For the Love of Beets

03 . 08 . 11


Oh, how I love beets. Too much, maybe? Last week I had some cooked up version of this root-y earthy veg  five days in a row. After I polished off this heavenly masterpiece, I actually decided it was best to cut back… you know what color it turns your pee, five days… enough said. But this last tribute to beets was everything I hoped it would be and I think you should give it a whirl. Have I talked about the benefits of beets yet? Here’s a bit of a refresher:

Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. The detox support provided by betalains includes support of some especially important Phase 2 detox steps involving glutathione. Although you can see these betalain pigments in other foods (like the stems of chard or rhubarb), the concentration of betalains in the peel and flesh of beets gives you an unexpectedly great opportunity for these health benefits. What’s most striking about beets is not the fact that they are rich in antioxidants; what’s striking is the unusual mix of antioxidants that they contain. We’re used to thinking about vegetables as rich in antioxidant carotenoids, and in particular, beta-carotene; among all well-studied carotenoids, none is more commonly occurring in vegetables than beta-carotene. In beets, however, the “claim-to-fame” antioxidant is not beta-carotene, but two different antioxidant carotenoids, not nearly as concentrated in vegetables as a group. These two carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin. beets demonstrate their antioxidant uniqueness by getting their red color primarily from betalain antioxidant pigments (and not primarily from anthocyanins). Coupled with their status as a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C and a very good source of the antioxidant manganese, the unique phytonutrients in beets provide antioxidant support in a different way than other antioxidant-rich vegetables.

In recent lab studies on human tumor cells, betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of pro-inflammatory enzymes (specifically, cyclooxygenase enzymes). The tumor cell types tested in these studies include tumor cells from colon, stomach, nerve, lung, breast, prostate and testicular tissue. While lab studies by themselves are not proof of beets’ anti-cancer benefits, the results of these studies are encouraging researchers to look more closely than ever at the value of betanins and other betalains in beets for both prevention and treatment of certain cancer types.

Maybe I don’t need a break from beets after all? Hmm…

What I love about this recipe is that it gives you that sweet, salty, herb punch that I happen to crave. Be forewarned that this project can get pretty messy around the kitchen. Don’t even think about wearing anything white, and have a towel on hand to keep beet juices from running around the counter tops off the cutting board. An apron will be useful too, or maybe your yard-work duds. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 medium golden beets, and 3 medium red beets stems trimmed
  • 8 carrots cut into sticks
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced, plus more for roasting
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups of 1 inch cubed (leftover) multi-grain loaf
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425F. Wrap beets with a splash of water, olive oil, lemon juice, 2 sprigs of thyme, a few cloves of garlic, salt and pepper tightly in foil with skin, then roast 1 hour . Carefully unwrap, and when cool, rub off skins with a paper towel and discard. Chop beets into 1/2″ cubes and transfer to a bowl. When there is about 15 minutes left on the timer for the beets, toss carrots and chopped bread with olive oil, garlic, and a little lemon in a bowl, then bake on a cookie sheet with parchment paper until the timer runs out. As soon as you pull the beets out, switch the oven over to broil mode and move the carrots to the top rack. As the beets cool, keep a close eye on the oven to make sure things don’t go up in flames. The carrots should be slightly browned and the croutons crispy. When all the components are done, mix together well in a large bowl with goat cheese and extra leaves of thyme and some s/p to taste. Viola. Soft, buttery beets and carrots, crispy croutons, and creamy goat cheese. Bon Appetite!

  • Yum! I love beets, too — their brilliant color and earthy taste always amazes me. I just bought a small bunch the other day, and was thinking about roasting them and tossing with quinoa, avocado, tofu and lemon. I’ve never made quinoa before, so we’ll see how it turns out. :) Your version looks and sounds delicious, too!

  • Kelsey

    Thanks, Jacqui! That combination sounds divine! Also, once you try quinoa, you’ll never go back! Seriously it is like the king, or I think I’ll say queen of all the grains! Let me know how yours turns out!

  • Goat cheese and beets really love each other—I’m wishing I had some beets right now, seeing your photo of the two paired together! And roasting the beets with garlic cloves? I wish I’d thought of that. Thanks for the ideas (and the food porn)!

  • you have such a beautiful blog! i love beets too much too. :)

  • Wow, what a beautiful blog! I love your photos — so vivid! Thanks so much for your comment on my health and fitness page; for some reason, it isn’t showing up on the site (post comments are working but not pages)…! I’m working on it. Just wanted to let you know! So glad to find you, I think we are kindred health spirits ; )

  • Perfect piece of writing, I seriously watch for messages by you.

  • Wow, you take beautiful photos! I love beets but haven’t worked with them just yet. I need to get on that…I’m intimidated by the coloring getting everywhere :)

  • Kelsey

    Don’t be intimidated by the dark juices! A careful hand is all you need, plus some good scrub after it’s all said and done to get between your fingers. Good luck! And happy beet roasting!

  • Kelsey

    Thanks for letting me know, Katie! I can’t wait to read more from you! glad we’re foodie/fitness friends now :)

  • Great pictures! Beets are such pretty little foods to photograph. :)

  • I have to admit that I’m not crazy about beets, but your beautiful pictures make me desperately want to like them – how could I not love something that’s so pretty? I will try this recipe – I think the sweet carrots and tangy goat cheese might help balance out the dirty (ok, “earthy”) flavor that I don’t like.

  • Kelsey

    I love your renewed optimism! the dirty-earthy taste seems to be hit and miss, totally get that. I have a strange repulsion to capers and I find myself being frequently challenged to reconsider when I see fabulous Italian recipes on other blogs. Let me know if I could make a beet believer out of you! ;)

  • i regret i have been behind on your site – your pictures improve every single post! So pretty! Love love roasted beets and I am so glad they keep for a few days because my particular husband will not touch them.

  • Hey kelsey!
    Yup, I’m pretty sure we would be really good friends! Your enthusiasm for beets mimics my own. Ha! Hard to come by! ;-). I love your photos and pretty much all your recipes. So glad to have found you!

  • Sarah

    Kelsey, have you ever read Jitterbug Perfume? I have a feeling you might really like it. General themes include love, life, immortality, and beets. Another one to add to the never-ending to-read list :)

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