Updated: May 2, 2019
I know I was not the only kid back in the day that despised vegetables. Still a very common phenomenon today! I was such a picky eater and the kind of kid that needed all her food in separate sections of the plate. Nothing could touch or be mixed together! My mom certainly tried, but as I progressed through my teens, it didn't get much better. In fact, my very first job at 15 was at McDonald's! I still cannot believe that, but also love how ironic it is. I didn't even like the food, it was just close enough to home to walk to since I couldn't drive yet.
In my mid-twenties I started my yoga practice and met some very influential teachers that inspired me to become vegan. My mom was shocked! I loaded up on cookbooks and quickly realized I was missing out on so much over the years! Food, like real, whole food from the earth is absolutely amazing. Although I realized after many more years veganism did not work for my body, it was a much needed time to indulge myself with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains.
At this point in my life, my next meal is always on my mind. It doesn't take much for me to be inspired by food - the look, texture, smell, combinations, and of course the loads of minerals and vitamins that I know will keep my body healthy. I totally geek out on the science of food and not just what is in it, like beets are loaded with phytochemicals, but what does that mean and why do we need?
You are welcome to jump right to the recipe, or be a little nerdy and stick with me a little longer. Phytochemcials are responsible for giving plants their rich color and unique smells. These components are highly protective in the human body. Circulating inside each and every one of us are reactive oxygen species (ROS, also known as free radicals) that can be produced internally or brought into us from the external environment (toxic substances we eat, breath and absorb). They are poor little guys missing one electron and on a mission to steal the nearest electron from another molecule. Once a ROS is made whole, it leaves another molecule on the mission to replace their electron, and so on. It's a domino effect that begins destroying cells and tissues, progressively leading to inflammation and potential health issues. Like little superheroes, phytochemcials act as an antioxidant (they are anti-oxidation). Their molecular structure has an extra electron that they can give away to each ROS stopping their destructive behavior on our cells and DNA. That right there is like throwing water on the fire.
You see taking a phytochemical as a supplement does not really cut it. There is still continued discovery of more and more types of phytochemicals that exist, and only about 5,000+ are known to science. Even while the discovery continues, we still have yet to fully understand how they all work together. So there is no pill or powder to take - just pick up a beet (or any other fruit, veggie, spice, herb or seed)! For a more in-depth discussion on types of phytochemicals and foods to find them in, check out Dr. Sarah Ballantyne's well detailed discussion on polyphenols, flavonoids, chlorophyll and more!
The phytochemcials in beets are not the whole story though. They are rich in B vitamins (B1 thiamin, B2 riboflavin, B3 niacin, B5 pantothenic acid, B6 pyridoxine & B9 folate), and vitamins A and C as well. Their mineral content includes manganese, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, selenium and betaine (which give beets their detoxification properties).
I enjoy beets roasted with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red onions, parsley and salt/pepper. A great side dish, topped on a salad, or mixed with a grain. However, you can take the roasted beet to the next level and make a beautiful, and delicious, hot pink hummus that may even impress your kids!
ROASTED BEET HUMMUS (Minimalist Baker)
1 small roasted beet
1 15-oz. can cooked chickpeas (mostly drained // 1 can yields ~1 3/4 cup)
1 large lemon (zested)
1/2 large lemon (juiced)
1 healthy pinch salt and black pepper
2 large cloves garlic (minced)
2 heaping Tbsp tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C), remove the stem and most of the root from your beets, and scrub and wash them underwater until clean.
Wrap the beet in foil, drizzle on a bit of olive or avocado oil, wrap tightly, and roast for one hour or until a knife inserted falls out without resistance. It should be tender. Set in the fridge (in a bowl to catch juice) to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, carefully peel the outer skin of the beet, cut into quarters and place it in your food processor. Blend until only small bits remain.
Add remaining ingredients except for olive oil and blend until smooth.
Drizzle in olive oil as the hummus is mixing.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil if needed. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water.
Will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Ballantyne, S. (2015). The Amazing World of Plant Phytochemicals: Why a diet rich in veggies is so important! Retrieved from: https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-amazing-world-of-plant-phytochemicals/
Ballantyne, S. (2017). Balsamic-Roasted Beets. Retrieved from: https://www.thepaleomom.com/balsamic-roasted-beets/
Minimalist Baker. (2013). Roasted Beet Hummus. Retrieved from: https://minimalistbaker.com/roasted-beet-hummus/