At the start of the year I made the resolution to turn a new leaf and focus on incorporating more leafy greens and veggies into my daily routine. And surprisingly, you can get downright green with beets! Join me in basking in beet glory with my Plant-Based Beet Salad with Lemon-Herb Nut Cheese recipe.

Beets: Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

From borscht to salads, beets are a versatile vegetable. Kvass, juice, salad, sauté, roast, shred, or pickle them – whatever floats your beet!

Beet Greens

Beets were originally grown for their leaves and can be eaten in any way you would their close relative, chard, but because their roots offer such a spectacular spectrum of flavors, shapes, sizes, and colors, the leaves are often overlooked. In an effort to encourage you to make the most of the whole vegetable, I’ve included slivered beet leaves in my Dairy-Free Beet Salad with Plant-Based Lemon-Herb Nut Cheese recipe below.

Buying Beets

As beets grow in the ground, their taste is directly influenced by the quality of the soil. When buying beets, opt for organic beets grown in compost-rich soil for a sweeter and cleaner flavor.

Functional Nutrition: The health benefits of beets:

  • Beets are great for our blood and nervous system, making them helpful in combating anemia, aiding circulation, and supporting heart function.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals, beet roots provide calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B, and vitamin C. Better yet, the beet leaves are even more nutritious, with additional stores of beta-carotene and folate!
  • Betalains, a unique class of phytonutrients in beets, have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, which support toxin elimination. Note: This class of phytonutrients is easily destroyed with too much heat. Be sure to include some raw, fermented, and/or low cooked beets in your diet to maximize these health benefits!
  • Beets stimulate liver, bowel, kidney and lymphatic functions, enhancing the elimination of toxins and waste.
  • An impressive array of antioxidants in beets make them allies against the cold and flu. Bonus: those antioxidants promote eye health too!
  • Speaking of cold and flu, beet juices and soups (like borscht) are potent decongestants which can help to clear the phlegm brought on by coughs and colds.
  • Because of its rich antioxidant and phytonutrient properties, the beet has even received attention for its cancer-risk reducing potential. That’s right, eat beets to help beat cancer!
  • The nitrates, a chemical compound often used to treat heart conditions, in beets widen the blood vessels to help the blood circulate, helping to lower blood pressure and enhance exercise endurance.
  • Lastly, and not so surprisingly, my favorite health benefit as a Functional Medicine Nutritionist has to do with the digestive system. Beets contain a specific type of fiber that facilitates digestion and absorption, helping to alleviate conditions associated with stagnation, such as headaches, fatigue and skin problems.

A word of caution:

Beets are high in easily-assimilated sugars. These can provide a good and natural source of energy and revitalization when necessary, like after a workout. However, if you’re following a very low carbohydrate diet for any health-related reason, beets may not yet be your best friend.

Beet Salad with Lemon-Herb Nut Cheese

This is my adaptation of a recipe from Raven’s Restaurant in Mendocino, CA as featured in Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier. It’s so good, even those otherwise dubious of beets are sure to love it. I first placed this dish in front of my son Gilbert when he was just a kid, and he gobbled it up within minutes!

Serves approximately 2 to 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 small red beets and their greens

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/8 cup chopped shallot
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (start with less and add according to your taste)
  • 3-5 drops liquid lemon or plain stevia
  • a good pinch (or two) sea salt

Lemon-Herb Nut Cheese:

  • 1/2 cup raw or sprouted walnuts
  • zest from one lemon
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • pinch sea salt
  • sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450℉. 
  2. Prepare the beet roots by removing the greens (don’t throw them away!) and scraggly tail. Wash the roots and wrap them individually in small sheets of parchment paper, twisting the paper around the top.
  3. Roast the beet roots for 30 minutes.
  4. While the beet roots are roasting, blend dressing ingredients until well combined. Set aside. You will have enough dressing to last beyond this salad unless you use extra greens.
  5. Make the plant-based cheese by pulsing lemon-herb nut cheese ingredients together in a food processor until they resemble a coarse crumbled cheese.
  6. Cut the stems off the beet greens. Slice the leaves into ribbons. Place them into a pan with a very small splash of water and sauté until just wilted.
  7. Remove the beet roots from the oven. When the paper is cool to touch, open them and allow the beets to cool. Slip off the skins and first cut the beet in half and then slice those halves into half moons.
  8. To serve, arrange the beet greens on a small plate. Top with sliced beets. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle nut cheese on top. Add more sea salt and pepper to satisfy your taste buds.

If adding more plant-based recipes to your recipe book is on your resolution list, I only hope this Dairy-Free Beet Salad helps you ‘turn a new leaf’ in the new year the way it did for me this past year. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!


References:

Mirmiran P, Houshialsadat Z, Gaeini Z, Bahadoran Z, Azizi F. Functional properties of beetroot (Beta vulgaris) in management of cardio-metabolic diseases. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2020;17:3. Published 2020 Jan 7. doi:10.1186/s12986-019-0421-0

López-Millán AF, Morales F, Andaluz S, et al. Responses of sugar beet roots to iron deficiency. Changes in carbon assimilation and oxygen use. Plant Physiol. 2000;124(2):885-898. doi:10.1104/pp.124.2.885Nirmal S, Olatunde OO, Medhe S, Vitti S, Khemtong C, Nirmal NP. Betalains Alleviate Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Fatigue and Improve Sports Performance: an Update on Recent Advancement. Curr Nutr Rep. Published online October 12, 2023. doi:10.1007/s13668-023-00500-0


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