The Not-So-Humble Beet

May 28, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Ukrainian Borscht: This classic soup is a treat to both the palate and the body.   (Photo.com)
Ukrainian Borscht: This classic soup is a treat to both the palate and the body. (Photo.com)
Along with ample exercise and sleep to keep our bodies in good balance, we need to look at what we eat and how we eat. Choosing foods that are rich in multiple nutrients and are easy to prepare is an excellent way to ensure a healthy diet. Beetroot, or beets, as they are more commonly known, offer a wide variety of serving ideas as well as great nutritional value. They can be served raw, pickled, steamed, boiled, or roasted on their own or in combination with other vegetables. They are great shredded into a salad and carry a wonderfully pungent sweet flavor when freshly baked.

Some of the features of beets that make them a super food is that they are high in folate, which means that they will help keep you looking and feeling young, since folate is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells. It also helps prevent birth defects since folate is essential for normal tissue growth.

Beets are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that binds toxins, heavy metals, and excess hormones and then carries these toxins out of the body so that they are not reabsorbed.

Beets are a wonderful source of potassium, which can be lost when suffering from excessive fluid loss due to heavy sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. Eating beets is one natural way to replace that lost potassium. When we don’t get enough potassium we can suffer from fatigue, muscle cramps, and abdominal pain.

Finally, beets are known to be excellent for our heart. They help fight off heart disease with their anti-inflammatory compounds and their power to lower one’s level of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol).

So give your body a boost and try the following delectable soup recipe, borscht. This recipe came to me by way of my Ukrainian grandmother. It is served at Christmastime, and is a vegan recipe. In the Ukraine, Christmas Eve dinner is a twelve-dish meatless fare.

Christmas Borscht

Serves 12

Ingredients:

2 pounds of beets, peeled and quartered
1-quarter (about 3 cups) head of fresh cabbage, shredded
2 carrot sticks, peeled and thickly sliced
2 cups green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium size dry onion, diced
2-3 dried bay leaves
1 28-ounce can of plain tomato sauce
1 package dried mushrooms, soaked for at least 30 minutes, diced and water reserved
Fresh pepper, salt, and maggi* to taste
6 quarts of water
Fresh dill, for garnish

Method:

1. In an eight-quart stockpot put the first five ingredients. Then filled the pot half way with cold water and stir the ingredients well. Finish filling the pot with water leaving a couple of inches from the top and stir contents again.
2. Stir in tomato sauce.
3. Add bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
4. Stir in reserved water from mushrooms.
5. Turn the burner on and set to high until the water just comes to a boil. Don’t let the soup boil hard or you will wind up with a brown, flat-tasting soup.
6. Turn the temperature down to simmer and let the soup cook for about two hours, until the cabbage is soft bit not limp.
7. Remove the bay leaves.
8. Stir in maggi.
9. When ready to serve, garnish each bowl with fresh dill.

Bon appétit, or as the Ukrainians say it, Smachnoho!

*Maggi is a liquid flavor enhancer.