Let’s talk about beets. Those sweet, earthy, garnet-red root vegetables are among the best things you can put in your grocery cart to enhance your health and fight disease, according to Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side. A good source of fiber, folate, and potassium, beets are also remarkably high in antioxidants. In fact, they have more antioxidant properties than all other common vegetables in the grocery store except for artichokes, red cabbage, kale, and bell peppers; they contain nine times more antioxidant activity than the typical tomato and 50 times more than orange carrots!
Beets get their red hue from phytonutrients called betalains, which are proving to be good cancer fighters, says Robinson. She cites a 2009 test-tube experiment in which beet juice blocked the proliferation of human cancer cells of the pancreas, stomach, prostate, lungs, and brain by 85 to 100 percent. And according to dietary survey results, people who eat beets on a regular basis have a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and diseases of the digestive tract than people who don’t eat beets.
Beets are good for pulmonary and cardiovascular health too. A 2012 British study determined that fit men and women who had eaten a serving of whole beets every day for several days could run faster than when they had eaten a serving of other vegetables. A special form of nitrate in beets can reduce blood pressure, relax and widen blood vessels, and increase blood flow to your muscles. It also reduces the amount of oxygen required by your muscles during exercise. Some say beets have aphrodisiac qualities; a 1987 study revealed that the boron in beets “markedly elevates” the production of testosterone in both men and women, sparking an increase in sexual desire for both sexes.
Robinson recommends looking for dark-red varieties for the most nutritional value, and advises that beets become more nutritious when you steam, microwave, or roast them, especially with the skins on to keep the nutrients inside while cooking. And if you don’t have time to cook beets yourself, choose canned beets: they actually become more nutritious in the canning process, providing more antioxidant value.
When I have the time, I like to roast and marinate beets to keep in the fridge and assemble bright, nutritious salads all week long. They pair so nicely with soft goat cheese, mixed greens and a touch of dill. While you can find beets year-round, we’re in the midst of the June-to-October season when you can find the most tender ones. So stock up on these health-boosting beauties and enjoy!
Marinated Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with Dill
- 4 beets
- 3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 5 Tbs. olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Fresh dill, chopped
- Salad greens
- Dollops of soft goat cheese
- 2 green onions, sliced into ringlets
Directions: To roast the beets, preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Wash the beets and while damp wrap them individually in foil. Place the foil-wrapped beets on a baking sheet and roast for about one hour, checking at 45 minutes or so to see if they’re done. The skin should release and a knife should slide through easily when done. Let cool slightly, then open up packets. Pour off any juice and reserve. Peel off skins (wear gloves if you don’t want your hands to turn red) and cut into wedges or slices.
To make the marinade, combine vinegar, sugar, and reserved beet juice and whisk. Drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk and emulsify the liquids. Add a dash of salt and pepper. In a refrigerator-safe container, mix the beet wedges with the marinade and chill for a few hours (up to several days). Periodically stir the beets to evenly coat with the marinade.
To assemble the salad, plate the salad greens with dollops of goat cheese, add some beets and spoon over some of the marinade. Sprinkle a bit of dill and sliced green onions.