Beets ~ Super Vegetables
The Healing Power
They Can Help:
Protection against cancer & preventing birth defects.
When you think of healthy cuisine, foods from Russia don't automatically come to mind.
It's little wonder, really.
In the West we don't usually think of such things as butter laden cabbage and potatoes, washed down with a shot of vodka, as haute cuisine, let alone healthy cuisine.
Yet there's definitely one traditional Russian dish that deserves a second look:
Served hot or cold, this sweet crimson soup is made from fresh beets, and that means that it's brimming with nutrients that can fight birth defects and perhaps even stave off cancer.
Giving Cancer the Red Flag
In fact, folk medicine is full of stories about using this super vegetable and it's juice for fighting cancer.
Though much more research needs to be done, some scientists suspect that the compound that gives this veggie it's rich, crimson color, betacyanin, is also a powerful tumor-fighting agent.
Beet juice is used in Europe for the treatment of cancer.
The pigment found in this super vegetable may have anti-cancer properties.
In one study on beets' effectiveness against cancer, researchers tested the juice, along with the juices of other vegetables and fruits, against some common cancer-causing chemicals.
Beet juice ranked close to the top in preventing cell mutations that commonly lead to cancer.
This super veggie isn't as well-studied as other vegetables like broccoli, but there's certainly enough evidence to warrant including them in your diet.
You've been grating them on your salads, eating them sliced, perhaps pickled, and even nibbling them straight from the jar.
Much to your alarm, this mean beet feat has you seeing red in what seems to be the worst possible place.
Don't panic though, when your urine runs red.
Many people who eat this super veggie will experience a condition called beeturia, or the passage of pink or red urine.
When you don't know what's happening, this condition is certainly alarming.
I almost freaked when it first happened to me.
But it's harmless say the experts, and will usually pass the same day, unless, of course, you keep eating them.
A Font of Folate
If there's one nutrient that women often don't get enough of, it's the B-vitamin, folate.
They just don't eat enough lentils, spinach, or other folate-rich foods to get the 400 micrograms of folate that they need each day.
Meeting the daily requirement for folate is essential for normal tissue growth and perhaps for protecting against heart disease and certain cancers.
Plus, doctors have found that folate is a pregnant woman's best friend because it helps protect against birth defects.
A half-cup of these, boiled or sliced, contains 45 micrograms of folate, nearly 11 percent of the Daily Value.
In the Kitchen
We admit, this super vegetable isn't the easiest to work with.
They have a strong flavor, they're often tough, and as we now know, they bleed red.
Indeed, cooking with them is like throwing a pair of red socks into a load of whites and you know something's gonna come out pink.
Here are a few ways to keep this unruly veggie under control.
Control the color.
To keep "bleeding" to a minimum, chef friends advise us to wash them gently during preparation, taking care not to tear the skin, since the tougher outer skin layer keeps most of the pigments inside the vegetable.
For the same reason, don't peel them or remove the root ends or stems until they're cooked and in a separate bowl.
Buy them small.
For the best results, choose them small or medium-sized.
They're tender enough at that age that you may not have to peel them at all.
Increasing Iron Stores
For providing iron, this super veggie can't match such mineral powerhouses as lean beef.
But if you're among the millions of North Americans who are cutting back on meat or giving it up entirely, then boning up on beets is a way to go.
Getting the Most
Cook them lightly.
Studies show that the anti-tumor power of beets is diminished by heat.
(See Is Your Food "Too" Cooked?)
So cook them lightly to get the most effectiveness.
Try the canned kind.
One of the great things about this super vegetable is that it's almost as nutritious out of a can as they are fresh from the ground.
So you can enjoy their health benefits year round.
Roasted Beet Crostini
Don’t throw those greens away!
The entire plant can be used in this stunning appetizer.
They're roasted and then pureed with goat cheese for a creamy ruby-red spread.
The greens and stems are sautéed with olive oil and garlic for the topping.
Makes: 16 crostini
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Ease of Preparation: Easy
Health: Low Calorie, Low Carb, Low Sat Fat, Low Cholesterol, Low Sodium, Heart Healthy, Healthy Weight, Pretty Much Low Everything.
1 bunch with greens attached (see Shopping Tip)
16 1/2-inch-thick slices baguette, preferably whole-grain, cut on the diagonal
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
2 Tbs. water
1/4 tsp. sea salt
4 oz. creamy goat cheese
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Trim greens from the vegetable, reserving stems and greens.
Place the veggies in a baking pan, cover with foil and roast until very tender when pierced with a knife, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size.
Uncover and let cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
While they cool, arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
Bake, turning the slices over once halfway through, until toasted but not browned, about 14 minutes.
Thinly slice the green stems and finely chop the leaves; keep stems and leaves separate.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add the greens, vinegar and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender and the liquid has evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes.
Stir in sea salt and remove from the heat.
Peel the cooled vegetables and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Place 3/4 c. beet pieces, goat cheese and pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth (reserve the remaining for another use).
To assemble crostini, spread about 2 teaspoons beet-cheese spread on each slice of toasted baguette and top with sautéed greens.
Nutrition: (Per crostini)
Calories - 82
Carbohydrates - 10 g.
Fat - 4 g.
Saturated Fat - 1 g.
Monounsaturated Fat - 2 g.
Protein - 4 g.
Cholesterol - 3 mg.
Dietary Fiber - 2 g.
Potassium - 224 mg.
Sodium - 181 mg.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (25 daily value).
Shopping Tip: Look for bunches of beets with 2 to 3, medium to large, for this recipe.
If you have trouble finding them with greens still attached, use the loose variety, plus 3 c. finely chopped chard greens and thinly sliced stems.
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