Beets are a nutritious root vegetable that have slightly bitter, flavorful leaves and sweet bulbs. Prepare beet greens as you would prepare spinach or kale -- by boiling, sautéing or microwaving. Select fresh beets with crisp greens to get the best flavor and the most nutrients. Beet greens contain moderate levels of vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as low levels of folate. Additionally, beet greens provide fiber and add flavor to salads, sauces and stir-frys.
One-half cup of cooked beet greens have 30 percent of your daily vitamin C intake. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that acts as a coenzyme to help synthesize certain amino acids. Additionally, vitamin C is necessary to produce collagen, a protein that supports healthy skin, bones, teeth and blood vessels. Your immune system also needs vitamin C to make white blood cells which fight off infections. About 90 percent of vitamin C in the American diet comes from fruits and vegetables, such as beet greens.
Beet greens are also high in vitamin A, according to Nellie Hedstrom, nutrition specialist for the University of Maine Extension service. Your body uses fat to process and store vitamin A, which remains in your system longer than water soluble vitamins. Vitamin A is necessary for good vision, playing a role in light absorption in the rods and cones of your retina. You also need vitamin A for cell differentiation, immunity and healthy skin.
Beet greens are a significant source of vitamin K, a nutrient that helps control the clotting factors of your blood. The average adult male requires 120 micrograms of vitamin K and the average female adult needs 90 micrograms. One cup of raw beet greens will provide 152 micrograms of this nutrient.
Beet greens have a bitter flavor that pairs well with savory ingredients such as olive oil, garlic, onions and sharp cheeses. Rinse beet greens and trim away the stems before cooking. Boil beet greens in a couple of inches of water or broth, then saute them in oil and spices. Add red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper for a spicy kick. Sprinkle a little grated parmesean or asiago onto your greens before serving if you enjoy cheese.
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension; Beets and Beet Greens; Kathleen Savoie, et al.; 2009
- The New York Times; Sautéed Beet Greens With Garlic and Olive Oil; Martha Rose Shulman; August 2008
- United States Department of Agriculture: Beet Greens, Raw
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin K