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NUTRITION: Beets a candidate for next food trend

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Some of our local restaurants have been featuring bright red beet cocktails. Beets have both a sweet and earthy flavor that allows them to work in sweet and savory dishes. All parts of the beet plant the bulb, stems and leaves, are edible. The bulb is most commonly a dark purple-red color but can also be yellow, orange or even striped.

A negative of beets is that the bulbs can take quite a while to cook. However, now there are cooked beet bulbs available in the produce section. In addition, there are many beet products available at the grocery store such as salads, juices, pickles and powders. When purchasing pickles or other prepared beet products try to purchase low-sodium varieties.

Choose beets that have a firm bulb and non-wilted leaves. The leaves tend to wilt quickly, so use them within a few days after purchase. The leaves can be consumed raw in salads, sautéed with lemon and garlic, or wilted into soups and stews. Smaller beets will be tenderer. Try to purchase or cut beet bulbs to the same size when cooking to ensure even cooking. Boil, steam, bake or even microwave beet bulbs unpeeled, the peel comes off easily with a paper towel after cooking. One of my favorite ways to cook beet bulbs is to peel, chop and roast them with other root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes.

Beets are a good source of folate. Folate is important for cell growth and red blood cell formation. Folate may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other nutrients that help promote a healthy heart are potassium and nitric oxide, which are also found in beets. Potassium helps build muscle, bone and helps reduce blood pressure. Nitric oxide helps increase blood flow. Beets contain the antioxidant betalain, this antioxidant is what gives beets their bright red color and this can also turn your urine and stool a reddish hue.

I have recently been using the website lovebeets.com/recipes/ for recipe inspiration. I neither am endorsing their products over other beet products, or am I saying the recipes are dietitian approved to be healthy; however, the site offers hundreds of beautifully photographed recipes to help inspire you to use eat more beets. The site has recipes for desserts, drinks, breakfasts, appetizers, dinners, salads and sandwiches. Explore, and find new ways to incorporate more beets into your diet today.

Brenda Schwerdt, RDN, LD, CNSC, is a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s hospital. Contact her at dietitian@slhduluth.com.

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