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Meet the Beet!

Behind every winning team is a “secret sauce” needed to win championships. And in the case of Auburn’s football team, their game-winning formula has finally been revealed: beets. That’s right, the Southeastern Conference winner’s secret to success is beet juice -And they’re not drinking it for the taste. In recent years, studies have revealed possible performance benefits of beets, ranging from increased muscle efficiency to decreased fatigue.  Whether you believe the hype or not, we’ve compiled an “unbeetable” guide to this must-try veggie.  

Meet the Beet

When to eat Beets: Beets are a veggie that comes from the same family as Swiss chard and spinach. They’re often thought of as a fall and winter food, but they’re at their best when truly in season, from early summer through mid-autumn.

Buying Beets: You’ll most often see beets with their greens still attached during the summer and early fall. When buying beets, look for leaves that are vibrant, deep green, bright and firm; it means the beets are freshly dug and the tops themselves will be great for eating — treat them as you would Swiss chard or other cooking greens. Don’t fret too much if the leaves are missing or look a little yellow; the beet can still be great. In this case, focus on the root itself. It should be smooth-skinned, not wrinkly and hard to the touch. Remember to pick small to medium-sized beets similar in size to ensure even cooking.

Storing Your Beets: When you get home, separate the greens from the roots by twisting gently, leaving behind a one-to-two-inch stem. Stored in a plastic bag, the unwashed roots will stay fresh in the refrigerator crisper drawer for a few weeks. The greens—once wrapped in a damp paper towel—should last for a few days in the fridge.

Beauty in the Beets

Ok, so they may not be the prettiest looking vegetable, but studies have shown they pack a whole lot of health benefits:

· Lower Blood Pressure: Drinking beet juice may help to lower blood pressure in a matter of hours. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points. What's more, that drop in blood pressure was sustained for up to 24 hours after the juice was consumed.

· Boost Stamina: Need a boost to make it through your workout? Put down the Gatorade; beets just may again prove valuable. Studies have shown that nitrates found in beets not only lower blood pressure but improve stamina by reducing the oxygen needed by muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently and slow fatigue.

· Fight Inflammation: Beets are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It's also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.

· Prevent Cancer: Betacyanin, the natural compound that give beets their deep crimson color may help to ward off cancer. Research has shown that betacyanin can lessen tumor cell growth, particularly tumors in the colon, stomach, lung, breast and prostate.

If you've never tried beets before, don't let them intimidate you. There are tons of ways to enjoy the benefits of beets – raw, juiced, pickled, you name it! Here are some of our favorite beet recipes:

Steamed or Roasted Beets and Beet Greens with Tahini Sauce: A pungent Middle Eastern tahini sauce is all that is needed to season these simply steamed beets and their blanched greens.

Raw Beet Salad: This is a refreshing salad that has great staying power.

Ginger-Beet Juice: In this healthy ginger-beet juice recipe, we pack in vegetables by adding kale and a carrot, and sweeten with an orange and apple. No juicer? No problem. See the juicing variation to make this beet juice recipe in the blender.

Pickled Beets: Add crunch and color to your meal with our favorite recipe for pickled beets.

Love ‘em, hate ‘em? What do you think about beets? Share your comments below.


Sources:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx

http://online.wsj.com/articles/auburns-secret-sauce-beet-juice-1410978433

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/sheila-kealey/beet-juice-olympics_b_1723807.html

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