In his expert series on affordable, accessible superfoods, author Dave Lieberman talks about what makes beets "nature's multivitamin," reveals how to prepare beets without staining your hands red and shares ideas on how to get your children to eat them.
We call beets "nature's multivitamin" because they boast an incredible range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can ward off all kinds of sickness and disease, from the common cold to cancer. So how do these humble, awkward-looking roots manage to do it all? Well, take their dark red color for starters. Beets' intense crimson pigment indicates the sheer quantity of antioxidants they contain. One of these antioxidants is betalain, which studies have shown to provide more of a health-protecting boost than vitamin C! Even more incredibly, scientific studies have shown that beets are able to significantly lower blood pressure.
You can't prepare beets without staining your hands red for a week, right? Luckily, that's not true. There are great ways to prepare beets that won't leave your hands and everything around you permanently stained in blood-red beet juice. One easy way is to just use a pair of latex gloves or a clean pair of tight-fitting dish-washing gloves when handling beets. Another favorite method of mine is to simply peel and cut the beets under cold, fast-running water.
Beets in their original state aren't the prettiest of creatures. But they are my favorite diamond in the rough. I try and find the sweetest, juiciest beets out there, and to get that, I look for beets that aren't huge. I find that the larger beets grow, the more likely they are to lose their intensity and sweetness and also take on more of a bitter, earthy flavor. So I stick to medium to small beets that are uniform in shape and size and rock hard. A soft beet is an old beet!
There are many ways to proverbially skin a beet. Boiling a beet is probably the most common way—and a good way at that. Use small to medium beets that will cook evenly in a shorter amount of time and leave the skins on while cooking. They will peel off with no trouble at all once the beets are fork-tender. Baking is also a great way to go with beets. Peel the beets, cut them into manageable pieces that you'd like to see wind up on your plate, toss them in some olive oil and some seasoning, and bake them at 375° until they're fork-tender. (There are some nice oven-cooked beet recipes in my new book.)
Getting Kids to Eat It
Simple! Beets are naturally very sweet and moist, which makes them ideal for incorporating (or hiding) in a range of yummy dessert recipes without your kids having a clue that something super healthy is in there. I puree them and use them in everything from chocolate cake to smoothies!
Check back in two weeks to get one of Dave's delicious beet recipes!
More About Superfoods from Dave Lieberman
Published on April 27, 2010