Few things in the world are naturally purple: hydrangeas, grapes, Barney (arguably), and… beets.And while many may associate beets with the rock band (thanks to Nickelodeon’s Doug) these semi-awkward looking roots are more than the creators of Killer Tofu. An all-star veggie, beets contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help fight disease and strengthen the vital organs.

You Can’t Beet the Benefits!—Why They’re Super

Beets get their vibrant color from antioxidant betalains, purple pigments that are more than just pretty-looking. The betalain concentration in beets is higher than in most vegetables, and studies suggest betalains may help ward off cancer and other degenerative diseasesBetalains–a new class of dietary cationized antioxidants. Kanner J, Harel S, Granit R. Department of Food Science, Institute of Technology and Storage of Agricultural Products, Agricultural Research Organization, Bet Dagan, Israel. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov; 49(11):5178-85Chemoprevention of DMBA-induced UV-B promoted, NOR-1-induced TPA promoted skin carcinogenesis, and DEN-induced phenobarbital promoted liver tumors in mice by extract of beetroot. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Howard University, Washington DC. Pharmacol Res. 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8. In case fighting cancer isn’t enough, beets also know their alphabet; they contain Vitamins A, B, and C, which all make our bodies feel beeetautiful by bolstering the immune system, manufacturing red blood cells, and producing collagen. Beets are also packed with potassium, which helps vital organs run properly, and fiber, which keeps things in the digestive track flowing. Perhaps the gold-metal nutrient in beets is folateAccumulation and distribution of free folic acid content in red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) Wang M, Goldman IL. Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, Madison WI, Plant foods for human nutrition. 1997;50(1):1-8.. A B9 vitamin, folate helps strengthen neural tubes, and pregnant women should consume folate to reduce the risk of neural defects in babies. But don’t worry, gentlemen— folic acid can help prevent gray hair, so there’s a reason for everybody to hop on the beet bus!

Can’t Stop the Beet—Your Action Plan

Though beets pack in a ton of nutrients, a one-cup serving has just 58 calories. Keep in mind that beets contain natural sugars—about nine grams per serving—so diabetics and other people trying to limit their sugar intake shouldn’t overdo it in the beet-aisle. But for most, beets’ sweetness shouldn’t pose a problem. There are many simple, delicious ways to prepare beets, including boiling, baking, steaming them in the microwave, or eating them raw. Beet greens and stems are also edible; just treat them like spinach or swiss chard. It’s even possible to consume beets in liquid form—just make sure to add beet juice to other vegetable or fruit juices, as beet juice alone can cause some negative side effects like discolored urine. Beets are available year-round, but the best time to buy them is June through October, when they’re in season. Grab some then when they’re especially tender and fresh!

Superfood Recipe: Apricot Roasted Chicken and Beets with Fall Vegetables

Photo by Kate Morin

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 2 large beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes 2 large fennel bulbs, tops removed, each cut into 8 wedges 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup apricot jam mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water 1 whole chicken, split 1 lemon, cut into wedges Salt and Pepper to taste

What to Do:

  1. Heat oven to 450.
  2. In a heavy baking pan, toss vegetables with oil and half of jam mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken pieces and lemon wedges to roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, and return to oven. Roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from oven and glaze chicken in remaining apricot mixture.
  5. Return to oven until cooked through, about 20 more minutes.