Food As Medicine: Beets & Kale
This week I harvested some deep red beets and hardy kale. Although the beets weren’t full sized yet, I was able to test some little ones out. I absolutely love the rich color of the beets and the stems; it might be one of my favourite-looking vegetables. Thanks to a compound called Betalains (a pigment in beets), beets have this deep fuchsia colour. This year we are growing dinosaur kale. I usually get the curly variety, so it was a nice change to try out this kind. You certainly don’t need to force me to eat kale – I get excited to eat the leaves straight from the garden!
This week’s focus: BEETS & KALE
Health Info: Beets contain a good source of plant nitrates (different from that found in processed meats), which acts as a vasodilator. As mentioned previously, the Betalains (1) that pigment beet with their colour are a type of phytonutrient, which acts as an anti-oxidant in the body.
Use For: Heart Disease & Athletic Performance. Since beets act as vasodilators, they help to dilate arteries and blood vessels, delivering more oxygen throughout the body. I actually used a supplement with beetroot extract while I was hiking in Peru, at a higher altitude. It helped with my altitude sickness! As for heart disease, consuming beetroot juice reduced LDL cholesterol in individuals with high blood pressure (2).
Brain Health. The vasodilating abilities of beets also prove to be helpful for brain and neurological disorders (ex. TBI/concussions, Parkinsons, Alzheimers, MS) as more blood flow is being delivered to deprived areas. Overall, the improved blood flow could protect against cognitive decline and dementia. For example, beet consumption in older adults led to improved executive functioning (3).
Recipe Idea: Recently I cooked beets and had them with some feta cheese and mint, it was a delicious summer side dish. Also don’t forget to use the beet greens! They are great sautéed up with some garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.
Health Info: Similar to other leafy greens, kale contains a good source of Calcium, Vitamin K and Manganese. It’s also part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which is full of cancer-fighting and detoxing glucosinolates (a sulphur-containing compound).
Use For: Bone Health. Kale’s high source of calcium, Vitamin K and manganese act as a bone-building elixir (4). This makes it a good dairy-free option for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.
Cancer Prevention & Detoxification. Like Arugula in last week’s post, we learned how vegetables in the cruciferous family have been associated with cancer prevention. There are a few reasons for this, but one of the reasons is from the glucosinolates that help the liver detox harmful metabolites into healthier, excretable compounds (5).
Recipe Idea: I’ve recently been loving Kale Caesar salads. Simply use kale in place of your romaine lettuce.
If you are feeling adventurous, try this dairy-free version:
Stay tuned for next week, where we will be discussing the health-promoting benefits of 2 new seasonal local vegetables! Let me know your thoughts, and if you have any great ways to use beets and kale.