Did you know that the pigment that provides the rich red color of beets is also a powerful antioxidant and cancer fighting agent? Beet roots contain a unique class of phytonutrients called betalains. Betacyanin is the red pigment that is concentrated in red beets, and betaxanthin is the yellow-orange pigment found in yellow beets. These health-promoting phytonutrient pigments may be partially responsible for beets’ suggested role as a chemoprotective food. In one study, liver antioxidant enzymes were found to increase in animals fed beet fiber. Since these enzymes protect the liver from free radicals, they are thought to prevent the beginnings of cancerous activity. In a human clinical trial, beet juice was found to be a potent inhibitor of cell mutations that are normally caused by nitrosamines, metabolic byproducts of nitrates, which are chemical preservatives commonly used in processed meats. It turns out that beet roots are not the only part of the plant offering protection against free radical damage—beet greens also have amazing antioxidant potential. In one study that compared them to spinach, broccoli, carrots, onions and celery, beet greens were found to have the highest phenolic phytonutrient content as well as the greatest ability to absorb oxygen radicals (a marker of their antioxidant capacity).
15-Minute Healthy Steamed Beets
The beautiful color of beets also reflects their rich concentration of health-promoting phytonutrient antioxidants, which help protect against the damage to cellular structures and DNA that can be caused by free radicals. They are also rich in folate and one serving of this recipe adds only 57 calories to your Healthiest Way of Eating.
Prep and Cook Time: 5 minute prep; 15 minute cooking
3 medium beets, about 3″ in diameter
1 medium clove garlic, pressed or chopped
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 TBS chopped dill
1 TBS chopped chives
2 TBS Feta cheese
Fill the bottom of a steamer with 2 inches of water.
While the water is coming to a boil, wash beets, leaving 2 inches of tap root and 1 inch of the stem on the beets. Cut beets into quarters. Do not peel.
Steam covered for 15 minutes. Beets are cooked when you can easily insert a fork on the tip of a knife into the beet. Although some of their colorful phytonutrients are lost to the steaming water, there is plenty of color and nutrients left in the beets.
Press or chop garlic and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out their health-promoting properties.
Peel beets using a paper towel.
Transfer beets to a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients while they are still hot.
* Serves 2
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