Beets have only been appreciated as fat-fighting root vegetables in modern times. Before that, the beet greens were favored, most likely for their medicinal qualities, over the actual beet. Maybe back then, people were put off by the red urine and stools that sometimes appear after eating beets; some people inherit an inability to break down the red pigment in beets, so it passes right through their systems and is excreted. It's harmless enough, but you may want to lay off beets a few days before your next doctor's visit.
Beets contain a wealth of fiber -- half soluble and half insoluble. Both types play roles in fighting fat. These colorful root vegetables contain powerful nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer. Learn more about why beets are one of the most attractive vegetables in the diet garden.
Beets are particularly rich in folic acid, calcium, and iron. Consuming adequate amounts of folic acid during the childbearing years is a must for women; a deficiency in this critical nutrient has been linked to neural-tube birth defects. But this important vitamin is critical to lifelong health for men, women, and children, because long-term deficiencies have been linked to heart disease and cervical cancer, too.
Selection and Storage
Your best bet for beets is to choose small, firm ones that are well-rounded and uniformly sized for even cooking. The freshest beets are those with bright, crisp greens on top. The skins should be deep red, smooth, and unblemished. Thin taproots, the roots that extend from the bulb of the beets, are good indicators of tenderness. Once home, cut off the greens because they suck moisture from the beets. Leave two inches of stem to prevent the beet from "bleeding" when cooked. Keep beets in a cool place; refrigerated, they'll keep for a week or two.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Wash fresh beets gently, or broken skin will allow color and nutrients to escape. For this reason, peel beets after they're cooked. Watch out for beets' powerful pigments; they can stain utensils and wooden cutting boards. Microwaving retains the most nutrients. Steaming is acceptable but takes 25 to 45 minutes. Or roast them in the oven at 325°F until tender to develop their sweetness.
Beets have a succulent sweetness because, unlike most vegetables, they contain more sugar than starch. Beets taste great on their own, but if you'd like to enhance their delicious flavor, add a dash of salt or pepper or a drizzle of olive oil.
Beets are very versatile when it comes to preparation. Whether pickled, cooked and diced for salads, boiled and topped with no-calorie butter spray, or roasted, beets can help you with your weight-loss plan as you keep off those unwanted pounds.