Highly nutritious beetroot is well worth growing. Naturopath Meryn Wakelin shines the light on this underrated root crop.
Beetroot is a power food still rather overlooked in New Zealand cuisine. Pickled beetroot from a can (or if you’re lucky home preserved) is a quick and easy side dish for a lazy summer meal or a classic Kiwi burger. But there are so many more ways we can enjoy this easily grown root vegetable.
Here are some of the reasons why beetroot should be more frequently served at the table – whether raw, roasted, steamed, pickled or juiced...
One serving (one cup) of raw or cooked beetroot contains approximately 250 kilojoules. Research has shown it can boost your energy, fight cancer, lower blood pressure, enhance immunity and reduce pain. A very recent piece of research indicated that a 70ml serving of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure by 2%. However it sits quite high on the glycaemic index (i.e. these sugars are absorbed quickly) so if you have any trouble metabolising sugars be sure to eat small portions of the whole root rather than just the juice. Combine it in a meal with green leafy veges (e.g. grated raw in a salad) and a serving of high quality protein, to lower the glycaemic load.
Any vegetable with such a deep, rich red colour has got to be loaded with nutrients, and of course beetroot is. Particularly vitamin B complex and folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene and minerals magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and boron. If cooking beetroot, to preserve nutrients as much as possible it is ideal to minimise the cooking time. Peel and trim raw beetroot (with rubber gloves to prevent stained hands) then chop into a few pieces so as to be cooked to your satisfaction within 15 minutes.
The fact that beets are high in Boron helps answer the question of why the ancient Romans considered Beetroot to be an aphrodisiac – Boron is an essential building block of our sex hormones!
Beetroot is very rich in anti-oxidants and in fact is excellent for assisting your liver to break down toxins, so it's always good to include in a detox juice.
Beetroot greens rate at the top of the list of most beneficial greens we can eat. Most nutritious raw (throw them in a green smoothie or add baby beet leaves to a salad), they can also be lightly cooked – like silverbeet. So they really are a great all-season crop.
Last but definitely not least I would also like to tell you the mighty beetroot can turn a perfectly lovely chocolate cake into an absolutely sublime experience!
Meryn Wakelin is a naturopath and nutrition consultant. www.healnaturally.co.nz
250 grams fresh beetroot
200 grams dark chocolate (70%+)
1/4 cup hot espresso
150 grams butter
1 ½ cups ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder or ultimately raw cacao powder
¾ cup raw sugar
Note: This large cake makes an impressive dessert. I usually split it into two smaller cake tins and put one in the freezer as one small cake is about 12 servings.
Beetroot and chocolate cake