A favorite food in our home is roasted baby beets. These colorful root vegetables contain nutrients which are "cardiovascular health" friendly. Studies of beets also indicate that they may help defend against memory loss and promote healthy aging. When we roast beets, we roast them with other root vegetables like carrots, onions, leeks, and cauliflower for a healthy and tasty side-dish for lunch or dinner. Any left-overs, a rare occasion, are great to add to soups and sauces. (Spaghetti, anyone?)
The essential nutrient choline in red beets may be oxidized in the body and form a metabolite called betaine. Betaine is a helpful partner in good cardiovascular health. It helps convert homocysteine to methionine, which is thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Alzheimer's disease has been associated with low levels of acetylcholine in the brain. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved in muscle control, memory, and many other functions. Studies in rats show that choline deficiency is associated with an increased incidence of spontaneous liver cancer and increased sensitivity to carcinogenic chemicals. These studies also show that choline deficiency may lead to damaged DNA and abnormal DNA repair.
Both red and golden beets have proven to be a source rich in essential vitamins like vitamin C (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base). Our bodies do not have the ability to make their own vitamin C, so, we have to obtain vitamin C through diet and supplements. Vitamin C is required for the production of collagen, which helps our bodies build blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bone. Vitamin C also helps in the production of another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, for critical brain function.
Although the rough looking exterior of the beet usually has people reaching for a peeler, once cooked the peel becomes tender and flavorful. For those who can't wait 45 minutes to an hour for roasted beets, there are alternatives. Canned beets are usually very inexpensive and available at most grocery stores, while beet salads at upscale markets and delis can run as much as nine or ten dollars a pound.
Roasting only requires cut up chunks of vegetables with the skin on sprayed with olive oil, a little sea salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Served with a pat of butter/canola oil along with a squeeze of lemon and you have a healthy and beautiful centerpiece for almost any meal.
If you want another tasty treat, you might try pickled beets on your hamburgers instead of cucumber pickles. A personal favorite is whole grain toast (using bread like that of Roman Meal), a couple thin slices of ham, a slice of Swiss cheese, and pickled beets and pickled red onion. With left-over turkey try a turkey, cream cheese and cranberry sauce sandwich on whole grain bread. Add pickled beets along with the cranberry sauce. This sandwich might help make up for the additional calories and missing nutrients of heavily buttered holiday mashed potatoes and gravy.
Besides tasting great in a variety of dishes, beets may be a weapon in the fight against memory loss, heart disease, and cancer.
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