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Better Beets

No one is exactly sure when people began eating beets, but they appear to have been eaten in pre-historic Europe and during the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Roman empires. Beets have been used for food, dye and medicine. Fresh, young beets provide two vegetables for the price of one since both the root and the young, tender greens can be eaten.

Beets are resistant to frost so they can be planted early. They typically are red, but you can find varieties that are white or golden. Choose beets that are less than 3 inches in diameter. Larger beets may be woody and less sweet. Cut the greens off from the root leaving about one inch of stem. Store the greens separately in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Do not eat the greens if they are wilted or ragged.

Beet roots are generally either boiled, steamed or roasted and then used in soups, salads and hot side dishes. They are also a beautiful garnish on a plate. We in the South especially enjoy pickled beets. The tender, raw greens can be used in salads, but most people like them cooked and served cold with a vinegary salad dressing, or as a hot vegetable.

A half cup of cooked beets has 37 calories, 8.5 grams of carbohydrate, 65 milligrams of sodium and negligible amounts of protein and fat. They also provide vitamin K, folate and vitamin A. Many people think beets are rich in iron because they are red, but this is not true. If beets help with anemia at all, it is because of the folate.

Recipe: Harvard Beets

Harvard beets

Harvard beets are a traditional favorite in the Midwest and Northeast. Here is a recipe that has been modified to reduce the added sugar and fat.


  • 1 pound fresh beets*
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or 2 packets of
  • sugar substitute
  • ┬╝ cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced fat margarine


  1. Trim the beets, leaving a 1-inch stem.
  2. Steam until tender, but not mushy, approximately 20-30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and cool in a colander.
  4. Once cool, cut off the stems and rub off the skins.
  5. Cut into small chunks or slices.
  6. In a medium saucepan, combine water, cornstarch and vinegar.
  7. Cook over low heat until thickened and clear (about 5 minutes).
  8. Stir in the margarine and then the beets. Reheat.

*You can substitute canned beets that have been drained. Substitute 1/4 cup of the drained juice for the cold water to make the sauce. This version will be saltier.

4 servings

Nutrition Analysis
Calories: 80, carbohydrate: 17 grams, protein: 1 gram, fat: 1 gram, sodium: 89 milligrams, fiber: 2 grams