If you were to hit the streets of any large city in America with a roving mic and ask people, “When was the last time you ate beets?” you’d no doubt get a lot of shoulder shrugs and blank stares.
I grabbed several cookbooks off the shelf at home and turned to the index, but “Beets” and “Beet Greens” were notably absent. When was the last time you, your spouse, significant other or child suggested, “Let’s have beets for supper.”?
Beets seem to be among the least-eaten vegetables in the US, in spite of their high nutritional value and the ease with which they can be grown. And I’d venture to guess that beet greens find their way to the dinner table even more rarely.
However, within the last few years, a resurgence of beets has occurred so that this underappreciated vegetable is once again making its way onto the menu.
Beets have been around for thousands of years and can be grown in all kinds of climates. Also, their relatively short growing season makes it possible to harvest two crops even in many northern regions.
Today, beets are consumed in three primary forms: beet juice, beet greens, and the beet roots. Each of these presents their own benefits.
Beet juice contains a powerful antioxidant called betalain that is also an anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and aids in the detoxification of the body. Beet juice promotes eye and liver health, prevents anemia, and helps heal gout, kidney and gall bladder issues.
Beets rank high in nitrates that help promote blood flow and lower blood pressure. 
Beet juice is available at a variety of health food stores, or you can make your own.
Beet greens are one of the richest food sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and actually contain more beneficial nutrients than the beet root. They provide healthy amounts of:
- Vitamins K, A, C and B1, 3, and 6
- Minerals: copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus
- Carotenoids: lutein and beta-carotene
This array of nutrients give beet greens the ability to strengthen the immune system, fight cancer and heart disease, help prevent osteoporosis, boost bone strength, and perhaps even help ward off Alzheimer’s.
Select beet greens that are dark green, crisp and healthy looking. Avoid those that are wilted or slimy. If the greens are attached to beets, choose those with small-to-medium size beets. When cutting stems from beets, leave about an inch of stem on the beet root. Store the unwashed greens and stems in a plastic bag by themselves leaving as little air in the bag as possible. They will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.
To prepare beet greens, rinse with cold water, but do not soak, as this will cause leaching of vital minerals. Cut leaves into half-inch slices and add to boiling water for 1 minute uncovered. Hint: boil vs. steam this vegetable to release acids and enhance their flavor. Remove greens and press excess water from them with a fork. Serve much like you would cooked spinach.
Interestingly, in centuries past, beet greens were eaten and the roots only used for medical purposes. Today, we tend more towards eating the root and shunning its leaves. In addition to the above listed benefits, beets are low in calories and high in fiber. 
Beets’ stunning crimson color is due to betalains and the antioxidant phytonutrients present. We don’t often think of color as being important in our selection of vegetables, but a diet rich in the pallet of colors provides us with a wide variety of phytonutrients as well. Each of these colors offers different benefits. So a colorful presentation on the plate also means a healthy array of nutrients for the body.
And speaking of color, you can make your own natural red food coloring from beets.
When selecting beets, look for the small-to-medium-sized tubers that are firm and not cracked. The larger the beet, the more fibrous and tough it will be. Also, the smaller more tender beets may not need peeling after cooking.
- To prepare beets, rinse under cold water, leaving the skin intact.
- Cut beets into quarters leaving some stem and tap root attached.
- Cook beets as little as possible.
- You can steam beets covered for about 15 minutes. Check for tenderness with a knife or fork.
You can also oven- or pan-roast beets.
- Cut into shapes small enough that prolonged cooking is not necessary.
- For oven-roasting, quarter or slice beets and place on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with olive oil and season with thyme, salt and pepper.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Grated raw beets taste great and add color to a salad or as a garnish for a soup or other favorite dish.
Another delicious way to eat beets is pickled. Try pickling beets using lacto-fermentation. It’s pretty easy and you’ll never go back to eating them out of a can!
Finally, if you like carrot cake, try substituting beets for carrots using your same favorite recipe.
Beets are truly one of nature’s best-kept secrets nutritionally. It’s no wonder that beets are coming back into popularity. There are a thousand ways to work beets into your cuisine so you too can experience their delicious taste and healthful benefits.
Are beets on your shopping list?
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