Beets are an excellent food to eat on a regular basis. They are low in calories, but high in water and fibre which makes them a good choice for those on a diet and supportive of digestion. They contain almost all the important vitamins and minerals plus phytonutrients that are anti-inflammatory and maybe cancer protective. One of the most important benefits is that they are rich in nitrates. Nitrates help to dilate the blood vessels. This has benefits for cognition in that it results in good blood flow to the frontal cortex but also for blood pressure and heart health. Nitrate levels remain elevated for 6 hours after eating, so regular consumption can be helpful. Nitrates may also help athletic performance, by improving the efficiency of mitochondria and hence energy production in our body.
Beets can be juiced, roasted, steamed, or pickled. They can also be bought pre-cooked for convenience. Dietary nitrates are water soluble, so it is best to avoid boiling beets to maximize their nitrate content. Here are some ways to add more beets to your diet:
- Beetroot salad: Grated beets make a good addition to coleslaw.
- Beetroot dip: Beets blended with Greek yogurt make a delicious and healthy dip.
- Beetroot juice: Fresh beetroot juice is best, as store-bought juice can be high in added sugars and may only contain a small amount of beets.
- Beetroot cakes: They can be used as an ingredient in some sweet treats
- Beetroot leaves: Beet leaves can be cooked and enjoyed like spinach in a salad
|Beetroot, Feta and Asparagus Salad (Serves 6) |
Ingredients for the Dressing
Large handful of fresh oregano or marjoram (or chives if not available)
1 garlic clove
Juice 1 ½ lemons
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
For the Salad
250g of asparagus cut into 3cm lengths
2x 250g packs of fresh beetroot cut into quarters
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 spring onions finely sliced
85g bag of watercress stems removed
20 basil leaves
200g of feta cheese
Pulse the oregano or marjoram, a pinch of salt and the garlic to a paste in a food processor – add the lemon juice and whizz until smooth. Stir in the olive oil and season.
Cook the asparagus in boiling water for 3 minutes or until just tender, drain and refresh with cold water.
Put the beetroot in a large bowl with two thirds of the dressing, the lemon zest, spring onions and watercress and toss. Tear the basil and add, toss in the cold asparagus and season with black pepper. Mix everything gently and not too much as it will make everything go pink.
At the last minute add the cheese and pour over the remainder of the dressing.