Beets are best known for their bright red hue and bevy of nutrients. But the root vegetable also grows in a variety of colors that can range from yellow to banded red and white. While most people know that the flesh of the beet can be eaten — dried, pickled, roasted or raw, to name a few preparations — the leaves are also edible as a salad green.
Not only can you eat raw beet flesh — or try it dried, pickled, roasted or juiced — but beet leaves are also edible as a salad green.
What Parts of Beets Can You Eat Raw?
Beetroot leaves are most similar in flavor to chard or spinach, with a slightly bitter flavor, and are commonly used as a salad green or sautéed like spinach. The root portion of beets, however, is very sweet. In order to mitigate this sweetness, beetroot is commonly cooked or pickled.
Raw beetroot is the most nutritious form of this vegetable. The more heat is applied, the fewer antioxidants and nutrients are retained. This is the case for other food processing techniques as well.
A 2016 study in the Journal of Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science showed that beets typically lose nutrients, with the exception of vitamin C, when pickled. Raw beetroots and beetroot juice contain the most antioxidants and nutrients. Beets are a particularly good source of folate, manganese and potassium.
Best Way to Eat Beets
Raw beets can be a delicious way to add a bit of crunch and color to your meal. Raw beets can be peeled and grated and used to make pink variations of coleslaw or incorporated into salads.
A popular way to eat raw beets is to make them into smoothies with antioxidant-rich fruits, like raspberries and blueberries. You can also juice beets whole (skin and all!) along with sweet and spicy foods, like apple and ginger, to make tasty beverages.
Looking for some creative ways to incorporate beets into your cooking? Try one of these recipes.
The Health Benefits of Raw Beets
Eating raw beets has been associated with a wide range of benefits, such as potentially improving the performance of athletes, particularly in environments with low oxygen levels.
- A 2013 study in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine showed that beetroot juice enhanced cycling performance in simulated altitude conditions.
- A 2015 study in the Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that beetroot juice also improved the performance of national and international-level kayakers.
- A 2012 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that eating a whole, baked beetroot could improve running performance.
Additionally, several studies, including a 2012 study in the Nutrition Journal, a 2012 study in the British Journal of Nutrition and 2016 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure have shown that beetroot juice can lower blood pressure. This is the case for both healthy people and those with a history of heart problems.
- BBC Good Food: The health benefits of beetroot
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance
- British Journal of Nutrition: Blood pressure-lowering effects of beetroot juice and novel beetrootenriched bread products in normotensive male subjects
- Nutrition Journal: Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
- JACC Heart Failure: One Week of Daily Dosing With Beetroot Juice Improves Submaximal Endurance and Blood Pressure in Older Patients With Heart Failure and Preserved Ejection Fraction
- Journal of Nutrients: The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease
- Journal of American College of Sports Medicine: A Single Dose of Beetroot Juice Enhances Cycling Performance in Simulated Altitude
- Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Beetroot Juice Improves On-Water 500 M Time-Trial Performance, and Laboratory-Based Paddling Economy in National and International-Level Kayak Athletes
- Nigerian Journal of Basic and Applied Science: Antioxidant and Antioxidant capacity of raw and processed Nigerian Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)
- Illinois.edu: Vegetable Dictionary: Beets
- Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science: Changes Occur On Nutritional Value of Beetroot (“Beta Vulgaris”) after Pickling
- ASPCA: Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants
- British Medical Journal: POISONING BY BEETROOT