Root for Red!

In my early days in Singapore, my dear Granny would cook her wonderful chicken and beetroot dish every Friday. On an aromatic base of lightly fried onions, turmeric, garlic and ginger, the chicken was browned and the thinly sliced fresh beetroot added last of all … 

I forgot all about Gran’s delicious dish when I came to live in Sydney. We seldom had beetroot – when we did, it was for a salad or a sandwich and out of a can.

A few years ago, my lovely friend Debbie (of Thermomix fame) and her partner Phil invited us for lunch. Deb is a wonderful cook – and knowing how I love a good, healthy salad, made one topped with raw, grated beetroot. I never thought raw beetroot would taste so good. It was crunchy, even sweet, and full of fabulous FIBRE. I had 2 servings and copied her recipe. 

That week, I bought a huge beetroot at the supermarket. I scrubbed it thoroughly and grated a quarter of it raw to have with my salad, cutting the rest in 3 pieces and putting them in a saucepan half-filled with salted water to cook on a low flame. (Remember to slightly lift the lid when the water starts to boil to avoid spillage and splashing red all over your stove!)

It should all be done in about 20 minutes. Leave the beetroot to cool, peel the skin, slice and store in a wide-lipped glass jar. Add apple cider vinegar, and with the cap shut tight, turn it upside down and shake to let the vinegar soak through. A large 500g beetroot will give you at least 3–4 servings in a salad, a sandwich or added to a chicken dish similar to Gran’s.

You can avoid the can

I’ll never have beetroot in cans again – not with all the added sugar, food acids, salt, and so-called “herb and spice flavours”. 

But I wanted to know more about the beetroot. I found this in my Health folder:

The Romans apparently took beetroot for constipation (they were right!), and Hippocrates used its leaves as bindings for wounds. Rebecca Flavel, an accredited practising dietician had this to add in her article

“Beets are rich in a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains which have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties. Beetroots contain vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fibre. They are also high in vitamins C and B6 (pyridoxine) folate, manganese, betaine and potassium. 

“They are also rich in nitrates which help muscles use oxygen more efficiently. Keep in mind these are naturally occurring nitrates which are healthy and not the ones found in processed foods like hot dogs and luncheon meats.”

More recently, beetroot has taken on a ‘power food’ status. A US study found daily beetroot juice (approx 250–300mls diluted with water) improved exercise endurance and significantly reduced resting systolic blood pressure in elderly patients.

Adding nitrate-rich beetroot juice to your workouts can enhance athletic performance in both short duration and longer, more endurance-based events. 

Betalains, the red pigments in beetroot, are strong antioxidants. If not completely absorbed by your colon, it may show in your pee or poo; but please don’t be alarmed – it lasts no more than 48 hours and is harmless. 

TIP: Having beetroot juice at least 40 minutes before a meal allows its super nutrients to be absorbed much faster and more efficiently. 

I invite you all to “Go Red” – and root for this vegetable!

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