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Barbara Storz (Photo by Larry W. Clubb)

Beets are often referred to as a “superfood” because they are low in calories and contain essential nutrients needed for our wellbeing. The beet root also has several compounds that allow for our growth and development and these compounds help us fight diseases, including cancer.

Beet greens contain high levels of vitamins A, K, C, and E, also key to staving off diseases and maintaining our immune system, as well as contributing to good bone health and eye health.

Beets have few calories, about 44 per 3.5 ounces of beet root. They are rich in folate (vitamin B9), which is an essential vitamin that plays a major role in growth and development, and heart health. Folate is important to cell growth and red blood cell formation. Folate protects against dementia and memory loss by improving blood flow in the brain. Manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron and vitamin C and several B vitamins are present in the beet root.

The beet root contains natural nitrates that convert to nitric oxide which lowers blood pressure and increase blood flow. Nitrates also increase oxygen uptake in the body which is why athletes frequently consume beet juice within a couple of hours of their workouts. (Note: Natural nitrates help the body and perform many functions. They are not harmful like the nitrates added to processed meat.)

Beet root has anti-inflammatory effects on the body including reduction of several areas of inflammation in the brain, joints and associated with the heart. Studies indicate regular consumption of beet root may reduce pain and discomfort associated with arthritis.

Beets are very versatile and easy to incorporate into the diet. They are a great addition to a salad or added to your juice. When cooking beets, roasting them with olive oil is a good way to retain all of their beneficial compounds and is much preferred over boiling.

The Farmers Market at Fireman’s Park will have beets Saturday, June 15, and a demonstration on ways to prepare beets at 10 a.m. They also have free recipes at the Welcome Desk. This farmers market is located at 201 N. 1st Street, just off Business 83, next to Town Lake. The market is open from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and they are under the large, covered area in the park.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist who writes about plants that grow well in South Texas. You can follow her on Facebook.