Are Beet Greens and Radish Greens Safe to Eat?

Beet greens and radish greens are not only safe to eat, they are packed with nutritional value. Both are hardy plants that are easy to grow. You might even want to grow them primarily for their leaves, which can be harvested gradually as the plant matures. Store-bought beets and radishes also often possess intact greens to prolong the freshness of the vegetables. Beet and radish greens are versatile and suitable for a variety of culinary uses.

Pile of beet greens (Image: Emily Churchill/iStock/Getty Images)

Iron

Don't throw away the leafy tops when you buy fresh beets. Beet greens are highly nutritious, particularly high in minerals, and are an excellent source of iron, says chiropractor Douglas Margel, D.C., in his book "The Nutrient-Dense Eating Plan: A Lifetime Eating Guide to Exceptional Foods." Beet greens contain more calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C than the beet roots, making them potentially more nutritious and lower in sugar than beet roots, according to naturopath Michael T, Murray, in his book "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods." Both the greens and the roots contain good amounts of magnesium, phosophorus, and vitamin B-6. They provide 27 calories and 3.0 g of fiber in a 3.5 oz. serving.

Cooking and Storage

Cook them by sauteing, similar to spinach, or use them raw in salads to derive the most nutritional value from beet greens. Look for fresh, crisp-looking leaves and avoid wilted or damaged leaves. You can revive slightly wilted leaves by cutting them off the beet roots and placing them stem-down in a glass of water in your refrigerator. Beet greens usually keep for up to five days.

Anti-Cancer

Radish greens appear alongside broccoli and kale in a list of vegetables that contain high levels of anti-cancer compounds called sulporaphane indoles in the book "Healthy Longevity Techniques: East-West Anti-Aging Strategies," by Joseph P. Hou, Ph.D. Radish greens may also be used for treating allergies and some heart ailments. Consult your doctor before trying to treat a specific health condition through dietary means though.

Antioxidant

A study published in the February 2004 issue of the "International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition" found that greens from wild radishes showed considerable free radical scavenging ability. Other greens tested in the study included wild carrot, fennel and chicory. Researchers recommend increased consumption of radish and other vegetable greens to promote antioxidant activity.

Greens Smoothies

Radish greens contain as much as six times the vitamin C content of the roots. The trace mineral molybdenum is also present in radish greens, as are potassium and the B-complex vitamin folic acid. Add radish greens to your fruit smoothies, says Victoria Boutenko in the book "Green Smoothie Revolution: The Radical Leap Towards Natural Health." Their fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar from the fruit and their nutrients add to the nutritional value without adding significantly to the calorie count.

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