| Beets – To Your Abundant Health!
by Stacey Tress
Beets or beetroots, as they are often called, belong to the goosefoot family known as Chenopodiaceous. Within the botanical family, beet greens are factored alongside spinach, Swiss chard, quinoa, lamb’s quarter, and a number of other wild plants, which means that beet greens can be placed in the “dark, leafy” category. Because they are a cool season crop, beets grow quickly and can survive almost freezing temperatures, making them a favourite of northern gardeners.
Their history stretches back to ancient times, with signs of their cultivation approximately 4,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region. From there, they were transported to Babylon, and by the 9th Century AD, they had made their way into Chinese culture and cuisine. They have long been associated with sexuality and have been used as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years. Beetroot is frequently added as an ingredient to salads, soups (borscht!), fermented veggies/pickled veggies, health drinks/tonics/kvass, and are also used as a natural colouring agent. Even though beets are available throughout the year, they are still considered seasonal vegetables. Besides their use as an actual food item, beets are valuable as a source of sucrose, which makes them a viable replacement for tropical sugar cane. They are still frequently used to make refined sugar.
Beets are super easy to grow—you just sprinkle some seeds in tidy rows (as soon as you can get into your garden) and watch the magic happen. Since beets are a cool crop you can do further sowings at monthly intervals from mid-spring to mid-summer. Thinning your beets is pretty easy work as you aren’t just thinning the beets but supplying yourself with nutrient rich greens. Beet greens are best eaten fresh (2–3 days in the fridge) but if you have an abundant supply just freeze them to use later in soups. A favourite dish, using fresh beet leaves, is called Beetniks—where you take beet leaves and roll them up with bread dough to make tiny dumplings of sorts, and then soak them in a rich creamy dill sauce. Decadent and delicious!
Harvest early roots and those for pickling when they are about two inches across; main-crops can be dug up and stored or left outdoors the same as main-crop carrots. Twist rather than cut the foliage off roots for storage, leaving about two inch stems.
Where to Find Seeds
Two of our favourite non-GMO local seed growers are Prairie Garden Seeds (prseeds.ca) and Heritage Harvest Seed (heritageharvestseed.com), with heritage varieties like Deacon Dan, Crosby Egyptian, Bulls Blood, Burpee’s Golden, and more. You can certainly add some additional interest and conversation to your garden!
Nutritional Value of Beets
Beets have a wide range of health benefits because of their nutritional content including vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds like carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, betaine, dietary fibre, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus; while also being a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthocyanins.
Health Benefits of Beets
The roots and leaves of beets have plenty of medicinal uses which include the following—
- Good for Heart Health: Beet fibre helps to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides by increasing the level of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). Having a high level of triglycerides increases the risk for heart-related problems, so increased HDL is a good line of defense against that. The presence of the nutrient betaine lowers the levels of homocysteine in the body which can also be harmful to the blood vessels. Thus, consumption of beetroot helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases in multiple ways, so conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes are less likely to develop. The fibre in beets also works to strip excess LDL cholesterol from the walls and help to eliminate it from the body quickly.
- Reduces Birth Defects: Beets are good for pregnant women since they are a source of B vitamin folate which helps in the development of infant’s spinal column. Deficiency of folate could lead to a variety of conditions called neural tube defects.
- Prevent Certain Cancers: Studies have revealed that beets are good at preventing skin, lung, and colon cancer, since they contain the pigment betacyaninis, which counteracts cancerous cell growth. Studies have now shown that beet juice inhibits cell mutations, which is a pro-active way to mitigate certain cancers from developing. Researchers in Hungary have also discovered that beet juice and its powdered form slows down tumour development.
- Prevents Respiratory Problems: Beetroot is a source of vitamin C that helps to prevent asthma symptoms. The natural beta carotene in beetroot also helps to prevent lung cancer. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system in a number of ways. Besides acting as an antioxidant itself and defending against the effects of free radicals in the body, vitamin C also stimulates the activity of white blood cells, which is the body’s main line of defense against foreign bodies, as well as viral, bacterial, fungal, and protozoan toxins that can result in a multitude of infections and illnesses. Vitamin C’s range goes from fighting the sniffles to reducing the chances of cancer, and beets have plenty of vitamin C!
- Prevents Cataracts: The presence of beta-carotene, which is a form of vitamin A, helps to prevent age-related blindness called cataracts as well as a reduction in macular degeneration that commonly occurs as we get older. Vitamin A is considered a powerful antioxidant substance that is involved in many essential activities in the body.
- Known for decades as a liver-protective food, beets may not be the newest kid on the superfood block, but mounting research is showing why you should take another good look at this root vegetable in juiced form.
Many people swear by juicing beets as it will give them more energy for their day. Research is showing that this may be due to the ability of components in the juice to improve blood flow. Beetroot juice has been shown to help the body respond better to exercise, by balancing oxygen use and increasing stamina.
Beetroot juice is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates are compounds that improve blood flow throughout the body—including the brain, heart, and muscles. These natural nitrates increase a molecule in the blood vessels called nitric oxide, which helps open up the vessels and allows more oxygen flow as well as lower blood pressure. Meta-analysis of 254 people between 2006 and 2012 showed clear reductions in blood pressure, with the systolic blood pressure (the number on top) showing the best reduction.
Nutritional Value of Beet Leaves
Beet leaves supply a good amount of protein, phosphorus, and zinc, and beet greens are also a great source of fibre. Packed with antioxidants, they’re high in vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, and low in fat and cholesterol. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, daily values of beet greens contain 220% of vitamin A, 60% of vitamin C, 16% of calcium, and 15% of iron.
The vitamin K in beet greens contains blood clotting properties, helps ward off osteoporosis, works with calcium to boost bone strength, and may also play a role in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach, and a higher nutritional value than the beetroot itself.
The vitamin A content in beet greens helps strengthen the immune system and stimulates production of antibodies and white blood cells. The beta-carotene in vitamin A is a known antioxidant that can fight the effects of free radicals in the body along with cancer and heart disease. Doctors often recommend vitamin A to patients at risk of developing night blindness.
Beet Kvass—Kvass is a probiotic drink that’s been consumed in Eastern Europe since ancient times.
6 medium (or 4 large) organic beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of whey
2 tbsp fine sea salt
1 organic lemon, halved (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped ginger (optional)
1 quart filtered water
Place the beets, whey, salt, lemon, and ginger in a one-quart mason jar, leaving one-inch free space below the jar rim. Pour in the water. Allow the covered kvass to ferment at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. Pour the contents into a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl, reserving the liquid. The liquid should be somewhat thick and slightly bubbly. Pour the kvass into a jar and refrigerate. Kvass will keep in the fridge for up to two months or longer.
Yield: 1 quart
Gary’s Borscht—make large batches of this hearty and nutritious soup when the garden produce is in abundance. Freezes well! (this is a family recipe—enjoy!)
In large soup pot add:
1 diced onion
2–3 diced celery stalks
1/2 cup margarine (for purists, use butter)
Add all above ingredients to the pot and cook on medium heat until soft. Then add approx. 8 cups of water (more if too thick).
1 large diced beet
2–3 cups fresh or frozen yellow or green beans
Bring to a boil and cook until veggies are soft.
1 large can of diced tomatoes
2–3 diced potatoes
2–3 cups of fresh or frozen peas
2–3 tablespoons clubhouse soup base
1–2 cans of tomato soup
1/4 cup of fresh dill (or more)
salt and pepper to taste
Boil until potatoes are soft and taste often to see if you need more spices. Add 3 or 4 heaping tablespoons of cheese whiz on top, and when it melts, soup is ready to serve.
Yield: a ton of delicious and nutritious borscht.
Fermented Foods for Health, Deidre Rawlings
The Kitchen Garden, Andi Clevely
Beet Kvass Recipe from Fermented Foods for Health
Gary’s Borscht Recipe, Gary Tress, Swan Plain, SK
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Yorkton, SK with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton which offers fermentation workshops, permaculture design work, organically grown produce, and more! She also offers essential oil support and carries a wide variety of Young Living Essential Oils and Products for sale. To learn more, please contact her at 306-641-4239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gardentherapyyorkton.ca, or on facebook “Garden Therapy Yorkton.” Also, see the display ad on page 9 of the 22.3 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal.