What are Super Foods?
Super foods are a term that's thrown around a lot to describe a food that is a nutritional rockstar. Most often they describe the newest, exotic food - such as acai berry - which is then thrown into a supplement and promoted all over, especially on Dr. Oz.
The power of food is the nutrients work synergistically with each other to create a combination that makes it a super food. That's why supplements don't work as well as getting nutrients from food. There are thousands of compounds in the food that work together to create a whole, nutritious food. I define super foods as whole foods that are nutrient-dense and promote vibrant health!
Our daily diet should be full of super foods - leafy green veggies, colorful and antioxidant rich fruit, high-quality protein, and variety. You can't just pop a supplement while eating a nutrient-poor, processed food diet and expect health benefits. You can expect to feel awesome from one simple nutritional change, though, such as eating leafy green veggies at your meals.
Deep, rich colors indicate a nutrient-dense, powerful plant! If you look for rich colors in your food - such as dark, leafy green veggies, berries, beets, pomegranates, and more - you're guaranteed to get tons of nutrition. One of my favorite "super foods" lately are beets!
Beets are not the prettiest plant on the outside when compared to the other veggies in the store. They're usually hidden and covered in a dirt-crusted peel. While cooking them, you'll probably stain your fingers red, but it's totally worth it.
Once you go through the long (but easy) process of preparing them, you finally see their beautiful, deep pink/red color. They will likely turn everything else on your plate pink, but it's that rich color that makes beets a special standout in the plant world. Serve them with the accompanying beet greens, and you are pumping your cells full of the nutrients they want.
Health Benefits of Beets
Beets have the power to decrease inflammation and promote detoxification within your body. The anti-inflammatory compounds in beets, including betaine, regulate inflammation and are being studied for heart disease. One study used beet juice and found that it dropped blood pressure by over 10 points and worked within a few hours of consuming it! That's more of a drop than you'll see with most blood pressure medications.
The compounds betalain supports detoxification via the phase 2 detox system in our liver. Beets stimulate glutathione - our master antioxidant - and supports the elimination of toxins like pesticides from our bodies. Without essential nutrients, we clog up and slow down our natural detoxification system!
I'd rather eat beets to ward off inflammation and get rid of toxins from our food and environment than taking any unknown "detox diet" supplement! If you're an endurance athlete, you may want to consider adding beets or beet juice to your routine. One study used beet juice in cyclists, and they were able to cycle 16% longer.
The beet juice increased the oxygen available to their muscles because the nitrates in it convert to nitric oxide, which dilates our blood vessels. Many Olympic athletes are turning to the very legal beet juice to improve performance. Rockstar runner Ryan Hall even reports drinking it, and he runs a pretty fast marathon. In the time he runs a full marathon, I'm just finishing up a half.
If you want to include more beets into your diet, skip the canned ones, and bag up a few fresh ones from the grocery store or farmer's market.
Fun Ways to Eat Beets
- Roasted in their skin for 60-90 minutes. Once they're done, the peel easily comes off, and you're left with a tender beet. Throw some goat cheese on them and toss in a salad for a delicious and fancy-looking way to serve them.
- Eat them raw! Peel the beets, and use a food processor to shred them or a mandolin to create beet ribbons or slices. You can make a raw beet salad with these, or even beet chips in the oven.
- Mix it up and try golden beets. This variety are golden yellow in color, and the best part of these beets is the color doesn't stain everything.
- If you're feeling adventurous, try out a beet juice. Vegetable juices are much lower in sugar and higher in nutrients than fruit juices. It would be great after a workout! I recently tried the Love Beets beet juice and beet & cherry juice that I found at Whole Foods. The beet & cherry one was delicious & perfect after a run!
- Spice Crusted Salmon with Ginger Beets - incredibly anti-inflammatory meal with the omega 3 fatty acids from the salmon and the anti-inflammatory ginger. Throw it on top of a plate of leafy greens (beet greens, perhaps?) for a super nutrient-dense meal!
- I've never made Borscht, but this traditional Russian beet soup sounds like a hearty soup to try out.
- Beet Kvass. Fermented foods are great for our health!
- Finally, my favorite combination - beets and goat cheese.
What's your favorite way to eat beets? Any good beet recipes to share?