Beets are funny. So many people wrinkle their noses at the mere mention of them exclaiming “they taste like dirt!” Well, they can. They are earthy root vegetables after all and if the dirt is robust, it will definitely affect the taste of the beets. I love them and know a lot of people who love them as well. Learning about the connection between food and tradition causes me to assume that my Eastern European heritage may have something to do with my love of them as well, even though that is only a small part of my family history.
But what I really love about them is their delicious AND nutritious properties. The folate, nitrates, magnesium and antioxidants in beet juice, beet fiber and beet greens have been shown to aid in disease prevention and control. Here are a few of these benefits courtesy of http://holistic-nutrition.suite101.com:
• Beets and Blood Pressure
A recent study has linked consumption of beet juice with the lowering of blood pressure. The study suggests that the nitrates in beet juice, converted by saliva, are converted to nitrites in the digestive process.
• Beet Fiber and High Cholesterol
Studies have also shown that beet fiber is effective in lower LDL and total serum cholesterol levels. Triglycerides were also reduced. In this case the researchers postulated that folate, or naturally occurring Vitamin B, was the key.
• Beets and Liver Detoxification
One of the liver’s hundreds of jobs is to filter toxins from the body and release them via the bowels or kidneys. When the liver becomes overloaded, it can no longer keep the body free from toxins, and we will absorb, reabsorb, and have toxic chemicals circulating in our blood. The effects of this can be so slow and cumulative that we can easily mistake them for poor health or diseases that develop over time. Beets and beet tops are the richest source of betaine, a natural liver detoxifier and bile thinner. Use chopped or shredded raw beets combined with a little raw flax oil and lemon juice daily. It’s easy to include whole beets in our diet. They can be baked, roasted, grated raw in salad, or juiced with other vegetables.
• Beets and Colon and Stomach Cancer Prevention
The red pigment in beets raises antioxidant enzyme levels in the liver and promotes detoxification in the intestines, blood and liver. Colon cancer research has also shown that consumption of beet fiber may increase colonic CD8 cells, which detect and remove abnormal cells.
Beet juice also inhibited the production of nitrosamines from foods containing nitrates in stomach cancer patients. For beets to be most useful in cancer prevention they should be taken uncooked or very lightly cooked as heat reduces their anti-cancer properties.
• Beets and Preventing Birth Defects
Folate is considered an important aid in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. It is critical at times of rapid cell development as it is necessary for creating DNA and RNA. The high level of folate (up to 136 grams per cup) in beets makes them a valuable food for pregnancy. Spina bifida and anencephaly are two birth defects which may be prevented by the consumption of folate rich foods.
• Beets and Osteoporosis Prevention
Magnesium is an important mineral in healthy bone production and maintenance. Without appropriate levels of magnesium, calcium cannot be utilized effectively. Beet root is high in magnesium, making it a good vegetable for women concerned with preventing osteoporosis. A word of caution, beet greens, are high in oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium metabolism so the greens should not be consumed in any significant quantities by osteoporosis sufferers.
And here is a nice recipe for the classic beet soup Borscht! Enjoy!
Makes about 8 cups
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 c. yellow onion, shredded
1 c. carrots, shredded
6 cups veg stock
6 beets, peeled and shredded in the food processor
1 tsp. salt, more to taste
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh grated horseradish (I know it seems like a lot, but it really blends well)
In large pot, saute onions and carrots in oil over high heat for 2 minutes or until softened. Add 6 cups of hot stock. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add beets and return to boil reduce heat and simmer 10 or 12 minutes. Add the salt, vinegar, pepper and lemon juice and horseradish and any additional salt to taste. Refrigerate at least an hour, preferably overnight. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of dill yogurt cream.
*If you prefer a smoother soup, blend half in a blender and mix with the chunkier soup.
If you prefer to keep your diet vegan, skip this bit but it can add a nice creaminess to the soup
DILL YOGURT CREAM
2 tbsp dill minced
1 cup thick whole milk yogurt (or regular yogurt strained through cheesecloth)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix dill, yogurt, salt and pepper and serve a t. with each serving of Borscht.