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Why we love beets

February is a time for love, so get your heart beet-ing this month with luscious ruby red beets. Their distinct, deep flavor lends itself well to pickling, shaving into salads, roasting or pureeing into soups or dips.

There are hundreds of ways to enjoy beets Click To Tweet

Global appeal

Beets have global appeal. Different traditional cultures celebrate beets in a variety of ways in their cuisine. People in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Denmark, Finland, and Australia all often find beets on the plate. Even the Pennsylvania Dutch have a traditional beet dish — a hard boiled egg pickled in beet juice — it sounds odd but I promise it’s delicious.

Beets are nature's candy -- and so good for you! Click To Tweet

Health benefits of beets

Beet root vegetable image by Tshrinivasan via Wikipedia
Beet root vegetable image by Tshrinivasan via Wikipedia

Also known as nature’s candy, beets’ health effects on the body are practically medicinal. Beets also contain high amounts of antioxidants called betalains, which protect against oxidative stress and help prevent cancer. This effect is so significant that high doses of betalains have even been shown to shrink tumors. Beets also help prevent heart disease in a variety of ways. First, betalains interfere with the production of oxidized LDL (or bad cholesterol) in the body. LDL oxidation is a big step towards hardening of the arteries; so preventing this prevents cardiovascular disease. In addition to this antioxidant effect, the high levels of dietary nitrate found in beets and beet juice have been shown to lower blood pressure, further protecting against heart disease.

Even athletes should sip on the deep red elixir. Beet juice has been shown to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and extend time to exhaustion — so drinking beet juice for a few days before you exercise will allow you to work out longer and use oxygen more efficiently. The effect is fairly small, but it might be what you need to push your workout a little farther!

Power your workout with beet juice! Click To Tweet

Ways to cook beets

While some may be turned off by beet’s earthy flavor, its sweet complexities can be brought out by roasting or pickling. Pickled beets can be eaten on their own, in salads, in sandwiches, or even as part of an appetizer or cheese tray for sophisticated entertaining. But beets aren’t just for pickling. Fresh beets can add unbeatable color and nutrition to some of your favorite foods. Hummus takes on a fun fuchsia hue with the addition of beets in this savory recipe:

beet and goat cheese hummusBeet and Goat Cheese Hummus

Makes about 3 cups. Adapted from A Beautiful Mess.

  • 1 large beet
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup tahini paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Scrub and peel the beet, and chop into 1-2 inch cubes.
  3. Place on aluminum foil lined baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until fork tender. Allow to cool.
  4. Transfer cooled beets with juices to a food processor, and add chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini paste, and salt. Pulse until well blended.
  5. Drizzle in olive oil and add goat cheese. Pulse until just combined, leaving small chunks of goat cheese in tact.
  6. Top with chunks of goat cheese to serve.



Allegra M, Tesoriere L, Livrea MA. Betanin inhibits the myeloperoxidase/nitrite-induced oxidation of human low-density lipoproteins. Free Radic Res. 2007; 41(3): 335-341.

Cermak NM, Gibala MJ, van Loon L.J.C. Nitrate Supplementation’s Improvement of 10-km Time-Trial Performance in Trained Cyclists. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2012; 22: 64-71

Frank T, Stintzing FC, Carle R, Bitsch I, Quaas D, Strab G, Bitsch R, Netzel M. Urinary pharmacokinetics of betalains following consumption of red beet juice in healthy humans. Pharmacological Research. 2005; 52(4): 290-297

Kapadia GJ, Azuine MA, Rao GS, Arai T, Iida A, Tokuda H. Cytotoxic effect of the red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract compared to doxorubicin (Adriamycin) in the human prostate (PC-3) and breast (MCF-7) cancer cell lines. 2011; 11(3): 280-284

Lundenburg JO, Carlstrom M, Larson FJ, Weitzberg E. Roles of dietary inorganic nitrate in cardiovascular health and disease. Cardiovascular Research. 2010; 89: 525-532 http://cardiovascres.oxfordjournals.org/content/89/3/525

Beet & Goat Cheese Hummus Recipe adapted from A Beautiful Mess.

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