Really, WHAT is so good about Beets?? (Also 3 Favorite Recipes for Beets)
By Jill Boman
Beets: People either love 'em or hate 'em, but if you don’t already love beets, you'll definitely want to give them another chance after learning about all the many amazing things this superfood does for your body! Plus the 3 simple beet recipes in this post will help you start enjoying their health benefits right away.
(Note from Kelly: Kent and I both used to despise beets, but oh-my-gosh, now it's one of our very favorite foods! We just started trying them a few years ago, and we especially love a good beet salad with goat cheese and a delicious vinaigrette. Another favorite is to just stir-fry them in butter until almost soft, then add a splash of balsamic at the end with sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper — yum. I didn't even know about all of these ways that beets are so good for us that Jill shares below, I only knew that they tasted good!)
Besides providing fiber (food for healthy gut microbes and faster elimination transit time) and an impressive array of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, beta carotene, B vitamins including folate, potassium, manganese and boron, the humble beet's super powers are extensive:
- high in powerful antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin, which are useful for preventing and treating cataracts and macular degeneration. Beets also increase levels of our body’s own master antioxidant, glutathione, which is critical for detoxification.
- provides methyl donors (folate, betaine), required for phase 2 liver detoxification byproducts' excretion out of the body
- protects against radiation thanks to their betaine and antioxidant content
- increases oxygen and blood flow to muscles which improves exercise endurance (our bodies convert the nitrates in beets into nitric oxide, which relaxes and dilates blood vessels)
- reduces high blood pressure (thanks again to the nitric oxide our bodies make from the nitrates in beets)
- fights viral and bacterial infections
- lowers risk of heart disease and dementia
- Read more about the super powers of beets here and here.
Don’t panic if you notice your pee or poo has turned red the day after eating beets. It's called beeturia and even though it looks scary, it's completely harmless and actually the hilarious subject of one of my favorite Portlandia skits:
And on that note (ha!), here are some delicious recipes for beets!
The Simplest Beet Salad
Apple cider vinegar perfectly complements the earthy, sweet flavor of beets in this simple slaw. I often serve it alongside burgers, but its crunchy texture and bright flavor and color would also contrast nicely with a creamy main dish like Kelly’s Beef Stroganoff, Paprika Chicken with Pasta and Herbed Sour Cream Sauce, or a creamy soup.
You can see in these photos that I used both red and golden beets for this salad. Isn't the combination pretty?
- Raw Beets—2 large or 3 to 6 small, scrubbed and shredded (I leave mine unpeeled and use a box grater)
- Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 Tablespoon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 Tablespoon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. It keeps well for several days in the refrigerator and even tastes better the next day after it's had time to marinate. This is such a healthful slaw that it’s worth it to make a large batch once a week and eat a small serving each day at the beginning of your main meal to stimulate the digestive process.
By the way, if you buy beets with the green tops, don't toss those greens! They're delicious sautéed in butter or bacon fat along with some garlic, salt and pepper!
I often roast beets along with cubed regular or sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Roasted beets, especially when they become slightly caramelized, are like candy to me! I especially love them served on top of a green salad with homemade blue cheese dressing (shown here on my salad along with my bunless burger, homemade ketchup, and the sweet and red potatoes I roasted on the same pan with the beets)!
- Beets, 2 large or 3-6 small, scrubbed and cubed
- Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil, 1 or 2 tablespoons melted (enough to coat the beets)
- Garlic, 1 or 2 cloves minced or pressed, or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder (optional, but so good)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and spread onto a large baking sheet (line with parchment paper if made of aluminum or if Teflon-coated). Roast in 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife and slightly caramelized on the surface. Depending on the size the beets are cut, it may take longer.
Lacto-Fermented Beet Kvass
Beet Kvass is an enzyme-rich, traditional Eastern European tonic that is absolutely teeming with all the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in beets plus gut-supportive beneficial bacteria. Its earthy, salty, sour flavor is a bit of an acquired taste, but I encourage you to give it a chance. After a few days you will find yourself craving it. This recipe is found on page 610 of Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fallon recommends drinking a 4-ounce glass, morning and night as a digestive, blood, and liver tonic.
Doesn't this jar of beet kvass look like it needs a superhero cape?
Makes 2 quarts
- Beets, 3 medium or 2 large organic, peeled and chopped coarsely (see note on peeling beets below)
- Whey, 1/4 cup (see note below)
- Sea Salt, 1 tablespoon
- Filtered Water
Place beets, whey, and salt in a 2-quart glass container. Add filtered water to fill the container. Stir well and cover securely. Keep at room temperature for 2 days before transferring to refrigerator.
When most of the liquid has been drunk, you may fill up the container with water and keep at room temperature another 2 days. The resulting brew will be slightly less strong than the first. After the second brew, discard the beets and start again. You may, however reserve some of the liquid and use this as your inoculant instead of the whey.
Note: do not use grated beets in the preparation of beet tonic. When grated, beets exude too much juice resulting in a too rapid fermentation that favors the production of alcohol rather than lactic acid.
More Notes on beet kvass:
- I usually start with 1 quart and halve this recipe. I fill my jar 1/2 to 2/3 with beets before adding the rest of the ingredients. Large beets are cubed, small beets are quartered. I’ve fermented beet kvass at room temperature with a tight fitting lid and also with just a coffee filter secured with a rubber band as a cover and it’s worked for me both ways. I’ve also let it ferment much longer than two days (a week or more), especially in the winter when room temperature is cooler. You can taste it and transfer it to the fridge (in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid) when it tastes tart enough for you.
- When the batch is ready I drain most of the kvass out of the jar, transferring it to a new jar to refrigerate immediately so that I can get the next batch of kvass started right away (rather than waiting until the first batch is mostly consumed). I add half the original amount of salt to the second batch, fill with filtered water again, cover tightly and shake to distribute the salt, then place in a cupboard to ferment. The beet chunks can be used for two batches before there’s not enough left in them to contribute any more. After the 2nd batch start the next batch with fresh beets.
- Be sure to leave a small amount (about 1/4 cup per quart) of kvass to kick start (inoculate) the next batch.
- I’ve started kvass without whey and it also works, but if you don’t have some kvass from a previous batch the addition of whey really does help kick start the fermentation. If you don’t have whey you could also use juice from a jar of raw sauerkraut or liquid from a jar of Bubbies pickles (which is a raw, lacto-fermented product sold refrigerated in many stores) or from any other raw fermented veggies. To obtain whey, strain organic full-fat yogurt through an unbleached coffee filter or cloth in a fine meshed strainer placed over a bowl for several hours—I usually let mine strain in the refrigerator overnight. The clear watery liquid in the bowl is whey. Don't toss the thick yogurt left behind! It's delicious mixed with a little honey and vanilla and spread on muffins or toast or on apple slices!
- Once the kvass is placed in the refrigerator I find the flavor improves with age. It keeps for a long time refrigerated, but if you can wait at least a couple days to begin drinking you will probably enjoy the flavor more.
- If you notice a white or pale grey film on top of your fermenting kvass, don’t automatically assume it’s mold. Mold is generally fuzzy, but sometimes a film called kahm, caused from harmless wild yeasts, will develop. You can read about kahm here and then decide for yourself if you want to just skim it off or toss the batch and start over. Personally, I just skim it if it forms unless it's really bad. Usually if I skim it off daily, once the fermentation really kicks in, it stays away (I prefer the flavor of kvass fermented several days). One way to reduce its formation is to use an airlock lid like Pickle Pipes.
- I never peel my beets, regardless of what I'm using them for. Call me a rebel. Besides, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification-supporting betalain pigments are even more concentrated in the peels. Bring on the betalain!
- Try flavoring your beet kvass by adding slices of fresh ginger to the beet chunks. You can also mix finished beet kvass with orange juice or other vegetable juices. Some people say that the addition of sliced cabbage to the beet chunks (in the first ferment) improves the flavor but I've never tried it. Give it a try if you don't like the flavor of traditional kvass and comment below on how that worked for you!
- In my experience, after I've made several batches of beet kvass the flavor progressively improves. I don't think this is just a result of my body craving it, but the ferment seems to refine itself after several batches. It becomes more refreshing and even effervescent. Another reason to keep your beet kvass ferment going!
There you have it, 3 of the best recipes for beets — let us know what you think!
Related Posts you might like:
- Nourishing Traditions Sauerkraut
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet a Spicy Dipping Sauce
- How to Make Raw Milk Yogurt, Whey, and Cream Cheese or “Yogurt Cheese”
- Top Simple Ways to Boost Your Health with Apple Cider Vinegar — this stuff is amazing. That link has a free printable you can download once you subscribe to Kitchen Kop emails.
About Jill: My husband and I live in Waco, TX, along with our two awesome young adult kids (AND now in Dallas during the week while my husband attends chiropractic college). I have a small business selling handmade personal and home care products at our farmer’s market and local retail sites. I am also Kelly’s blog assistant.🙂 I am passionate about real food nutrition, natural health, local food, and I love to cook. Fortunately we have access to lots of local food via Waco’s fantastic year-round farmer’s market, nearby farms, and even a grocery store that sources much of its food locally. See all my posts here.