Unbeetable

nutrition.jpgWhen I was a kid, there weren’t many vegetables that I liked. Purple, bloody beets with their mineral-rich taste from a life underground did not stand a chance of making my “will eat” list.

But children grow, tastes change, and around college everyone has to experiment. It began innocently at the salad bar. There they were, the cut, canned beets of my youth lying sad and neglected in their stainless steel crock beneath the sneezeguard. Somehow, I couldn’t leave them there like that, filled to the rim, neglected by all. So I put three slices atop my salad and drown them under a deluge of ranch dressing. To my surprise, I was was not able to choke down a bite of beets dripping with buttermilk, mayo, vinegar and herbs. But I actually liked the beet’s earthy flavor – what I could taste of it. I knifed back some of the dressing to reveal more of the beet’s flavor and tried another bite. I was hooked.

At my first job, a friend took me to a Russian restaurant and ordered me a bowl of borscht. With the first spoonful, I was hopelessly lost in my love for the beet. This newest root vegetable experience moved beets from my salad menu to my main course.

Over the years, I have become a bit of a beet connoisseur. Red beets, golden beets, Chioggia (striped) beets, mixed beets, baby beets…I would roast them all in carefully hand-shaped aluminum foil pods with just enough olive oil that the oven’s heat would transform them to fresh-cooked beet-fection! Beet salad, beet pasta, beet glazes, beet pastries, beet tarte, beet chips, smoked beets, even beet brownies were all made and devoured. Okay, by now you likely think me a freak of beetkind, so I must assure you that I have enjoyed many other interests and foodstuffs over the years. Beets are not my life, but they do hold a culinary fascination.

Since delving into the world of actual nutrition contained in the goodies I consume, I have come to not only love, but to respect the beet for what it brings to the table.

Beyond the beet’s prescribed nutrition labeling:

–       Rev the juicers this St. Valentine’s Day because beets (and especially beet juice) contain boron, a trace mineral that increases sex hormone levels in both women and men.

–       Pee assured of your stomach acid level. If you eat beets and then notice a festive pink color to your urine, you are low in stomach acid. A girl-power tinged stream means that your digestive system is not working to its full power. It is an indication that your GI track may be letting you down in the metabolization and assimilation departments, not taking full advantage of the nurturing minerals and vitamins in the foods you feed it.

–       Beets can be a recovering sugar-addict’s best friend. The beet root is filled with the sweet stuff (about 20% sugar, 75% water and 5% pulp). Beets are a simple carb (digested quickly) and that is glycemic index bad news (64 out of a 100 rating). But since beets are nutrition- and phytochemical-dense they stand out from their snack-cake cousins for those who are not compromised in insulin production.

–       You are now entering beet-tox!  Red beets are rich in betaine, which is good news for your cardiovascular health and liver. Without getting into dizzying scientific nomenclature, the detoxification properties of betaine lessen your chances of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, and even liver disease by lessening the fatty deposits that accumulate there. And if beets made you tink pink, keep eating, because the betaine in beets actually raises stomach acid levels.

–       Beet cold season. The high concentration of vitamin C in red beets helps you dodge the common cold. Beyond the sniffles, the red beet’s combo of vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants called betalains, has been studied to help in the areas of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.

–       A beetroot juice a day keeps the high blood pressure away. The journal Hypertension published by the American Heart Association established that 500 ml of beetroot juice lowered blood pressure an hour after consumption and the effects lasted up to 24 hours – thanks to the beet’s high nitrate levels. Nitrates (nitric oxide) has also been shown to increase the efficiency of your mitochondria, boosting energy levels, endurance, and oxygen-levels in the blood vessels.

–       Skip the turkey but keep the sense of well-being. Yes, beets conjure the dreamy, mind-calming effects brought on by foods like Thanksgiving fowl and chocolate because they also contain tryptophan. The betalains found in red beets have been used in some treatments of depression. And though so far, only rats have been put to the test, but the uridine found in beets and molasses have been shown to improve mood disorders.

–       Those green-loving Brits have even begun using surplus sugar beet crops to produce biobutanol, an alternative bio fuel source.

–       The beet’s high levels of potassium, magnesium, niacin, folic acid, iron, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more could keep me here all day touting beets benefits. But all this typing has made me hungry for beets. How about oven roasted beets with crumbled Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor goat cheese…oh yeah, that’s the spot.

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