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Today I would like to talk more about red beet or beetroot. It is a colorful and a multipurpose vegetable at many stages of growth. Both the leaves and roots are edible and packed with goodness. Let’s start from the beginning.

 

The Red beet/beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is found along the Mediterranean coast as well as the Atlantic coast into Scandinavia, throughout the Middle East and in India, Iran, and Azerbaijan. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations described the use of the vegetable beet in their cuisines and medicinal remedies, but most of these recipes focused on beet leaves. These sources indicate that the beet was primarily a leaf crop and not widely consumed as a root vegetable. The first information about the swollen rooted forms reveals that they existed in the 16th century. The red beet was domesticated in Europe and spread to the Middle East, Asia and America. 

 

Beetroots are commonly consumed in form of supplemental juice, powder, bread, gel, boiled, oven-dried, pickled, pureed or jam-processed across different food cultures. It is a rich source of diverse source minerals such as potassium, sodium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, and manganese. Beetroot consists of multiple biologically active phytochemicals including betalains, flavonoids, polyphenols, saponin and inorganic Nitrate (NO3). In the table below there is some information about nutrition composition of red beets and their byproducts. As a rich and nutritious source, it is believed to hold health-promotional characteristics, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic activities and hepato-protective, hypotensive and wound healing properties. 

 

Nutrient composition of beetroot and its byproducts (per 100g or L) (Parvin M., 2020 17:3)

 

 

Raw

Cooked, boiled

Canned

Fresh juice

Water, g

87.58

87.06

90.96

-

Energy, kcal

43

44

31

30

Protein, g

1.61

1.68

0.91

1.02

Total fats, g

0.17

0.18

0.14

0

Carbohydrate, g

9.56

9.96

7.21

6.6

Fiber, g

2.8

2

1.8

0

Sugar, g

6.76

7.96

5.51

6.6

Calcium, mg

16

16

15

0

Iron, mg

0.8

0.79

1.82

0

Magnesium, mg

23

23

17

-

Phosphorus, mg

40

38

17

-

Potassium, mg

325

305

148

-

Sodium, mg

78

77

194

93

Zinc, mg

0.35

0.35

0.21

-

Vitamin C, mg

4.9

3.6

4.1

0

Thiamin, mg

0.031

0.027

0.01

-

Riboflavin, mg

0.04

0.04

0.04

-

Niacin, mg

0.334

0.331

0.157

-

Folate, µg

109

80

30

-

Total phenolic content

255

238

192

225

Total flavonoid contentb

260

261

173

126

a as mg gallic acid equivalent (GAE/100g); b as mg rutin equivalent (RE/100g sample)

 

The studies show more evidence in favor of blood glucose lowering effect of beetroot and beetroot juice in particular. It can be implied that beetroot juice is able to effectively lessen the impact of insulin resistance in a drug- comparable manner. 

It was revealed that chronic and regular ingestion of fermented beetroot juice may lead to the sustaining intestinal microbial ecosystem and modifying metabolic activity to reduce the risk of food intolerance related diseases. 

 

It is well established that the administration of NO3 supplementation as beetroot juice enhances cardio-protective and cardio-enhancing properties. Based on the current prevailing perception, NO3 and its subsequent NO product are mainly responsible for cardio-protective and the hypotensive effects of beetroot supplements; while so additive, or synergistic, effects of other bioactive compounds such as vitamin C, polyphenols and carotenoids should not be neglected. 

 

Red beetroot is a vegetable rich in carbohydrates, fat, micro-nutrients, and constituents with bioactive properties. The bioactive constituents include betaine, polyphenols, carotenoids, flavonoids, saponins and the water-soluble pigments the betalains. Members of the betalain family are categorized as either betacyanin pigments that are red-violet in color or betaxanthin pigments that are yellow-orange in color. Betalaines are extracted and used as a natural food coloring or dye (commercial dye E162).

 

Sometimes people may notice that their urine and stools have turned pink or even red after eating red beet roots. It is the betalains that cause this.  It is harmless and occurring only in 15% of people who lack the gut bacteria that normally degrade betalains. The urine and stool usually return to their normal color after a day or two. 

 

As noted above, red beets are a multipurpose vegetable at many stages of growth. They are mostly cultivated as an annual vegetable. The swollen root can be either rounded or tapered and are red, yellow (golden beet) or white. The leaves sprout as a rosette above-ground and, when they are two or three inches tall, they are a delicious addition to salads. Then, when the greens are higher than six to eight inches tall, you can steam up a mess of greens. At last, you can use roots when they are an inch and a half in diameter or bigger. The smaller roots for some people taste the best. 

 

You can grow them by yourself; beets are suitable for growing in either gardens or large containers. Beets tolerate frost and grow best in cooler climates; however, they can be grown in most climates. They tolerate both full sun and partial shade, and prefer loose soil, which allow roots to grow freely. 

Beets grow the best and taste best when they grow fast, so they need rich soil and plenty of water. Some believe that they are fairly drought-tolerant and actually growing in many nutrients if kept slightly on the dry side. But if you leave to dry the vegetable becomes tough and stringy. So, the key, as always, is in moderation.

 

If you are planning to grow them in a pot, you need one the 10-12 inches deep, because they have a long taproot. You seed them half an inch deep and two (for greens) or three (for roots) inches apart directly in the container or ground. You can make the first planting a month before the last frost, with small succession plantings every two weeks or month. Although they like to grow in cool weather, beets germinate best in warm soil. So, it is good to cover the container with black plastic. 

 

It does not matter how carefully you space the seeds of your beets you should know that each beet “seed” is actually a cluster of seeds so beets will emerge as a clump of plants. You can thin some of the plants, but even if you don’t, they will do fine, especially if you harvest some of the crop early for greens. You should know that if you decide to thin, use the scissors, clipping the unwanted plants at soil level; the roots of the plants in any cluster are thoroughly intertwined, and any attempt to thin by pulling the extra plants will disturb the roots of the plants you want to save. They are easy to keep and unlikely to be bothered by pests or diseases.

 

You harvest mature beet roots 3-4 months after sowing depending on area and seasonal conditions. If you are planning to store beets longer than a couple days, you should cut the majority of the greens and their stems from the roots, so they do not pull moisture away from the root. Leave about two inches of the stem attached to prevent the roots from “bleeding”. Store the unwashed greens in a separate perforated plastic bag, where they will keep fresh for about 4 days. You can also can and pickle them and freeze tender young beets. Don’t freeze raw beets. Cook them until tender and slice, chop or leave whole. Cool and transfer to plastic containers, then freeze for up to 6 months.

 

Red beets are amazing a multipurpose vegetable: You can grate or slice raw and add to salads; you can bake, steam, or boil them; you can puree them with oil and spices to make a dip; or as in Eastern Europe kitchen they use them to make the soup, borscht. You can cook and use the leaves as you would use a spinach. Blanched, they can be added to soups, salads, or pasta sauces. 

 

Being from the Eastern Europe beets are part of my heritage. Here are some ideas how they can be used in the kitchen. I hope you will enjoy!

 

Please let me know if you have any more question about red beet! 

 

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Ela

 

Recipes with red beets

 

  • Fermented Red Beet Juice
  • 1kg (35oz or 6-7 medium size beets) red beets
  • 1l (4 cups) water (chlorine-free)
  • 5-6 gloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp salt

 

Directions:

Scrub the beets and peel. Cut off the top and tail, then chop or slice them in the size you prefer. Then place them in the clean glass jar and cover with salted water. When you are placing chopped beets, add the garlic and other ingredients. Cover the jar with a cheese cloth or clean cotton kitchen cloth. Leave the jar at room temperature for 5-6 days. It is good to check every day because it can be ready earlier or later depending on the storage temperature. When it is ready, separate the juice from the beets. Juice should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed over the month. You can use the beets for a salad. 

When ready to serve, dilute 1:1 with vegetable stock and warm up. It can’t be allowed to boil because it changes the color. 

 

 

Red Beet Soup 

 

  • 1 small or medium carrot
  • 1 parsley root
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small celery root (or if it is a big one just a quarter or half depending on the size, you do not want to add too much)
  • 1 small leek
  • 6-7 small red beets
  • Spices: bay leaf, salt, and black pepper, 2-4 whole Allspices, 1 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice
  • water

 

Directions:

Wash and peel a vegetable.  Place all the vegetables in the pot and cover with the water and add the bay leaf, whole allspices, and salt. Bring everything to boil, reduce heat, simmer, and cover for 2 hours.  After that time, remove all the vegetables from the pot and add the vinegar or lemon juice and black pepper and more salt to taste. 

 

 

Red Beet Carpaccio

 

  • 2 or more red beets
  • Red onion or shallots
  • Fresh mix of herbs
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

 

Directions:

Peel and chop or slice onion. Remove stems from the herbs and mix with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper.

 Clean and peel the red beets and slice. Then add them to a mix of herbs and onion and mix well. After plating them, drizzle with olive oil and fresh ground pepper.

If you have don’t like raw red beets, you can cook them or bake before you peel them and mix with the herb and onion.

 

Bibliography:

Clifford T., H. G. (2015, 7). The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients, 2801-2822.

Goldman IL., J. J. (2021, vol 12). Evolution of root morphology in table beet: Historical and iconographic. Frontiers in Plant Science.

Lechner JF., S. G. (2019, 24, 1602). Red beetroot and betalains as cancer chemoprevetative agents. Molecules.

Madadi E., M.-R. S. (2020, 9, 1219). Therapeutic application of betalainw: A review. Plants.

Murray M., P. J. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: Atria Books.

Parvin M., H. Z. (2020 17:3). Functional properties of beetroot (Beta vulgaris) in management of cardio-metabolic diseases. Nutrition & Metabolism.

Rowney, K. (2010). Growing vegetables. New York: Metro Books.

Schwarcz J., B. F. (2004). Food that harm foods that heal. New York Montreal: Reader's Digest.

Smith, E. C. (2011). The vegetable gardener's container bible. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Wong, J. (2016). Grow of flavor. Buffalo NY: Firefly Books (U.S.) Inc.

 

 

Medical Disclaimer

Always consult your medical practitioner, registered dietician, or nutritionist before making any significant changes to your diet particularly if you are an adolescent, pregnant, breastfeeding or have or are developing a medical condition.

Red beets

18 January 2022