Saturday, December 3, 2011

Food Worship #6: The Red Beet

I'm always looking for something new to put in my salad, and recently I've discovered the magically little root vegetable known as the red beet, or just plain "beet" for short.  Maybe you've seen them, and had to look twice because of their crazy red/purple hue.  Woah man, it's purple!  But seriously, these little guys are absolutely delicious, and positively packed with nutrients.  In fact they have quite a few nutrients in high quantity that you'd be hard pressed to find in almost any other veggie.

What I find most amazing about the beet though, is how naturally sweet it is for a vegetable!  These things have a pretty hefty sugar content for being in the veggie family, but believe me don't let that fact steer you away from consuming these wondrous sweet little treats daily. It's all natural sugar that most likely will not sabotage your diet like the processed stuff might.  I say "most likely" because it's possible to go overboard with pretty much any food, even fruits and vegetables.  But believe me, if you eat a normal portion of beets daily, you've got nothing to worry about.  That's great news, considering the awesome flavor kick they give, and the delicious texture they have when they're boiled.  

But what about these infamous health benefits I've hinted about?  Are beets really that nutritionally valuable?  Let's examine why you should definitely give these purple wonders a try in a meal of yours:

Antioxidants:  You may have noticed a trend by now that darker colored fruits and vegetables tend to be pretty rich with a blend of healthy antioxidants.  Beets are no exception, and have a whole host of these healthful substances hidden inside.  But what's surprising is that the particular antioxidants found in beets aren't found in huge quantity in any other common vegetable.  Instead of the common beta-carotene, beets have large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. Crazy names, yes, but extremely useful substances.  They help to maintain eye and skin health, and because they're hard to find in large quantities in most other foods, having beets once in a while would definitely be to your advantage.  

Beets are also rich in the antioxidant betalain, which is also the substance that helps give them their rich red/purple color.  These antioxidants help with general cell function in your body, and also may help prevent diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.  

As I've said before, this blend of antioxidants in beets really is unique in a sense, and makes the beet a very desirable vegetable in any diet.  Here's a quote from that puts it into better perspective:  

"While research is largely in the early stage with respect to beet antioxidants and their special benefits for eye health and overall nerve tissue health, we expect to see study results showing these special benefits and recognizing beets as a standout vegetable in this area of antioxidant support."

Vitamins:  I bet you saw this one coming.  Beets are loaded with all sorts of vitamins and minerals!  They are extremely rich in Vitamin C (you need a whole bunch of Vit. C this time of year, or you're going to be suffering from runny noses and coughs), and Vitamin A.  They also have a large quantity of the minerals iron, calcium, folic acid, niacin, biotin, and manganese.  In fact, here's a list of some of the nutritional information about beets, and the most densely packed vitamins and minerals they contain:

Nutritive Values : Per 100 gm.
  • Vitamin A : 20 I.U.
  • Thiamine : .02 mg
  • Riboflavin : .05 mg
  • Niacin : .4 mg
  • Vitamin C : 10 mg.
  • Calcium : 27 mg.
  • Iron : 1.0 mg.
  • Phosphorus : 43 mg.
  • Fat : .1 gm.
  • Carbohydrates : 9.6 gm.
  • Protein : 1.6 gm.
  • Calories : 42

Low Fat:  This one seems like a no brainer, but is still definitely worth mentioning.  Beets are extremely low in fat, and are virtually free of ALL saturated fats.  That means that any fat that is there (though you'd be hard pressed to find much at all), is heart healthy unsaturated fat.  Win-win situation!

Low Calorie Salad Topper:  What I really love about beets though, is their flavor.  I implore you to give them a chance, because they really are a sweet, low calorie salad component that could easily make that boring old salad of yours suddenly alive and tasty as heck.  In fact, boiled, chilled beets are so juicy and delicious that I bet you'll be fine content with no other salad dressing than the red beet's delicious juices.  It'll add a whole new health factor to your salad, and may even help you to take away some of that processed salad dressing.  

How low calorie are they?  Well, half a cup of delicious red beets is less than 40 calories, and every single calorie that is there is a quality calorie packed with nutrients and other health promoting substances.  Don't ever stress about eating beets!  

There it is!  A whole nutritional profile of a vegetable that isn't quite as common in mainstream society today, but definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY is worth trying in your diet.  I bet you'll like the flavor, the soft texture, and the awesome purple hue!  I mean how cool is it to have a food that's like, PURPLE!  Anyways, enough immaturity.  Beets are awesome.  Try some. Today. Please.

Keep eating the good stuff, make that salad interesting, and as always, good luck!

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