Medal earner of the week – Beetroot

The new superfood:  Beetroot beetroot

A food that can aid heart attack survival and recovery.

A food that can lower blood pressure.

A food that can lower cholesterol level.

A food that can help improve athletic performance.

A food that can aid digestion.

A food that can aid dementia.

Our common garden beetroot can do all this. No wonder it has joined the list of superfoods. It is rich in nitrates which are thought to aid heart attack survival and recovery. It can increase blood flow and improve athletic performance, especially when used in juices and drinks.

Beetroot is another of our everyday versatile vegetables, easy to buy, easy to cook, easy to store and a powerhouse of nutrients. It belongs to the same family as spinach and both leaves and root can be eaten. As well as being used as a food it is also used for food colourings and medicine. Sugar beet is a different variety, white in colour. Sugar is not produced from the purple/red variety.

Beetroots rich purple colour is betacyanin, which is thought to be a very powerful cancer suppressant.

Did you know the humble beetroot is also good for your liver?

Beetroot is high in fibre. It aids bowel movement and helps lower cholesterol levels. It is one of the best sources of glutamine, an amino acid that aids healthy function of the digestive tract.

Beetroot has high nutritional value. Even the green leafy tops are rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C, two powerful antioxidants.

Beetroots are also an excellent source of folic acid, manganese, and potassium. Beetroots were used historically for medicinal purposes. It is delicious eaten raw, grated on salads, or creamed as a vegetable accompaniment to meat dishes. It can also be pickled and stored.

Betanin, obtained from the roots, is used industrially as red food colorant, to improve the color and flavor of tomato paste, sauces, desserts, jams and jellies, ice cream, sweets, breakfast cereals, etc.

How to Choose:

Choose beetroots that have their green shoots attached and fresh looking, not wilted. The purple root itself should be firm, not soft, and vibrant in colour, not dull. Beetroots without their leaves can last in a fridge or cool dry place for up to 3 weeks but the leaves should be used whilst fresh. Dipping the leaves in cold water can restore crispness but if they are very wilted it is better to discard them. Raw roots do not freeze but cooked beets can be frozen and will keep their texture and flavour.

How to cook:

Wash the beetroot under cool running water, gently removing any soil particles with your hands. Do not soak. Try to avoid tearing the skin, it is the outer skin that keeps the pigment inside the vegetable and prevents it, and the nutrients it contains, from leaking out. Cut the leaves off leaving about an inch attached to the root. Boil gently until softened. Do not prod to test how soft they are. They take roughly the same amount of time to cook as a potato of the same size. After they are cooked remove the skin with your hands or peel them. You can remove any red staining from your hands with a piece of lemon.

The leaves are best steamed to retain maximum nutritional value or served raw in a salad.

Beetroots are delicious roasted whole alongside other vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkin and carrots and served as an accompaniment to roast meat or chicken.

Cautionary words:

Beetroots contain oxolate and excessive amounts should not be eaten by anyone with a history of oxylate containing kidney stones.

100grams of beetroot provides us with:

45 calories

10 grams carbohydrates

2 grams protein

Recipe: Beetroot Juice

makes 1 cup.

  • one small beetroot
  • The juice of 1 orange
  • 1 small apple chopped or half a cup of apple juice
  • If the beetroot is small and the skin thin leave unpeeled and wash well removing any traces of soil.
  • Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more apple juice if the blended beetroot is very thick.
  • Strain and serve.
  • A delicious variation is to substitute the apple for a slice or two of fresh pineapple.

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