Many shoppers may breeze right past beets in the grocery store. In fact, in a nationwide poll commissioned on behalf of VeggieTracker.com by the food company Dr. Praeger’s, more than one-quarter of Americans listed beets as their most-hated vegetable (only turnips were more despised), according to StudyFinds.
Why do these naturally sweet root vegetables fail to get love? It could be their earthy odor and flavor, the result of a compound called geosmin, which can be unpleasant to many people, research shows. This compound tends to be concentrated in the peel, however, which means that you may enjoy beets more after peeling them. Granted, beets can be a little difficult and messy to prep, but the effort is well worth it. These root vegetables are chock-full of nutrients and contain countless health benefits which should make any shopper want to start adding them to their basket.
One cup of raw beets contains 59 calories, 13 grams (g) of total carbohydrates, 9 g of sugar, 3.8 g of dietary fiber, and 2 g of protein, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Beets also pack a powerful plant compound called betalain, which contains both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties according to the Cleveland Clinic. Beets also provide a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, which supports a healthy digestive tract and a healthy heart, and an excellent source of folate.
What’s more, beets and beet juice are rich sources of dietary nitrates, according to the National Institutes of Health. These compounds are converted into nitric oxide in the body, which expands blood vessels and increases blood flow. This increased blood flow leads to better circulation and enhanced delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body. This helps support brain function and better blood pressure control, and may even lead to improved athletic performance. Beet juice acts as a natural ergogenic aid, a substance that enhances energy production, use, and recovery, and so may boost endurance, according to research published in Frontiers in Nutrition in May 2021. Even the stems and leaves of beets are edible, can be eaten raw or cooked, and are loaded with a plethora of nutrients, including folate and vitamins C, K, and A, according to the University of Maine.
In addition to their many nutritional benefits, beets are extremely versatile, able to stand up to roasting, pickling, and shredding. They’re available pretty much year-round, and can be stored for up to three months, according to the University of Wisconsin. If you prefer to cut down on the prep work, you can find them pre-cooked, jarred, canned, or even steamed and packaged, as sold by Melissa’s.
While “beet red” tends to be a common association, these root veggies also come in golden, white, and candy-cane-striped hues (the latter is known as chiogga), which means they’ll look pretty on your plate, too. So give beets a chance. The following recipes, both sweet and savory, will make you (and everyone else who tries them), see what you’ve been missing.