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BEETing Heart Disease & the Competition




Beets, you either love them or think they taste like dirt or "earthy," here's why you should start loving them:


To start they are jam packed with nutrients that are hard to get from other plant sources that help reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and increase blood flow to the brain.


Beets contain nitrates, which opens up blood vessels and aids in healthy circulation and blood flow. The science? Your body converts nitrates --> nitric oxide --> opens up blood vessels and increases blood flow, which increases the oxygen delivery and nutrients to muscles. It also speeds up removal of waste products that can contribute to muscle fatigue.


WAIT ..... but don't deli meats have nitrates? Is that why you shouldn't eat them?


Deli meat vs. beet nitrates:

Let's look at each nutrition profile, deli meats have saturated fat, preservatives, a lot of sodium, and carcinogens vs. beets which are loaded with phytonutrients, fiber, betaine, potassium, and other nutrients.


In addition, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) which is found in smoked, pickled and cured foods (not beets) has been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, like gastrointestinal cancers (particularly rectal). There is also less conversion of nitrate into nitrosamines (carcinogenic compound) with co-ingested antioxidants (found in beets, not meat).



Other benefits:

1. Liver support and natural detoxification

2. Reduced blood pressure, inflammation, and platelet clumping

3. Improve exercise performance and stamina (endurance sports like running, swimming, cycling, and rowing).

4. They contain betaine which may help reduce inflammation and improve strength and power performance in bodybuilders


Forms:

  • Whole beets (red beets, golden, or rainbow varieties) - (you can eat beets raw)

  • Juiced (look for no added sugar varieties)

  • Vacuum sealed (these beets are peeled, cooked, and vacuum sealed!) SUPER convenient

  • Powder


Food waste:

Stems and leaves can be eaten! Saute leaves for a kale or spinach substitute and pickle the stems!


Considerations:

Your body converts nitrates to nitric oxide which expands blood vessels. Research has shown that mouth wash and cigarette smoke inhibits this conversion. Athletes should consume beet root 2-3 hours prior to performance. Beets have been shown to benefit recreational exercisers over highly-trained athletes.


Caution:

Those taking Viagra should consult their dietitian or doctor before talking beet root on a daily or regular basis.

Beet root can turn stool and urine red.



UNBEETABLE RECIPES:


Beet Root Falafel & Collard Green Wrap

Ingredients (serves 4): Makes 20 balls

  • 1 can (or 1 - 3/4 cup) chickpeas

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped

  • 3 clove garlic, crushed

  • 2 cups ready-cooked beetroot --> (vacuum sealed work well)

  • 1 cup sweet potato, mashed with skin

  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin

  • 1 Tbsp coriander

  • 2 tsp paprika

  • 2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 Tbsp parsley

  • 1 Tbsp lemon

  • 4 Tbsp chickpea or almond flour

  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

  • avocado oil

  • 1 egg

For Serving:

  • Collard greens – washed and steamed

  • 2 % Fage Greek yogurt

  • Seasonings: Sumac & Za'atar

Directions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place all ingredients, except egg, sesame seeds, and spray oil, into a food processor.

3. Pulse until ingredients are crumbled and not pureed.

4. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

5. Add egg and mix to combine.

6. Sprinkle the sesame seeds onto a plate. Form the mixture into slightly flattened balls, then gently press each one into the sesame seeds on both sides to lightly coat. Arrange on the baking tray and spray lightly with oil.

7. Bake for 30 minutes until crisp, flip half way.

8. While falafel is cooking, wash and steam collard greens. Lay flat and use as wrap.

  • If leaves are too big to steam, bring a large pot filled 3/4 of the way with water, to a boil. Reduce to simmer and dip leaves, one at a time, in water for 10 seconds. Lay each leaf on flat on a plate and allow to cool.

9. To make sauce combine 2% Fage yogurt with sumac and Za’atar seasoning.

10. Lay collard green leaf flat and use as wrap, add sauce. Enjoy!


Golden Beet & Fennel Slaw

Ingredients:

  • Shaved fennel

  • Sliced or diced golden beets (raw or roasted)

Dressing:

  • Braggs apple cider vinegar dressing

  • Spices: Braggs no salt spice blend

  • To taste: dill, parsley

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place sliced or diced golden beets on baking sheet. Spray with avocado oil spray and BRAGGS spice blend. Roast in oven for 30 minutes. Refrigerate.

2. Once cooled, mix together all ingredients and enjoy!

Beet Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (or 1 - 3/4 cup) chickpeas

  • 1/2 cup tahini

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 2 tsp cumin

  • Juice of 1 fresh lemon

  • 2 cups cooked beet

  • salt to taste

  • Optional: 1 Tbsp honey

Directions:

Add chickpeas and liquid from 1 can to blender. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy. Transfer to bowl and sprinkle with additional cumin and chia seeds if desired. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.


Beet - Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 raw red or golden beets, chopped

  • 1 cup plain or mango salsa

Directions:

  1. Dice beets into small pieces.

  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

  3. Serve with fresh veggies

Use on top of fish, toss into a salad, or add a layer to your favorite whole grain bread!


Breakfast Beet Smoothie:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cooked beets

  • ½ cup fresh or frozen pineapple (contain Bromelain a natural enzyme that aids digestion and can help decrease bloating)

  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds

  • 5 oz 0% fat Siggi’s yogurt

  • ½ tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • ½ cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk

  • 1 cup ice

Directions:

Mix above ingredients in blender or NutriBullet. Quick tip: Make a large batch to have throughout the week for quick, grab and go breakfast.



REFERENCES:

NIH Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance Fact Sheet for Consumers





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Registered Dietitian & Sports Nutritionist
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