Every once in a while I get a craving for beets. Not the canned type I grew up eating, but the real thing…the deep red-purple, irregularly shaped root with a long, skinny, hairy tip.
So I am food shopping while hungry the other day—always a danger to the pocket book—and I spot beets. Ah ha, I think, just what I need for a fall dinner. I buy a bunch and take them home.
I chop off their shiny green leaves and toss them. Then, I trim the tops and bottoms of the beets and put them in an oven-proof dish with a bit of water in the bottom. Thirty minutes later, I have tender, but firm scrumptious beets to eat (with a little dollop of mayo). Yum.
Now I am feeling pretty self-righteous about having taken the time to prepare these fresh vegetables for dinner—one of those 4 or 5 helpings of fruits and veggies we are supposed to eat each day. But I start to think that maybe I should understand beets a bit better—they are, after all, one of the plants we get sugar from, right? Perhaps, they aren’t so good for me after all.
Beets health benefits
So here’s the skinny about beets. They are the edible roots of an entirely edible plant (I shouldn’t have tossed those leaves). Yes, they have a high sugar content. In fact, they have the highest natural sugar content of any vegetable, as high as 10%. But they are low calories (whew!). One medium beet has only 50 calories, low fat (only 5 of the 50 calories are from fat), and no cholesterol. The medium beet has 11 grams of carbs (2 grams of which are dietary fiber). It also contains significant amounts of vitamin C. So, sans the mayo, this is actually a pretty darn good food.
Beet leaves can be prepared like chard (beets and chard are in the same family). The leaves are a good source of vitamin A.
The main downside of beets is betacyanin, one of the betalain pigments that gives beets their deep red-purple color. If any of you have been alarmed the morning after feasting on beets because your stool looks bloody or your urine is red, it is because you are one of the people who can’t break down that pigment. Don’t worry, this problem goes away in a day or so.
Another annoyance is from the same pigment. Drop the beet on your brand new shirt, and you have a hard-to-remove purplish stain. So, my advice is to eat beets using your very best table manners.
So there it is folks. Beets in a nutshell. Enjoy.