beet root on the leaf beet root on the leaf This root vegetable may look rugged and homely on the outside, but inside, it's hard to beet that brilliant red color. (Photo: vesna cvorovic / Shutterstock)

How to learn to love beets

This oft-misunderstood root vegetable is surprisingly versatile, flavorful and packed with nutrients.

Call them the ugly duckling of vegetables. On the outside, beets are rough, rugged, oddly shaped and homely. But it's a whole other story on the inside. Slice into one, and you're met with brilliant, deep hues of crimson, a pleasant aroma and a sweet, smooth flavor that makes it a delightful addition to any salad, main course or juice blend.

So why haven't you been eating them? Bright color and great taste aside, beets have a litany of health benefits. They're high in several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus and iron, as well as vitamins A, B and C. They also contain betaine, the same substance that is used in certain treatments of depression. And if all that weren't enough, beets have been found to contain high levels of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones. In other words, this superfood is also a natural aphrodisiac.

Last month, we showed you the best, most delicious ways to add kale to your diet. Now, we're unleashing the enormous potential of the oft-forsaken root vegetable scientifically known as Beta vulgaris. Here are seven ways to eat – and enjoy – beets.

Beet salad

beet saladBeet salad is flavorful, versatile and always in season. (Photo: Gayvoronskaya_Yana/Shutterstock)

Who says salad has to be green? There are many variations on beet salad, but they all have one thing in common: they're beautifully colored. Top it with your favorite cheese, load it up with nuts or seeds for a hearty crunch, spritz with a light balsamic dressing, and you've got a salad that's almost too pretty to eat (but too tasty to pass up). For an easy yet surprisingly filling Mediterranean twist on beet salad, try our Israeli Kitchen's tahini-topped version by using this recipe.

Beet juice

beet juiceDon't knock it till you juice it. (Photo: Gayvoronskaya_Yana/Shutterstock)

We know. It sounds like something some crunchy-granola, patchouli-scented lackey would be peddling outside his artisanal organic juice bar. Or something you have to hold your nose while swallowing. But in reality, the benefits of beet juice should far overshadow any reservations you may have. Drinking beet juice is associated with prevention – not cures, mind you – of several ailments, including acne, gout, high blood pressure and gallbladder problems. Why, you ask? Nutritionists suggest that eating beets breaks up calcium deposits and essentially detoxifies the body. Time to dust off the juicer, don't you think?

Beet chips

beet chipsBeet chips are an easy way to satisfy your snack fix. (Photo: Viktory Panchenko/Shutterstock)

We all love to snack. We say we're not going to reach for that half-eaten bag of Doritos in the pantry. Then we say, OK, but just a handful, then we'll put the bag back. So why does said bag always manage to follow you back to the living room, and why do your fingers always end up orange, sticky and guilty? Because, again, we love to snack. So here's an idea: Make snacking worth your while by turning vegetables into chips! It's easier than you think to do this at home – about as easy as preparing frozen pizza.

Beet hummus

beet hummusBeet hummus adds a splash of color and a unique flavor to the average Mediterranean spread. (Photo: Elena M. Tarasova/Shutterstock)

There's more to hummus than chickpeas and tahini. Adding roasted red beets to this smooth, creamy condiment comes with several advantages: earthy flavor, stunning color and – we can't emphasize this enough – making an already healthy dip even more so. And, since it's silly to waste any part of this luminous super-veggie, we suggest you keep the greens and saute them in olive oil for an extra dose of fiber and vitamin C in your hummus. Our favorite recipe comes from beet-crazy chef and frequent Israeli Kitchen contributor Jerry James Stone.

Pickled beets

pickled beets in cansPickled beets pair perfectly with good cheese and fresh bread. (Photo: Zigzag Mountain Art/Shutterstock)

You don't have to be a seasoned home canner to prepare pickled beets, but you do have to exercise some patience. The end result, though, is well worth the wait, especially if you're looking for a refreshing, healthy summer snack. If you think you won't like beets, it might be your best bet to try the pickled version first, before expanding to other varieties. You can buy them in jars in the condiment section of your grocery store (next to the pickles, most likely) but we prefer fresh, local and homemade, as in this recipe.

Beet falafel

beet falafelWhat's better than falafel? Falafel with shredded beets. (Photo: Elena Veselova/Shutterstock)

Like beet hummus, this is another example of successfully taking a tried-and-true vegetarian recipe and enhancing it with a super-healthy vegetable. It's as simple as adding some shredded beets to your falafel balls before deep frying. In this recipe, you can bring out the flavor of the beets by not only mixing it into the falafel ball batter, but topping the whole dish with diced beets and a little tahini-yogurt dip.

Roasted beets

roasted beetsBeets roast well. Try them in a medley of root vegetables – carrots, potatoes and squash. (Photo: Olha Afanasieva/Shutterstock)

So you're a meat-and-potatoes type, you say? Just think of beets as a more colorful but equally hearty alternative to potatoes. You can roast them alone as a side dish with meat, or you can make a meal out of it – for beet beginners, we suggest incorporating beets into a mix of roasted root vegetables. Grocery tip: When roasting beets, it's best to find the firmest, heaviest ones in the bunch. And if you buy them with the greens attached, simply cut them off, grab some dressing, and poof! Instant salad.


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Related Topics: Healthy eating

How to learn to love beets
This oft-misunderstood root vegetable is surprisingly versatile, flavorful and packed with nutrients.