Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Healthy Foods for the Family: Beets!

I will admit it: I grew up absolutely despising beets. My mom would only serve beets in a beet salad where the beets were boiled and some mayo was added to them.... disgusting to me even today. However, about 6 years ago, I rediscovered beets and have been in love ever since.

Beets are great, roasted and added on salads or sandwiches (I especially love mixing them with goat cheese or just grating them on a salad). For kids, beet hummus is usually a favorite and then there is beet juice. It is sweet and has a lovely deep purple color which kids - and parents- tend to love.

The great thing about beets is that they really are amazingly healthy for the whole family. They are loaded with:

  • - calcium
  • - iron 
  • - Vitamins A and C 
  • - fibre, manganese and potassium 
  • - folic acid
  • phosphorous, magnesium, iron and Vitamin B6.
It is also helpful when dealing with

  • - anemia
  • - has been found to help lower blood pressure
  • - Beetroot fibre has been shown to increase the level of antioxidant enzymes in the body, as well as increase the number of white blood cells, which are responsible for detecting and eliminating abnormal cells


Many parents have heard of the dangers associated with foods that contain added nitrates. Synthetically added nitrates are used on cured meats, bacon, salami and sausages to give them color and to prolong their shelf life. When added to processed foods in this way, both nitrates and nitrites can form nitrosamines in the body, which can increase your risk of developing cancer.

Leafy green veggies like spinach, carrots, green beans, lettuce, celery and beetroot contain naturally occurring nitrates.

The toxic nitrates that are added to cured meats are different from the nitrates that occur naturally in root vegetables like beets. The naturally occurring nitrates in food come with vitamin C and other compounds that naturally inhibit conversion into nitrosamines. There is no data to suggest that naturally occurring nitrates are harmful... and in fact these vegetables are full of benefits!

If, however, you want to lower the nitrate load for your little ones you can roast or boil the beets, since cooking does reduce the nitrate load.

Beets can be introduced into your little one's diet at around 8-10 months. At this point, their digestive system will be strong enough to digest semi-solid foods, boiled and steamed vegetables.

One last thing about beets: their beautiful pigment (which we have used as food coloring and actually dyed our Easter eggs last year with beets! ) can stain your hands. I they do, rub some lemon juice over them to help remove the color.

Beet hummus is really easy to make.  I like to go slow with the lemon and garlic since my kids prefer a milder taste...  but this recipe from the Minimalist Baker is a favorite.

  • 1 small roasted beet.
  • 1 15 oz. can (1 3/4 cup) cooked chickpeas, mostly drained.
  • zest of one large lemon.
  • juice of half a large lemon.
  • healthy pinch salt and black pepper.
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced.
  • 2 heaping Tbsp tahini.
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. Roast your beets
  2. Once your beet is cooled and peeled, quarter it and place it in your food processor. Blend until only small bits remain.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except for olive oil and blend until smooth.
  4. Drizzle in olive oil as the hummus is mixing.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt, lemon juice or olive oil if needed. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water.
  6. Will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

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