Beets, or beetroots, are well-known for their vibrant, deep-red hues, which make them easy to see in the produce aisle. While they’re filled with impressive amounts of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium and potassium, they’re often overlooked when it comes to putting them on your shopping list — partly because many don’t know how to properly cook them.
If you’re one who hasn’t yet acquired a taste for these healthful vegetables because you’re not sure how to prepare them, read on for tips and information that will make you want to hurry to the store so you can try them. First, a bit of information on the health benefits of beets:
- They can help regulate blood pressure. Beets contain high amounts of nitrates, which may be transformed into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is one of the compounds that help blood vessels dilate, which may help lower blood pressure. A study in The Journal of Nutrition1 reported that supplementation with beetroot juice showed a “significant reduction” in systolic blood pressure.
- They may help boost brain health. A recent study published in the Journals of Gerontology2 found that ingestion of beet root juice not only increases blood flow to the brain, but enhances exercise performance in older adults.
- They help lower your risk for heart disease. Beets have both betaine and folate, which help regulate the homocysteine levels in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels are early indicators of possible artery damage and heart disease. Plus, the same dietary nitrate that helps regulate blood pressure may also help the betaine and folate reduce your risk of heart disease by regulating your heart rate and decreasing muscle sympathetic outflow, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology.3
- They can help improve digestion and bowel movement. Beets are rich in fiber, which helps bulk up stool and make it easier to pass. This lowers your risk of suffering from constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
- They help fight inflammation. Beets’ high levels of betaine, a compound responsible for protecting cells from external stress, fighting inflammation and reducing chronic disease risk, not only have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but may even be chemopreventive (cancer-fighting).4
Here’s How to Prepare Your Beets
One of the most distinct characteristics of beets are their color, which also can make them challenging to prepare if you’re not aware that they are a natural dye, and therefore can stain things they touch. Luckily, beets are covered in a paper-thin skin that you may easily peel off once you’ve boiled them, if you’re not worried about staining your hands. Alternatively, you can also roast them, which will make it easier to remove the skin. Here is a step-by-step guide from Joyful Healthy Eats on how you can prepare beets for salads, smoothies or other recipes:5
How to Prepare Your Beets
Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes
- 6 beets, preferably grown organically, with the skins still on
- Fill a large bowl with water and ice.
- Boil a large pot of water.
- Add the beets to the pot of water and boil them for 20 to 30 minutes. (Larger pieces will require longer cooking times; if you can’t peel them once you’ve plunged them in the ice water, put them back in the pot and boil a few minutes longer.)
- Transfer the beets into the ice bowl.
- Remove the skin from the beets with your hands. Rinse the beets. Slice or dice to your preferred sizes.
- Store leftover beets in an airtight container such as a Mason jar for later use.
Once cooked and peeled, you can add these beets to fresh salads, juice them with your favorite greens, pickle them or warm them up with a pat of grass fed butter as a side dish.
Roast Your Beets in an Oven for a Much More Intense Flavor
You can also cook your beets in an oven, especially if you want to experience the intense earthy taste that distinguish beets from other vegetables. After roasting, the beets may be added to salads, drizzled with olive oil, or sprinkled with Himalayan salt and eaten as a snack. Here’s a guide from The Spruce to successfully roast your beets:6
- Begin with fresh, firm, preferably organically grown beets with the greens cut off (don’t throw the greens away — they are scrumptious and healthful on their own, and you can easily cook them just like any other green).
- Rinse the beets to remove any debris or dirt on the skin. If the dirt is hard to remove, you may need to scrub them clean.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place a small amount of coconut oil in a ceramic braiser and thoroughly coat the pan to avoid sticking.
- Place the beets in the braiser and drizzle with melted coconut oil.
- Cover and roast the beets until tender. The time needed largely depends on the size of the beets and their freshness (fresher ones cook faster). For smaller beets, it usually takes 25 minutes to cook.
- Remove the beets from the oven. You’ll know they’re cooked if they’re easy to pierce with a fork.
- Remove the lid and let them cool. Slip the peels off with your bare hands or a paring knife, and slice, cube or dice, depending on how you plan to use them.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Beets?
One of the toughest things to figure out when you’re cooking beets is how long they need to get just the right texture and firmness. This largely depends on numerous factors, which include:7
- Whether you have other foods in the oven with the beets. Cooking other foods with beets may compromise the moisture and the cooking environment, which may make the cooking time longer or shorter, depending on what it is you’re cooking alongside them.
- Freshness of the beets. Fresher beets usually take less time to cook than older beets because older beets lose their tenderness over time.
- Size and weight. The bigger the beets, the longer the time needed to cook them. Smaller beets usually take about half an hour to cook thoroughly, while larger or older beets can take up to an hour.
How Long Do Cooked Beets Last?
Once you’ve prepared your beets, either by roasting or boiling, the next question you’ll be asking is, “How long are these cooked beets going to last?” The answer to this largely depends on how you store them.
Cooked beets may be refrigerated or frozen to prolong their viability. Refrigerated beets usually last from three to five days. However, they should be kept in airtight containers, preferably glass bowls or Mason jars, to stop them from coming into contact with other materials. This will significantly lower the risk of contamination, which can dramatically shorten their shelf life.
When frozen properly, cooked beets may last between 10 and 12 months. However, if the beets are thawed after being frozen, they must be used immediately and should not be frozen again. They can be refrigerated for about three to four days, after which they should be disposed of. Note that cooked beets left at room temperature are extremely susceptible to bacteria because of the moisture content. If left exposed for more than two hours, or if they smell or look “off,” do NOT taste them; discard them.8
Beets Deserve a Place at Your Table
When you’re trying to improve your overall health, you need to fill your diet with a wide variety of nutritious foods. With the impressive amounts of vitamins and minerals that beets have, this vegetable can be a top choice for adding variety to your nutrition plan.
If you’re one who isn’t fond of the flavor of beets by themselves, the good news is this vegetable is so versatile you can add it to smoothies, salads and soups, which can both enrich the dishes’ flavor and help make beets more enjoyable for you. You also might try pickling them in vinegar with cloves or cinnamon. While there are many recipes for sugared pickled beets, the added sugar can negate the overall health benefits you get from the beets, so be sure to limit your consumption of beets in this form.
Pickled Beets Recipe
- 6 beets, preferably grown organically, with the skins still on
- 2 pounds beets, greens removed
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup beet juice (saved from the cooked beets)
- 2 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 peppercorns
- 1/4 bay leaf
- Wash the beets. Trim off greens.
- In a covered pan, cook whole beets in boiling salted water until tender (35 to 50 minutes).
- Cool slightly and slip off the skins. Wear gloves to avoid staining your skin.
- Save 1/2 of the beet juice and slice or cut the beets the way you want them.
- Put in a clean, empty glass jar.
- In a small pan, bring the beet juice to a boil.
- Pour the hot liquid over the beets in the jar.
- Bring to room temperature and then chill.
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