Homocysteine is an amino acid that is released when the amino acid methionine is broken down. It’s a natural process, but low produce consumption makes this a fairly common occurrence. In high levels, it is toxic and causes inflammation–aging our blood vessels. High levels of betaine in beets are excellent at helping the body detox homocysteine. Consuming beets reduces many blood markers of inflammation including C-reactive protein.
The heart-healthy properties are not limited to the effects on homocysteine levels. Our body is able to use beets to create Nitric Oxide gas which helps to dilate blood vessels–reducing blood pressure and keeping it flowing. Finally, when it comes to cardiovascular health, the high amounts of fiber in beets help regulate cholesterol levels. They absorb dietary cholesterol in the digestive system and shuttle it out of the body.
So, is there a best way to eat beets? All ways! They are tasty steamed, roasted, and raw. Here are a few considerations when consuming beets:
- Don’t boil them. You are boiling away nutrients and then dumping them down the drain.
- Betalains are one of the phytonutrients that give beets their beautiful color and make them antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying powerhouses. Betalains are richer in beets than other plant foods. Betalains are steadily degraded while being heated. Steam beets for 15 minutes or less and keep roasting times to under one hour.
- Eat them raw! Beets are high in carbohydrates and will spike blood sugar more than non-starchy vegetables. I am not carb-phobic (the current craze) and some starchy carbs in your diet are not only healthy but necessary. However, when you eat beets raw, they have less of an impact on blood sugar levels which is fantastic for many of us. They happen to taste great raw. While I don’t recommend eating them like an apple (that would be a chore and you would be a mess,) they can be grated, cut into thin noodles, or very thinly shaved for all kinds of uses.
- Beets are popular for juicing, but the whole vegetable is a better option. When you juice them (or anything for that matter) you get the natural sugars and some of the nutrients, but you lose the fiber. We all desperately need more fiber in our lives, so don’t toss it away. It helps to control blood sugar rise as well as being essential for digestive health. If you have a powerful blender you can add beets to smoothies and give them a beautiful hue.
- Beets are in season year round for most of us and they store well. They should be a part of your regular diet year round.
- Beets greens are not trash! Use the greens in the same way you would use chard and kale. They are nutrient dense powerhouses in their own right.
Here is one of my favorite recipes. This is a particular favorite of my husband. It is also EASY and quick to throw together. The food processor does most of the work.
Small Wonder Beet and Carrot Salad
- 4-5 raw large beets–washed but not peeled (peels have nutrients)
- 1 bunch fresh carrots–washed but not peeled
- 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (or to taste)
- Depending on the sweetness of the vegetables and the addition of orange juice, you may be able to cut out the added sweetener completely.
- 1/4 cup vinegar (my favorite is sherry, but any will work)
- 1/4 cup EVOO or avocado oil
- 1 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or dried blueberries
- Zest and juice of one orange
- Few handfuls of nuts of choice, optional ( I really like walnuts in it)
- Nutrivore Nutrition Booster (add one tsp of seaweed flakes, like Maine Coast Dulse Flakes)
Grate the raw beets and carrots using a food processor (so much easier!) or hand grater. Add the other ingredients. You can serve immediately, but the salad improves with a bit of time. You can store in your refrigerator for up to a week.