Friday, October 11, 2013

Heart Beets

This year I fell in love.
 I saw them from across the farmer's market, they were calling my name, asking me to take them home. It was as if I was seeing them for the first time. Suddenly everything was clear, they had been there all along waiting for me. "It was always you," I said to them, "my one true... beet." 

To understand my love story you must first know something about me. I was not a picky eater when I was a child. In fact, I prided myself on the fact that I would eat my veggies like a big girl. But every year around the fourth week of November it would happen. The beets were sat on the table and my family would dance and sing songs of their beauty, and I would try them... and I would hate them. I despised the fact that I did not like beets. They were so pretty, and everybody else loved them. I really felt that I was missing out on something wonderful, so I would try them every chance I had.  Year after year it was the same story, until this past spring. 

I don't know what happened, I think it was the magic of the Farmer's Market. It must have been that fresh fairy dust sprinkled on top (aka soil) or the chalkboard happily claiming "Herbicide and Pesticide Free!" Perhaps it was the adorable girl in the straw hat and freckled cheeks whose smile said that she had grown these beautiful rubies specifically for me. Or maybe it was the abundance of nitrates that made my heart go pitter patter. 

I do not think it will be a shock for you when I say that beets are good for your heart, and it is largely impart to the antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates that they contain.  These dietary sources help decrease blood pressure and improves circulation and stamina. According to WebMD the nitrates in beets are converted by the body into nitric oxid which can help increase blood flow to the brain, muscles and the heart. The nitric oxid opens up the blood vessels allowing for better oxygen flow, which explains the the burst of energy and enhanced stamina.

On a recent episode of a popular natural health show (that caused a shortage of beet root juice in health stores all across America) this vegetable was praised for its ability to lower blood pressure.  A meta-analysis was shared that showed sixteen different studies conducted between 2006 and 2012. All concluded that there is a link between significant blood pressure reduction and the supplementation of inorganic nitrate and beetroot root juice. You can read the study here.

And so, I took my beets home and ate them to my heart's content. I made three recipes using all parts of the beets: the root, the stalk and the greens. Although to get the full nutrients from beets they should be eaten raw or juiced, I want to share with you my absolute favorite beet salad using roasted beets. I have adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart, you can find her version here. Secondly, you will find a recipe using the beet greens, which have slightly different health benefits. 

If your passion for beets has dwindled throughout the years, or you never even truly loved them to begin with. I urge you please, it is not to late to give them a chance. 
It will be good for your heart. 

Roasted Beet & Apple Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing

Kale or other salad greens
3 unpeeled beets
1 Granny Smith apple
Crumbled Goat Cheese
1/2 Lemon
Olive Oil

For the Beets
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Place unpeeled beets in baking dish and add water until 3/4 of the beets are covered. Sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for about 1 hours. When beets are tender remove from oven and let cool. Once they are cool enough to handle, gently remove skins and cut beets into cubes. 

For the Salad
Fill salad bowl with kale, cubed apple and beets. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese on top. Squeeze 1/2 lemon on the salad and lightly drizzle on honey and olive oil. 

Beet Greens & Strawberry Salad with Honey Roasted Walnuts

For the Walnuts:
1 cup walnuts
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter and honey and cover walnuts with the mixture.
Roast nuts at 350 degrees on a baking sheet for 5-10 minutes. Stir the walnuts and then check and stir every 1-2 minutes until they are golden brown.
Sprinkle salt on top and let cool.

For the Salad:
Beet Greens
Red Onions
Strawberry Slices
Feta Cheese
Fresh Parsley
Honey Roasted Walnuts
Black Pepper

Combine all ingredients in the salad and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with fresh ground black pepper.

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