Are Beets the New Kale?

Are Beets the New Kale?

Move over, kale. Step aside, quinoa. Have a seat, cauliflower. The trendy health food du jour is here, and it’ll leave your lips a ruby red delicious mess. Yes, meet the beet, aka the new kale.

Are Beets the New Kale?

Beets aren’t new, of course. They’ve been on plates and in fresh squeezed juices for years. A gardeners delight, the bright red beet (or its golden or striped cousins) are filled with healthy nutrients and deep earthy flavors.

But for many health-seekers, the beet has been a hard ingredient to work with. Aside from steaming or juicing, there weren’t too many beet recipes, save for the occasion for a bowl of beet borscht soup. Not so the case these days.

“Beets are full of antioxidants and probiotics, and stealth beet cookery is a good way to feed them to reluctant eaters,” Barbara Damrosch wrote recently in the Washington Post.

Stealth might as well be the beet’s middle name. It grows inconspicuously in the dirt just under a head of chard-like (edible) greens. And when added to recipes like beet burgers, loaf or even brownies, they add a subtle hard-to-trace meaty yet earthy flavor.

Nowadays you’ll find beets atop the hippest pizzas, in pesto and hummus, energy bars, and juiced all by itself, like a pomegranate.

Beets, of course, offer another noteworthy benefit—that gorgeous deep red color. Not to be taken for granted, a white bean dip becomes a what-in-the-world-was-that-gorgeous-red-dip-again with just a touch of beets. A red velvet cake can get its redness (and its sweetness) from a cup of shredded beets.

And speaking of sweetness, the beet’s at its stealthiest in all sorts of processed foods that contain sugar from sugar beets (usually genetically modified).

But don’t let that deter you from the beets many benefits. A one-cup serving of fresh beets contains 442 mg of potassium, 15 percent of the RDA for fiber, 2.2 grams of protein (4 percent of the daily RDA), 11 percent of the daily RDA for vitamin C, 6 percent of the RDA for iron and 7 percent of the RDA for magnesium. And according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, 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.

But, you may still be thinking “KALE.” And there’s really no reason to give that food up anytime soon. But why not add a beet? Load into your kale smoothie or layer it into your kale salad. Add it to stir fries, lasagna, or pile it onto a piece of avocado toast. Shred raw beets into salads and sandwiches. Or give your kombucha a rest and try the fermented Russian drink called beet kvaas. Or, you could get really crazy and just go traditional minimalist and simply steam a big batch of fresh beets until tender, peel the skin while they’re still warm, and eat them whole with just a sprinkle of salt and an earthy smile. They really don’t need much more than that.

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Beets image via Shutterstock