Vibrant red or gold beetroot has been planted everywhere from the ancient Mediterranean to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In modern times, hybrid species of beets even have candy-cane stripes of red and white. All colors of beetroot have the same rich, earthy taste and liven the plate with their rainbow hues.
The leaves and roots of beets are packed with nutrition, including antioxidants that fight cell damage and reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re one of the few vegetables that contain betalains, a powerful antioxidant that gives beets their vibrant color. Betalains reduce inflammation and may help protect against cancer and other diseases.
Beets have many helpful plant compounds that reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage. Some of the other health benefits of beetroot include:
Beetroot and its juice help your heart and lungs work better during exercise. Nitric oxide from beets increases blood flow to your muscles. Some athletes eat beetroot or drink beet juice when exercising to improve their performance.
Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke
Beets are rich in folate (vitamin B9) which helps cells grow and function. Folate plays a key role in controlling damage to blood vessels, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Lower Blood Pressure
Beets are naturally high in nitrates, which are turned into nitric oxide in the body. This compound lowers blood pressure by causing the blood vessels to relax and widen.
Boost Your Immune System
Beets are high in fiber and promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Having plenty of healthy bacteria in your digestive system helps fight disease and boost your immune system. Fiber also improves digestion and reduces the risk of constipation.
Beetroot nutrients include folate—a vitamin that helps keep your blood vessels healthy—and potassium to help protect your heart.
Beets are also an excellent source of:
Things to Watch Out For
Beets are high in oxalates, which can lead to kidney stones. If you’ve had kidney stones, avoid beets or eat them only as a rare treat. Oxalates can also contribute to gout, a type of arthritis, so eat beets sparingly if you’re at risk. Eating beets can cause your stool to turn red, which is harmless. It might alarm you as it looks like blood, but you’re just seeing the healthful red beet pigment.
How to Prepare Beets
Beets are cool-weather crops that grow best in spring and fall. The roots are harvested when the leaves are still young and tender. If you want the sweetest, most tender beets, look for baby beets in the winter.
If beetroot isn’t in season, canned or frozen beets are still highly nutritious. Beetroot powder is also popular as a nutritional supplement.
Beets are often roasted, as their natural sugars create a tasty caramelization when baked at high heat. They can also be eaten raw. Grate them on a salad, or fan the slices on a cheese plate for a pop of intense color.
Here are some more creative ways to enjoy beetroot:
- Add roasted beets to gazpacho to rev up the color and flavor.
- Pair beets with creamy ricotta in a salad.
- Grate raw beets and carrots and serve with a vinaigrette.
- Make an attention-grabbing purple dip with pureed beets and ranch dressing.
- Juice a small beet and add to fresh apple or orange juice.
- Serve roasted beets with a mint yogurt sauce.
- Microwave beets in a bowl with a little water for 10 minutes.
- Serve traditional Russian borscht made with beets.
- Roast them with sweet potatoes and add to couscous.
Brighten up minestrone soup with diced beets.