1 lb. fresh raw beets OR 1 15 oz. can salt-free organic beets
3 small red potatoes
3 cloves fresh garlic
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. black olives
sea salt and pepper
This is yet another delicious, quick, and healthy vegan side dish courtesy of the Vitamix (or your blender/food processor). This whole meal takes about 2 minutes from start to finish if you have the potatoes already cooked.
Wash off potatoes, cook if necessary. I had precooked potatoes on hand for ease of use when I come home late from work (like today). You can always resort to the quick paper towel-microwave method for cooking the potatoes, if absolutely necessary, but I recommend roasting a few on the weekend for later weekday consumption.
The actual "instructions" are a breeze: place the garlic, small potatoes (or halved medium cooked potatoes), raw washed beets, olive oil, and seasonings in the Vita-Mix. Turn from low (speed 1) to variable high (8-10) for approximately 1-1 1/2 minutes to blend while pushing the chunks to the bottom of the Vitamix with the damper. That's it! Blend to the consistency of your choice; I did a puree here which lends itself nicely for a topping for the rotisserie lamb we had tonight as a late celebration for Valentine's day. Garnish with parsley and enjoy either cold or warm. If you like it cold, it is better to eat beets this way in their raw form to retain folate and flavonoid content.
Beets are a fantastic wintertime root vegetable packed with nutrients (as if the bright, intoxicating red color didn't signal that already!). The beautiful reddish-purple color of beets and their juice comes from pigment betacyanin which has an impressive number of health benefits. The beet pigment contains flavonoids called anthycyanins which seems to be responsible for much of the health-promoting effects of beets. World's Healthiest Foods gives a great summary on the health benefits of beets, but I'll summarize a few pointers:
- Beets are high in folate and manganese. Folate is an essential B vitamin of which many women and the elderly rarely consume sufficient amounts. Deficiency of folate can lead to birth defects in newborns and neuromuscular degeneration, to name a few conditions.
- They help protect against cancer, particularly colon cancer by encourgaing secretion of CD8 immune cells in the colon which help identify pre-cancerous cells.
- They help protect against heart disease by lowering cholesterol (while raising HDL) and lowering triglycerides.
- Help protect against birth defects (due to high folate content)
Of course, beets are not low glycemic index so take care to enjoy them in moderation while they are in season and fresh. The high sugar content of beets is what make them a traditional natural source of unrefined sugar. The sugar content is not outrageous, so beets can be safely consumed by diabetics in very small quantities and on rare occasion. Remember that adding a splash of extra olive oil to the beets will help lower the glycemic impact of the dish since high quality "good" monounsaturated olive oil fat lowers the insulin response in the body.
Again, try your fresh beets either raw in a salad or a puree, or only lightly steamed (save the juice, it contains much of the lost folate and Vitamin C!). The beneficial flavonoids and water soluble vitamins are lost in cooking and under heat. Folate is especially vulnerable to cooking. A disclaimer for anyone with kidney problems: the naturally occurring oxalates in beets can aggravate an oxalate imbalance in the body. Kidney and gallbladder problems allow high abnormal concentrations of oxalates to build up and crystallize, whereas a healthy body could process the oxalates found not only in beets, but also in many other veggies as well as in own own bodies.