Beets have been enjoyed as food and used as a medicine for millennia. Are beets Paleo?
Nutritional Value of Beets
A 1 cup (136 g) serving of raw beets contains the following:
- Calories: 59
- Total fat: 0.2 g
- Saturated fat: 0 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 106 mg
- Potassium: 442 mg
- Carbohydrates: 13 g
- Fiber: 3.8 g
- Sugar: 9 g
- Protein: 2.2 g
Health Benefits of Beets
The term “beets” generally refers to several varieties of beta vulgaris, commonly known as red beets, golden beets, table beets and garden beets. The part of the beet that most people consume is the root (technically taproot) but the leafy top greens are edible as well.
Raw beet taproots are an excellent source of folate, and a good source of fiber, B-complex vitamins such as pyridoxine (B-6) and Riboflavin (B-2), as well as minerals such as potassium, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese. Beet greens are also highly nutritious and provide generous amounts vitamin C, vitamin A, carotenoids and flavonoids.
Beets are a rich source of betalain compounds, a group of pigments that function as powerful antioxidants associated with heart health and the prevention of stroke and peripheral vascular diseases. Betalain pigments are anti-inflammatory and lab studies show they are capable of tumor suppression. Betalains also provide cellular detoxification support. Betalain compounds degrade during cooking and most Paleo authors recommend steaming beets for 15 minutes or less and roasting them for an hour or less in order to preserve as much of the nutritional content as possible.
Some people who consume beets experience a condition known as “beeturia”, a harmless situation in which the urine is tinged with red or pink. While there are no known side effects to beeturia, it is considered that this condition is predominant in individuals with iron deficiency, iron excess or problems with iron metabolism that may require nutritional and/or medical correction.
Where to Buy Beets
Raw beets can be obtained in most supermarkets, large and small and at farmer’s markets when they are in season (early spring and early fall). Beets are simple and easy to grow from seed at home.
Canned or preserved beets as well as processed beet products are also widely available in supermarkets however they should be avoided if they contain non-paleo ingredients such as sugar and other sweeteners. Additionally, as a buyer, always beware of BPA packaging.
It is possible to preserve beets at home in a paleo-friendly manner for individuals who grow them in their garden.
Should I Eat Beets? Are Beets Paleo?
Beet taproots and their greens, are great Paleo eats. It’s important to note however, that the carbohydrate content of beets is about 80% sugar. If you are diabetic or watching your blood sugar level for any reason, it may be best to eat beets in moderation.
If you buy prepared beets, make sure there are no unwanted ingredients included in the product. Purchase jarred or packaged beets instead of canned to avoid BPA.
How to Make Beets
Beets can be eaten cooked or raw. They can be steamed, boiled, roasted, sliced, shredded, juiced or fermented. Below is a simple paleo-friendly recipe for a beet and walnut salad that requires minimal work and yet does a great job of pairing flavors to create a delicious dish.
- 4 medium beets – cleaned, with stems and ends removed
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt (to taste)
- black pepper (to taste)
- 1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- Heat oven to 400F (205C)
- Wrap each beet separately in aluminum foil and arrange on baking sheet
- Cook beets for about 60 minutes
- Remove the beets from the oven and allow to cool
- While beets are still warm, use your hands to peel the skin off each beet
- Coarsely chop beets into chunks
- Place beet chunks in bowl and toss with other ingredients
- Allow to marinade for 3-5 minutes before serving