Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Let's Learn about Beet Nutrition

My friend Dan and I made dinner the other night at his place up in Washington Heights (he's subletting through the end of summer), and although we did not cook beets, the conversation turned to beets at one point. And I realized we had very different impressions of beets' nutritional value, Dan having heard that they're a superfood, I having thought that they're made more or less the way Dave Chappelle describes purple drink (sugar, water, purple). Of course we both understand that beets are delicious.

But what is the true story here? Well, it's probably on the Internet. Googling "beet nutrition" will run you into some light content-farm congestion. (Sample first sentence: "Beets are delightful for their color and flavor as well as for their beet nutrition.") It sounds like the real answer (here's a website with a bar graph, for example, which indicates that science is happening) involves B vitamins, antioxidants, and manganese. I'm guessing it's the antioxidants giving them the superfood rep, and I don't believe in antioxidants; so beyond that it sounds like you've just got some second-tier vitamins and minerals. But, that's still not a bad package (fiber, deliciousness, purple). And I have no idea what manganese does, biochemically, but sure, let's all make sure we're getting enough manganese.

Anyway, again, no beets were consumed Sunday night, or really for a while, by me. (Back in like October, Maddie and I cooked a huge tureen of borscht from a surprisingly complicated Veselka Cookbook recipe, a moderate success that I remember fondly because I hadn't stopped eating pig yet and it had a pound and a half of pork shoulder in it. We also indulge now and then in this one brand of really awesome pickled beets.) Dan had made an oven-roasted gazpacho so we had that with fish tacos and homemade mango salsa, and then it turned out he'd made a three-berry pie the night before (!) so we had cold, refreshing pie out of the fridge. All of this was awesome. I haven't been cooking very responsibly in 2011 without Maddie's involvement, but cooking simply and sociably seems to help.


Blogger nate said...

Beets are delicious! Kyle and I stopped worrying and learned to love them a couple of years ago. Mainly we roast them and toss them with blue cheese, balsamic vinegar and oil.

The greens, when you can get them, cook up really nicely too: We saute them in olive oil with a few red pepper flakes and maybe a little bit of nutmeg. Also liberal amounts of salt, or other kinds of greens as needed to get a large enough portion. The greens together with the roasted beets make a pretty satisfying meal, ideally along with some crusty bread and a bold red wine.

Do note that the purple probably has little nutritional content itself, as it tends to just sluice right through you over the ensuing days. Not to be gross; just remember, if you had a pound of beets for dinner last night it's probably not renal failure.

8/02/2011 8:13 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

You know the weird thing about the purple? At least according to the Internet? Is that only 10 to 15 percent of people who eat beets get purple urine. I don't quite believe that: I mean, isn't that just an unnegotiable consequence?

8/02/2011 9:41 PM  
Blogger nate said...

Now I sort of want to identify this 90% of the populace that doesn't experience, uh, redness after eating beets, and I have no idea how to go about that.

8/02/2011 9:47 PM  

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