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This red-purple humble root contains more natural sugar than sweet corn. During the Great Depression, when cane sugar was widely rationed, bakers used boiled beets as a cake sweetener. Red velvet, anyone? Fresh beets are also delicious pickled, pulverized, boiled, roasted, or eaten raw.

Despite their sugar content, these red roots “beet” the nutritional pants off refined sugars when it comes to delivering antioxidants and phytonutrients. Beets are high in fiber, and provide folate, potassium, and manganese. The soluble fiber found in beets helps to minimize the amount of cholesterol and glucose that gets absorbed into our bodies. Soluble fiber also helps to make us feel full for longer periods of time as it forms a gel in our small intestines and slows down how fast food moves through the intestines. This can be particularly important if someone is experiencing diarrhea from chemotherapy.

Beets contain a phytonutrient called betalains, which in cell studies have been shown to have promise in reducing the risk of some cancers. Betalains can also color everything that goes through the digestive tract with it, so there can be an interesting ‘morning after’ effect from eating beets. Don’t worry, red or pink urine or dark red stool is normal for many people who eat beets

Before you toss beets’ long, dark-green leaves in the compost, consider this: You’ve got your hands on a culinary twofer. Just one cup of cooked beet greens contains 220% of your daily recommended vitamin A, 60% of vitamin C, and 37 % of both potassium and manganese. Braised and served alongside their cabernet-colored roots, they’ll make an artist’s palette on your plate.

Chef Tips

When buying beets make sure they are smooth and firm and only use the greens if they’re still unwilted. To store, cut off the greens, which can suck the moisture out of the root during storage, and keep both in the fridge.

If you don’t want to deal with raw beets, look for vacuum-packed beets in your local supermarket. They are a great standby.

One of the easiest ways to make beets is to roast them. Remove the greens and wash. Cover the bottom of a baking sheet or roasting pan in foil for easy cleaning. Place beets in the pan with a little water to keep them moist and cook for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. The skin should peel away easily after cooking. Slice the beets and use them as a colorful addition to salads. Top arugula with roasted beets, walnuts, and goat cheese.

To prepare beet greens, heat some olive oil in a skillet, add garlic and onion and cook for about a minute. Add chopped beet greens and cook until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper or try them in this tasty Beets & Greens Salad or a ruby-hued Spiced Beet & Tomato Soup.

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