It’s undeniable — beets are having a moment. Beets are showing up in juices, smoothies, burgers (yup), food blogs, and of course, more Instagram posts that you can shake a stick at. These gorgeous veggies can’t be beat for beauty, so it’d be easy to pin the buzz on their photogenic star-power, but it isn’t all about looks. The humble beet has legit nutritional street cred and may even have promising results for athletic performance.
The Benefits of Beets
A cup of beets is 60 calories and a good source of fiber, potassium, iron, and folate. This root vegetable is naturally low in fat, cholesterol-free, and low-sodium. And don’t toss the greens! You’re basically getting two nutritious veggies for the price of one: Beet greens are packed with vitamins A, K, and C. You can prepare and eat them like you would any salad greens.
Do beets improve athletic performance? For some, possibly. A recent review of 19 studies suggest benefits for non-athletes, ranging from 14 to 25 percent improvements in endurance during activities like cycling or rowing. There were mixed results for trained athletes, with some significant but small benefits, but more studies need to be done. Want to give it a try? The research suggests most benefits are seen with drinking about two cups of beet juice two to three hours before exercise. You can find beet juice at most grocery stores now, juice bars, or you can make your own at home if you’ve got a juicer.
Beets, or beetroots, have an earthy, mildly sweet flavor. Commonly a deep garnet red, they can be golden, white, and sometimes a mix in the case of the Chioggia or candy cane beet (a cross section looks like an archery target).
- Look for firm, smooth skin, and crisp bright greens.
- Smaller ones are generally more tender.
- They can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Cut greens within an inch of the stem before storing.
- Gently rinse before cooking, taking care not to damage the thin skin. Peel after cooking.
- To keep the gorgeous red color on your plate and off your shirt, Cheryl Meyer, RD, recommends using surgical gloves during prep.
- Bathroom alert: You may see a reddish hue in your toilet for a few days after eating them.
Not ready to commit to a batch of beet burgers just yet? Then try these five unique and delicious ways to add more beets to your life.
1. Pickled Beets
For the tangy bright notes of a pickle and the perks of gut-friendly probiotics, try fermenting beets at home. If you go for store-bought instead, beware that only those labeled as “fermented” or with “probiotics” likely contain probiotics.
2. Roasted Beet Ice Cubes
Roast some beets, puree them, then freeze in ice cube trays. Add four or five beet cubes with one cup pomegranate juice, one cup frozen blueberries, one teaspoon chia seeds, and a drizzle of agave (optional). For another option, Amber Ketchum, M.D.S, R.D. loves adding cinnamon to her beet smoothies to “cut through the earthiness.”
3. Spiralized Beets
Spiralizing vegetables is almost as trendy as beets. Sauté them with garlic and olive oil and garnish with fresh mint and toasted pistachios. It’s a great side dish on its own, but it’s also delicious on goat cheese crostini. Amanda Hernandez, M.A., R.D., offers another great option: Spiralize them raw and marinate with olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper.
4. Beet Dip (Romesco or Hummus)
Use beets in a rustic romesco or hummus recipe for an unexpected take on these traditional dips. Romesco is a classic Spanish “sauce” similar in texture to pesto that’s made with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, almonds and garlic. You can slather this delicious dip/sauce on everything from toast to baby carrots. Just take your favorite romesco recipe and sub in beets for the roasted red peppers. To make a gorgeous beet hummus, just add beets to this easy homemade hummus recipe.
5. Beet Chips
Kim Melton, R.D. says her family likes beet chips with hummus as a healthy snack. Her method: Thinly slice your beets, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake. (Beet chips with beet hummus, anyone?)
When you want to go back to basics, remember that the simplest way to enjoy beets is to roast, slice, and toss them on a salad. A favorite from Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N. is greens, beets, avocado slices, and crushed almonds or hazelnuts, with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction. Voila — beet heaven.