These colorful root vegetables contain phytonutrients called betalains that give beets their rich red or yellow color . Betalains have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification effects in the body [1,2]. Beets are also a source of dietary nitrate, which increases production of nitric oxide in the body and helps to lower blood pressure and improve the health of blood vessels [3,4].
One cup of raw beets provides about 35% of your recommended daily value of folate, and are also a good source of manganese, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C .
Beets come in all shapes and sizes. Did you know that the traditional red beet is not the only variety available? Heirloom varieties can be golden yellow, white, pink and white ringed, and even oblong shaped! They belong to the family Amaranthaceae, and are related to other leafy vegetables such as swiss chard, amaranth, spinach, and quinoa . The wild ancestral origin of beets are believed to be sea beets, which have been alive for thousand of years . Some of the earliest records of sugar beet domestication is thought to be traced back to both the ancient Egyptian Empire and the Roman Empire. Ancient Assyrian texts have also described cultivation of beets in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon . You may not be aware of this but, once harvested, the entirety of the beet plant can be consumed, including the stems and leaves. Get creative and try out some delicious recipes below including one of sauteed beet leaves!
- Choose small to medium sized beets. Avoid beets with spots, bruises, or soft areas which may indicate spoilage.
- Do not wash beets before storing. Put beets in a plastic bag and wrap it tightly around the beets to get rid of air. Beets will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Cooked beets may be frozen.
References Khan MI. Plant Betalains: Safety, Antioxidant Activity, Clinical Efficacy, and Bioavailability. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2016;15(2):316-330. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12185.  Slimen IB, Najar T, Abderrabba M. Chemical and antioxidant properties of betalains. J Agric Food Chem. 2017;65(4):675-689. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.6b04208.  Mills CE, Khatri J, Maskell P, Odongerel C, Webb AJ. It is rocket science – why dietary nitrate is hard to “beet”! Part II: further mechanisms and therapeutic potential of the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2017;83(1):140-151. doi:10.1111/bcp.12918.  Asgary S, Afshani MR, Sahebkar A, et al. Improvement of hypertension, endothelial function and systemic inflammation following short-term supplementation with red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) juice: a randomized crossover pilot study. J Hum Hypertens. 2016;30(10):627-632. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/jhh.2016.34.  US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Revised May 2016. Website: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/.
 Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d). “Plants in the family amaranthacaea.” Retrieved on June 29, 2018 from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/list-of-plants-in-the-family-Amaranthaceae-2042049
 Biancardi, E., Panella, L.W., Lewellen, R.T. (2012). Beta Maritima: The Origin of Beets. Springer New York. ISBN: 9781461408413