Fresh beets with leaves and stems on granite background
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My CSA (community supported agriculture) farmer offered me a bundle of small beets. For this CSA, I can pick from a variety of available foods each week. Beets are not a go-to food for me, but the registered dietitian in me enjoys learning about foods, so I took the beets home.

Nutritionally, 1 cup of diced, cooked beets, also called beetroot, contains around 70 calories, 15g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, and 2g protein. Beets are a source of vitamins and minerals, including several B-vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. Beets do not have a significant amount of fat but do naturally contain some sodium. The leaves and stems of beets are edible, contain few calories or macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), and are a source of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and K, calcium, and potassium.  

  • Buy: Beets are available fresh, canned, and dried. With fresh beets, choose small- to medium-sized beets with firm roots and crisp leaves and stems. The roots should not have obvious damage, such as cracks. Like other canned vegetables, canned beets often have salt added. Draining the canning liquid will lower the sodium. Dried beet chips are a crunchy snack; look for brands without added salt.
  • Price: Beet prices will vary by store and local farms. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that canned beets average $0.54 per cup.
  • Store: 
    • Fresh beets. Cut off beet leaves and stems at the root, leaving around 1-inch of stem attached to the root. According to Watch Your Garden Grow from University of Illinois Extension: “…greens will quickly draw the moisture from the root greatly reducing flavor and the beets will become shriveled.” Refrigerate unwashed roots in loosely wrapped food-safe plastic bags or in a food-safe container with a lid. Store the leaves and stems in the same way, but in a separate bag or container from the roots.
    • Canned beets. Store unopened canned beets in a cool, dry location. Once opened, move leftover beets to a food-safe container and refrigerate for up to 7 days.
  • Prepare: 
    • Rinse the roots, leaves, and stems of fresh beets under water before preparing. This is a food safety step and helps remove any soil still present. All parts of fresh beets can be eaten raw or cooked. Recipes for cooking the roots may include roasting, boiling, microwaving, steaming, or pickling. While they can be eaten raw, leaves and stems are often sautéed or added to liquid to cook.
    • Try your hand at dehydrating or freezing beets at home with directions from the National Center of Home Food Preservation.
  • Eat: Beet roots have an earthy flavor that can be an acquired taste for many. To help introduce beet roots, try them in smoothies and baked goods, such as pancakes and cake, like the Chocolate Beet Snack Cake recipe in this post. Also try roasting beets, which helps concentrate the sugars in beets. Mixing beet leaves and stems with mild lettuce, such as the Beet Leaves and Romaine Salad in this post, can be an acceptable introduction to eating the leaves and stems raw. Beet leaf pesto is also a popular use of leaves and stems.
  • Stool and Urine Color: Eating beets may cause your stool to look dark red and your urine to turn red or pink. While any discoloration is surprising, know it is temporary.

 

Beet Greens and Romaine Salad | Print recipe
(serves 1)

Beet leaf and romaine salad in grey bowl

Save the greens from fresh beets to use in this 5-ingredient salad.

4 beet green leaves
2 large leaves of romaine lettuce
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp flavored vinegar*
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Wash hands.
  2. Wash beet greens and romaine lettuce. Cut or tear into bite-sized pieces. Dry with a salad spinner, paper towel, or clean dish towel.
  3. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, and black pepper. Pour over salad and serve immediately.

*Try red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Nutrition facts per serving: 30 calories, 2.5g total fat (0g saturated fat), 55mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g protein

 

Chocolate Beet Snack Cake | Print recipe
(serves 16)

Chocolate beet cake on gray and white plate with red background

The cocoa powder masks the color and flavor of the beets in this cake.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups pureed beets*
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Wash hands.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flours, cocoa, soda, and salt.
  4. In a large food processor or blender, add beets, sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Puree until ingredients are well combined and mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Or carefully combine with an electric hand mixer.
  5. Pour beet mixture over flour mixture. Combine ingredients with a spoon or whisk until just until smooth.  (Batter will appear red, but will turn chocolate brown when cooked.)
  6. Pour batter into a greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely.  

*Using canned beets: Rinse and drain 2 (15-oz) cans of sliced beets; puree until smooth and measure out 2 cups.  

*Using fresh beets (roasting): Preheat oven to 400°F. Use around 1 pound of beets. Cut off leaves and stems, leaving about 1/2-inch of stem on beets. Rinse beets under cool water, rubbing with fingers to remove any soil. Dry with a paper towel. Add beets to an oven-safe baking dish with a lid. Add enough oil to lightly coat the beets, stirring to coat. Add lid and cook for 45 minutes or until a knife easily pierces a beet. Let cool 5 minutes. Using clean hands, rub skins off beets. Cut into pieces and puree until smooth. Measure out 2 cups.

    Nutrition facts per serving: 180 calories, 8g total fat (1g saturated fat), 250mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate (includes 13g added sugar), 2g fiber, 3g protein

     

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    Healthy Eats and Repeat

    How much difference is there between canned and frozen foods? How should you cook venison? When is the best time to buy avocados? Get answers to these questions as well as other tips, tutorials and recipes for common kitchen foods and items with University of Illinois Extension Nutrition & Wellness Educator Caitlin Mellendorf’s blog Healthy Eats and Repeat. Build your best life. Trust Extension to help.

    Caitlin Mellendorf is an Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon and Piatt Counties in Central Illinois. She is a Registered Dietitian and her work focuses on helping community members gain the knowledge, skills and tools to live healthier, more nutritious lifestyles. This includes providing programs and answering questions about heart health, diabetes, food safety, food preservation, grocery shopping and cooking. You can reach Caitlin by email at chuth2@illinois.edu or call 217.877.6042. Check out her nutrition blog Healthy Eats and Repeats for seasonal recipes and of an exploration of common kitchen foods.