Beets are everywhere — in the produce department, health food columns, smoothie cookbooks. Organic fresh beets are a two-for-one bargain because both the tops and the roots contain valuable nutrients.
Because beet roots have the highest sugar content of all tuber vegetables (those grown below the ground), they should be eaten in limited quantities, unlike beet greens, the healthiest part of the plant. Beet roots have become popular because of their nitrate content. Nitrate converts to the gas nitric oxide in the body, and nitric oxide (chemical formula NO) allows cells to communicate. Nitric oxide was proclaimed "molecule of the year" in 1992, and in 1998, the scientists who discovered its role in the cardiovascular system received a Nobel Prize.
Eating beets for stamina has proved beneficial for workouts and competitive sports. Grated raw beet root, often a salad topping, has been shown to lower blood pressure, as has beet juice. A number of smoothie recipes call for beets.
As a vegetable, beets are unique in their betaine content. Betaine is a nutrient that reduces inflammation markers like tumor necrosis factors and C-reactive protein. So, as holiday stress mounts, you need to eat your beets.
Beet tops have more iron than any other leafy green vegetable. Loaded with minerals like magnesium, zinc and manganese, they make a healthy and flavorful addition to a salad or steamed vegetable medley.
Combining several vegetables in a tasty soup is another delightful way to enjoy beets. The bright color of Roasted Beet Onion Soup lets you know it has many health benefits.
Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.