What to do with beets, a nutrition powerhouse

Beets at market

Beets at market

by Cat, April 20, 2013 (beetroot photo from Wikimedia commons)

This article was originally published on The EssentiaList, the website of our local sustainability group (Essential Stuff Project, or ESP) for which I am the editor.

At our April Gathering last Wednesday, on Nutritional Value of Herbs, our presenter Linda Peterson suggested that beets – yes, that common red root with dark green leaves – are a powerhouse of nutritional value. And that inspired me to write this article.

How do you eat this colorful veggie; how do you maximize their nutritional value? You can eat both the greens and the root. Beets have the most nutritional value when eaten raw or fermented, but cooked beets are tasty and nutritious, too, especially if not overcooked.

Read on for lots of ideas, and more on the nutritional value of beets.

Ways to use Beetroot and Beet Greens

Beet greens

Beet greens are similar to spinach and chard, and are delicious prepared the same way.

  • Pick them young and add them to a salad;
  • Pick them mature and lightly steam or braise them;
  • Use them in recipes for “dark green leafy vegetables,” along with kale, turnip greens and so on;
  • Add them to soups; does Minestrone Soup, with Red Kidney Beans (or with Cannellini Beans) with Beet Greens (instead of cabbage or spinach) sound mouthwatering?;
  • Add them raw with other veggies to a smoothie or veggie juice.


These lovely purple roots are like nothing else that I can think of. They are one of the most wonderful foods-as-medicine: they are a great detoxifier, helping your cells and liver to detox; they are a rich source of vitamin C, folate, and most minerals; and a moderate source of protein and B vitamins.

  • Raw:
  • Grate or chop them raw with other veggies for veggie juicing;
  • Grate them raw and add to a Red Cabbage Slaw;
  • Ferment:
  • Grate and ferment like sauerkraut with cabbage (most nutritious if you store the kraut in its salt brine rather than covering with vinegar and canning);
  • Dice and ferment them to make Beet Kvass, the national beverage of the Ukraine (I mentioned this at our April gathering; see recipes, below);
  • Dice or slice raw to ferment as pickled beets;
  • Cooked:
  • Steam or simmer the whole root until tender, cut into wedges and serve as a side-veggie;
  • Dice and lightly steam, then stir into a sweet vinegar sauce (aka Harvard Beets or Buttered Ginger Beets);
  • Wrap the whole root in foil and roast until tender, then slide off the outer layer or peel; cut into wedges for a Beet, Fennel & Mandarine Orange Salad with homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette or Balsamic Dressing;
  • Make borscht, a soup from Eastern Europe, either vegetarian or with beef, and serve with sour cream and dill weed.


Unless noted otherwise, all these recipes are on this site; all links have been updated from my old site, to this newer Cat’s Kitchen blog).

Beet Greens

The following are recipes with spinach, but you can make them with beet greens instead:


Nutrition Facts, raw vs cooked beets

Note that the nutritional content of beet greens and beetroot are different. For example, the greens are high in lutein (a carotenoid), while the root usually has only low amounts of lutein (except yellow beets). On the other hand, beetroot is high in the pigment nutrient betalian, but the leaves have only moderate amounts of the pigment.

See the following sites for some great graphics and info:

The graphics on the above sites show that both raw and cooked beets are similarly high on both nutritional and fullness scales. Both are about 86% carb and quite high in fiber; the available vitamin and mineral content is rich and similar for both raw and cooked. Raw and cooked are also very similar on the essential amino acid score, at 70-71%.

See also Worlds Healthiest Foods: Beets.

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