True story: when I was a kid, the only (and I mean ONLY) vegetable my father would eat was canned beets. And if you’ve ever had a flabby slice of a sad, canned beet you’ll understand my loathing of that veg growing up. Thankfully, beets have come a long way since that dark, aluminum age and are now trending in every restaurant, juice bar and produce aisle. Research has linked beets to everything from heart health and cancer prevention, to lowered cholesterol and inflammation, to better digestive health and well-being. Here are five ways to enjoy this rad red veggie that are as tasty as they are healthy. And hey, if I like them, so will you!
As a Fat-Fighting Bake
Beets contain manganese which your body needs for carb/fat metabolism and blood sugar regulation. They also contain lots of fiber, making meals more satisfying while promoting regularity.
Basic Beet Bake
Scrub beats thoroughly then rub them with olive oil and wrap tightly in foil. Roast on the middle rack at 475 until tender and easily pierced with a knife, about an hour. Remove, let cool, then peel off the skin.
As an Energy Boosting Juice
Beets are rich in nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body, causing dilation of blood vessels, improved circulation and increased oxygen delivery. Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that oxygen uptake increased by up to 16 percent in people who drink beet juice, and a study published in Cell Metabolism found that nitrates improved the energy production of mitochondria.
Two raw beets, one whole lemon, two apples, one stalk of celery and half a piece of ginger root. Drink an hour before a workout for optimal performance.
As a Liver-Loving Condiment
Betaine, an amino acid found in beets, has been shown to reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver, improving its function, according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Beets are also naturally alkaline and help balance your pH and combat disease.
Add cooked sliced beets to a mixture of rice wine vinegar, honey, chopped fresh ginger and a little salt. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to a week. Use to top burgers and sandwiches, or chop into salads and pastas.
As a Great Green Side
Cup for cup, beet greens contain more iron than spinach, helping with the formation of hemoglobin which enables your body to better transport oxygen.
Steamed Goat Greens
Wash greens thoroughly, then separate the stems and the leaves. Steam stems several minutes until tender, then add the greens and steam until just wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste, and serve with goat cheese – the calcium will help enhance vitamin absorption.
As an Endurance-Enhancing Smoothie
Beets can help you in the long haul: Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that cyclists who drank beet juice could pedal hard 15 percent longer in a time trial. Combine beets or beet juice with protein for a solid meal replacement pre-endurance event.
High-Pro Beet Smoothie
Blend together 2 large cooked beets, 1 cup baby kale or spinach, ½ cup frozen blueberries, ½ frozen banana, 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 3-5 ice cubes.