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All about “Beet”

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Nutritional value of beets

  Raw beet, 72 g (125 ml) Boiled beetroot, drained, 90 g (125 ml) Beet greens, raw, 40 g (250 ml)
Calories 31 40 9
Protein 1.2g 1.5g 0.9 g
Carbohydrates 6.9 g 9.0 g 1.7g
Fat 0.1g 0.2g 0.1g
Dietary fiber 1.4 g 1.8g 1.5g
Glycemic load  : Low
Antioxidant power  : High

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2010.

Beet: understand everything in 2 min

Beet health profile

The beet adorns every dish. Its leaves , which can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach, are particularly rich in vitamins and minerals .

The benefits of beetroot

  • Cancer . A study has shown that the consumption of betanin , one of the pigments giving beets their characteristic color, reduces the appearance of skin , liver and lung cancers , 10 in animals. In addition, research indicates that carotenoids from beet greens may help prevent certain cancers, including breast cancer and lung cancer 12 .
  • Antioxidant power . Beet is one of the vegetables with the best antioxidant power 4 . Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals . The latter are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the appearance of cardiovascular diseases 19 , certain cancers 20 and other chronic diseases 1-3 , 21,24 .
  • Eye health . According to several studies, a regular intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids contained in beet greens , is associated with a lower risk of macular degeneration, cataracts 12 and retinitis pigmentosa 22 . However, more large-scale studies are needed to confirm these effects 22 .
  • Sports performance  : Some studies have shown that beet juice, rich in nitrates, would have beneficial effects on sports performance by reducing the cost of oxygen during continuous efforts 30,31 . Consuming a dose of beet juice would also have beneficial effects on cardiovascular performance at altitude 32 . Other studies have shown no effect, but it appears that some subjects respond more strongly to beet juice supplementation than others 33 .

What does beet contain?

Beets are available in several varieties: red, yellow and white. The most famous red beet has a color so pronounced that it is made into dyes in industry. The white beet is mainly used for the manufacture of sugar; it is also called ”  sugar beet  “.

The beet is one of the few plants that contain betalains 6 , a family of pigments contributing to its pronounced color. These compounds have been shown to be powerful antioxidants in vitro 7,8 . In humans, a certain proportion of betalains are found in the bloodstream following the consumption of beet juice , 11 . Betalains would remain stable in the gastrointestinal tract without significant loss of their antioxidant properties and their bioavailability would be high 11 , 28. Betalains are also said to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and liver protective properties .

Phenolic compounds
Beet contains phenolic compounds , including flavonoids , 14 . These compounds provide the beet with an antioxidant power which would remain constant even after the beet has been cooked 5 . The skin of the beet would contain at least 3 times more phenolic compounds than the flesh 15 . Its leaves are also very rich. A study has shown that the phenolic content of fresh beet leaf juice is the highest among many plants, exceeding the content of spinach and broccoli juice 16 .

Lutein and zeaxanthin
The leaves beetroot (raw or cooked) contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants of the family of carotenoids 12 . These compounds are said to have beneficial effects on certain cancers and on eye health. Indeed, they are particularly concentrated in the macula and the retina 12 , 13 , thus protecting the eye from oxidative stress 23 which could cause it damage.

Main vitamins and minerals

Excellent source Vitamin A Boiled beet leaf is an excellent source of vitamin A. Raw beet leaf is a good source of vitamin A for women and a source for men .
Excellent source Vitamin K The beet leaf is an excellent source of vitamin K.
Good source Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) The boiled beet leaf is a good source of vitamin B2 , while the raw beet leaf is a source .
Good source Vitamin B9 (folate) Beets are a good source of vitamin B9.
Good source Copper Boiled beet leaf is a good source of copper , while beet and its raw leaf are sources .
Good source Iron Boiled beet leaf is a good source of iron for men and a source for women . Raw beet leaf is a source of iron. Beets are a source of iron for humans only.
Good source Magnesium Boiled beet leaf is a good source of magnesium for women and a source for men . Boiled beet and raw beet leaf are sources of magnesium. Raw beets are a source of magnesium for women only.
Good source Manganese The boiled beet leaf is a good source of manganese . Boiled beet is a good source of manganese for women and a source for men . Raw beets and their raw leaf are sources .
Source Vitamin B1 (thiamine) The boiled beet leaf is a source of vitamin B1 .
Source Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) The boiled beet leaf is a source of vitamin B5.
Source Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) The boiled beet leaf is a source of vitamin B6.
Source Vitamin C The beet leaf is a source of vitamin C.
Source Vitamin E The beet leaf is a source of vitamin E.
Source Calcium The boiled beet leaf is a source of calcium.
Source Potassium Boiled beet and beet leaf are sources of potassium .


Beet-colored urine?

A few hours after eating beets, it may happen that the urine or stool turns reddish . This phenomenon would occur when the beet pigments (betalains) are absorbed by the intestine instead of being degraded 17 . Several factors can influence this color, such as the acidity of the stomach, the speed of digestion, the variety of beet eaten, etc. 18 This characteristic does not represent a health hazard.


Vitamin K and anticoagulants

The beet leaves contain a high amount of vitamin K, necessary among other blood clotting. Health Canada recommends that people who take anticoagulants (Coumadin®, Warfilone®, Sintrom®) daily limit their consumption of beets and ensure that the daily intake of vitamin K is as stable as possible. Servings should not exceed 125 ml (1/2 cup) of raw beets, or about 60 ml (1/4 cup) of cooked beets.

Recipe ideas


Beet and Bean Soup

Regardless of the cooking method used, it is recommended to cook the beetroot with its skin on to minimize the loss of nutrients. It is more easily peeled when cooked.

  • Raw, in salad . Peel the beets and grate them. Add them to a lettuce rag or eat them as is with a house dressing. Or, cut them into thin rings and season them in the same way.
with beets
  • Grated and quickly steamed. Coat them with tarragon, mint or dill butter .
  • The leaves of beets, raw or cooked, are eaten like spinach or chard .
  • Cook young beets and their leaves separately and serve them together with an aioli (sauce made with crushed garlic, egg yolk and olive oil).
  • In the oven . Put whole beets of similar size in a bowl. Pour a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands so that they are well coated with oil. In an oven set to 250 ° C (475 ° F), bake for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on their size. After allowing them to cool for a few minutes, peel them by simply sliding the skin with your hands and serve with the sauce of your choice.
  • In potato chips . Peel the beets and cut them into thin slices. Fry them in oil as you would for potatoes. Drain, salt and serve.
The origins of borsch
Long before being prepared with beets , borsch was made with a wild herb, hogweed , from which it takes its name. In the old days, the beets were first fermented, which gave the soup its tangy flavor. Today, we don’t give ourselves that bad anymore. We prefer to add vinegar or lemon juice. But some claim that the end product is significantly lower quality.
  • Borsch: this traditional soup from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, etc.) can be prepared in multiple ways, depending on the country or region. For the basic recipe, cook tomatoes and potatoes in beef broth. In another saucepan, sauté onions, carrots and green peppers, minced or grated. Add minced white cabbage and cook for ten minutes. Mix the contents of the 2 saucepans and add cooked and diced beets and lemon juice. Cook for ten minutes. Add parsley, garlic and dill and serve with a little cream and, if desired, the meat used to prepare the broth.
  • Cold borsch . Marinate cooked beets in the refrigerator overnight with diced cucumber, chopped onion, sour cream and crème fraîche, as well as a little sugar and balsamic vinegar. Before serving, put everything in the blender.
  • You can also create a more substantial dish by mixing cold borsch with mashed potatoes . Season with ground nutmeg and ginger.
  • In the countries of Eastern Europe , we gladly start a meal by eating marinated beets .
  • In India , beets are simmered with various spices , including turmeric and black mustard seeds.
  • The Germans prepare them by cooking them with sauerkraut and diced bacon.
  • In Lebanon , they are steamed and coated with a yogurt, mint and garlic sauce.
  • In Russia , they are prepared in a salad with potatoes, carrots, pickled cucumbers and raw onion.
  • In France , we prepare an excellent salad with diced beetroot, lamb’s lettuce and walnut kernels, all washed down with a walnut oil vinaigrette . If desired, use red, yellow and white roots, making sure to cook the reds separately.
  • The Amish add in pickled beets pickled whole peeled boiled eggs and a few hours (even days) before the serving. The eggs then take on a beautiful red coloration which contrasts pleasantly with their yolk when they are cut from the plate.

Choice and conservation


Cellar . From 1 to 3 months at temperatures close to the freezing point and at 95% humidity.

Refrigerator . 1 to 2 weeks in a perforated plastic bag.

Freezer . Cook them, cut them into slices or cubes and put them in a freezer bag.

Dehydrator . During the Second World War, it was discovered that beetroot was the best drying among all vegetables. Cut it into thin slices and put it in the dehydrator or in an oven set to the minimum temperature, leaving the door slightly open.

The little story of beets

Common name : beet.
Scientific name : Beta vulgaris .
Family : chenopodiaceae.

The term ” beet ” appeared in the French language in the XVII th  century. This word derives from “chard”, plant from which the beet comes directly, and from “rave”, which indicates any vegetable plant which one cultivates for its root. In Switzerland and Savoy, red beet is also called ”  red carrot  “. All of our modern beets, including sugar beets , are descended from a common ancestor ( Beta vulgaris var.  Maritima ), originally cultivated for its leaves. This is also the case for Swiss chard ( Beta vulgaris var.  Cicla), which belongs to the same species. The plant comes from the Mediterranean coasts, where it still grows in the wild and from where it would have spread eastwards in a very ancient time.

Sugar beet

While Swiss chard was consumed by our prehistoric ancestors, beetroot only appeared on the table at the turn of our era. At least, as food, because the ancients used the root for medicinal purposes . Not until the middle of the XIX th  century before its use became popular and gardeners on the market improved varieties of seeds. We then selected varieties with red , white and yellow roots, the latter having long been prized in Europe for its sweet flavor and because it is particularly suitable for marinades. As for the leaves, they have long been prepared like spinach. There are also varieties with very large roots (fodder beets) which have always been used as food for livestock . This is what explains why, even today, the wealthier classes in Europe show a certain contempt for this vegetable, which is nevertheless extremely nutritious, on the pretext that it is only good for cattle.

The beet crossed the Atlantic in the early days of colonization, perhaps at the 3 E  travel Jacques Cartier. It is said that during this journey, he brought “all kinds of grains and seeds  “. In August 1749, the botanist Pier Kalm listed in his journal the vegetables he had seen in a vegetable garden in Quebec City, including red beets “in fairly large quantities”. However, there are then few varieties as evidenced by a catalog dating from 1818 which offers only one. On the other hand, in 1878, we offered 10 and in 1932, a dozen varieties. Today, even if a handful of hybrids dominate the market, the old varieties like the crapaudine , theEgyptian , yellow , white and chioggia are gaining popularity with amateur gardeners and some daring market gardeners.

Organic gardening

Beet seed is actually a very hard fruit containing a few seeds. If it is difficult to germinate them, you can crush the fruits with a rolling pin to break their envelope.

Beetroot can stand the cold and can therefore be sown very early in the spring , as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow in loose soil, deep and rich in organic matter. In southern Quebec, depending on the year, it is sometimes possible to sow as early as mid-April, provided that the seedlings are protected with an agrotextile . The latter makes it possible to conserve a little heat in their immediate environment and to limit the problems of damping-off of seedlings.

pH: 6 to 7.

Most gardeners are unaware that you can also start a few plants in the greenhouse or indoors, giving them light and moisture. It is enough to transplant them to the garden when the temperature allows it. When transplanting , however, care must be taken to place the root vertically to prevent it from deforming.

For bedding , space the plants 10 cm to 15 cm in all directions. Row cultivation requires the same row spacing and these should be 30 cm to 45 cm apart.

By sowing successively every 2 or 3 weeks, we will have throughout the season young tender beets and fresh leaves. The last sowing should be done no later than the end of July.

Irrigate regularly to get roots that are very tender and not very prone to disease. Beets require little nitrogen for growth and relatively little phosphate . However, care must be taken to ensure that the soil is well supplied with potassium . In addition, it is particularly sensitive to boron deficiency . It should therefore be provided to him if necessary.

The leafminer can cause damage during hot summer weeks. Protect with an agrotextile or a tight mesh net.

The plant will be able to tolerate a few gels in the fall, but it will have to be harvested before the very cold weather. You can extend the season a little by mulching the plants in October.

Ecology and environment

The populations of wild beet ( B. maritima ) have a very high genetic variability in terms of resistance to insects, disease and drought (about 10 times more than the cultivated varieties). An international team of researchers has therefore been set up to preserve this diversity in order to transmit, by crossing and selection, these characteristics to cultivated beet 29 . We thus wish to limit the use of pesticides and chemical fungicides, and encourage the cultivation of beets in land with little or no irrigation. Other Beta species are also being studied for similar characteristics.

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