Beets are one of the sweetest root veggies around, and also one of the most versatile. Because they’re naturally sweet, kids typically give them thumbs up. At the Barn we teach kids that they can eat the beet greens as well as the root, which most grown-ups don’t realize! One cup of raw beets (the root part) is a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and heart healthy potassium plus it’s an excellent source of folate and the mineral manganese. For a mega-nutrient bonus, it’s definitely worth eating the greens. Just one cup of cooked beet greens is an excellent of vitamins A, C and K, riboflavin, a B vitamin, and the powerhouse minerals magnesium, potassium and manganese. It’s also a good source of the B vitamins, thiamin and B6, calcium, iron, cooper, vitamin E and dietary fiber! Try to eat the whole vegetable, so you get an amazing variety of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants, shown to have anti-inflammatory effects for heart health.
Beets are root vegetables, so the root of the plant (what most people eat) grows beneath the ground, while its stems and leaves sprout out above ground. The stems and leaves are thick and hardy to resist cold temperatures, which is important, since beets are harvested in cool weather. Beet seeds are typically planted in early spring and late summer and harvested about 2 months after planting. Beets are most commonly a deep purple-magenta color, but may also be golden or even white. All are super sweet and delicious!
There are lots of ways to cook and serve beets. The roots are very hard and crisp and can take a while to cook, but they’re well worth the wait. Steaming, boiling or sautéing is often the fastest method, or for those with more patience, roasting or grilling will add a nice flavor. Cooked beets are delicious additions to salads—beets, goat cheese, and arugula are a classic combination—or beets can be shredded raw and dressed for a crunchy, slaw-like salad. The pop of purplish color is very beautiful.
A healthy tip is to prepare beets with a splash of citrus (oranges or lemons) because the vitamin C helps boost the body’s absorption of iron.
The natural sweetness of beets makes them almost dessert-like. In fact, we have a “sweet and savory” recipe from Appetite for Life for a beet cake that makes a beautiful appetizer at a dinner party or weekly family dinner! It may not be a traditional cake, but it did get double thumbs up from the HealthBarn USA kids. Check out the recipe below!
The Beet Cake
From Appetite for Life by Stacey Antine, MS, RD
This cascading layer “cake” of fresh beet slices and spreadable goat cheese topped with fresh herbs and walnuts gets a double thumbs up (a very special honor) from the kids at HealthBarn USA. Fresh beets are full of nutrients including folate (a B vitamin), manganese (a trace mineral), and betacyanin (an antioxidant) to keep your body strong. Kids will eat beets when they’re served up like this (and they love to assemble this tower of nutrient power).
Kids can layer beets with filling.
1 medium beet
1 tablespoon semi-soft goat cheese
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (any combination)
1 walnut half, broken into pieces
- In a small saucepan, combine beet and enough water to cover; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20–30 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain beet; set aside to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, peel beet under warm running water. Cut into 3 round slices.
- To assemble the “cake,” place 1 beet slice on a plate; spread with ½ tablespoon goat cheese. Repeat layering, ending with beet slice. Drizzle with orange juice; top with herbs and walnut.
Makes 1 serving (1 “cake” per serving)
Nutrition Facts per serving: 70 calories; 3g fat (1g sat fat, 1g mono, 1g poly, 0g trans fat); 5mg cholesterol; 10g carbohydrate (3g fiber, 7g sugar); 3g protein; 90mg sodium; 4% Daily Value (DV) vitamin A; 20% DV vitamin C; 2% DV calcium; 6% DV iron
What’s your favorite way to cook beets?