such as lemon juice will brighten the colour – adding salt during cooking will blunt the colour so add at the end.

The process used to create tins and jars of beetroot involves subjecting produce to intense heat which can rob food of its nutrients – also avoid the ones vacum packed in plastic - choose fresh where possible and cook them yourself.

What are my credentials?

Folate, manganese, potassium, fibre, vitamin C, magnesium, tryptophan, iron, copper, phosphorous, beta-carotene

How to select me

Look for medium-sized beets with firm roots, smooth skin and a deep colour which will have the highest nutritional value, choose organic where possible.  Best stored in a fridge which will help preserve nutrients, do not wash until you are going to use.

Other serving suggestions:

  • 1 dessertspoon of balsamic vinegar mixed with 3 dessertspoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp lemon juice one clove of garlic, salt and pepper – pour over warm, peeled beetroot, top with basil and goat’s cheese.
  • Top cooked beetroots with yogurt mixed with fresh herbs
  • Serve on a platter with cooked sliced egg and thinly sliced red onion – top with salad dressing and herbs.


My favourite beetroot salad:

Russian Beet Salad – serves 4 – From ‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sally Fallon

6 medium beets
3 dessertspoons of apple cider vinegar
4 dessertspoons of extra virgin olive oil
The juice of half an orange (plus some orange segments if liked)
Pinch sea salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch of cinnamon and/or cloves
Half a teaspoon of finely grated orange peel

Bake or steam beetroots until tender.  Peel and cut into cubes.  Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and add the beetroot.  Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour for the flavours to develop.  Goes especially well with cold meats and sprinkled over mixed green salads with the marinade so there is no need to make a separate dressing.


Source: WHF, Mateljan, G.