globes with a vegetable brush under cold running water. You can cook
them whole or slice them. Peel before (or after) cooking.
Happens When You Cook Beets
and betaxanthin, the red betalain pigments in beets, are water-soluble.
(That's why borscht is a scarlet soup.) Betacyanins and betaxanthins
turn more intensely red when you add acids; think of scarlet
sweet-and-sour beets in lemon juice or vinegar with sugar. They turn
slightly blue in a basic (alkaline) solution such as baking soda and
carrots, beets have such stiff cell walls that it is hard for the human
digestive tract to extract the nutrients inside. Cooking will not soften
the cellulose in the beet's cell walls, but it will dissolve enough
hemicellulose so that digestive juices are able to penetrate. Cooking
also activates flavor molecules in beets, making them taste better.
Other Kinds of Processing Affect Beets
Beets lose neither their color nor their texture in canning.
Uses and/or Benefits of Beets
of some birth defects. As many as two of every 1,000 babies born in the
United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal
cord) defect due to their mothers' not having gotten adequate amounts of
folate during pregnancy. The current RDA for folate is 180 mcg for a
woman and 200 mcg for a man, but the FDA now recommends 400 mcg for a
woman who is or may become pregnant. Taking folate supplements before
becoming pregnant and continuing through the first two months of
pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking Eolate through the
entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.
Effects Associated with Beets
urine and feces. The ability to metabolize betacyanins and be taxanthins
is a genetic trait. People with two recessive genes for this trait
cannot break down these red pigments, which will be excreted, bright
red, in urine. Eating beets can also turn feces red, but it will not
cause a false-positive result in a test for occult blood in the stool.
Nitrosamine formation. Beets, celery, eggplant, lettuce, radishes,
spinach, and collard and turnip greens contain nitrates that convert
naturally into nitrites in your stomach—where some of the nitrites
combine with amines to form nitrosamines, some of which are known
carcinogens. This natural chemical reaction presents no known problems
for a healthy adult. However, when these vegetables are cooked and left
standing for a while at room temperature, microorganisms that convert
nitrates to nitrites begin to multiply, and the amount of nitrites in
the food rises. The resulting higher-nitrite foods may be dangerous for