Master the Art of Roasting Beets To Add Healthy Fiber and Flavor to all Your Savory Dishes

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If someone asked you what your favorite vegetable is, I'm willing to bet that you'll say something like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. Pretty much anything other than beets, the oft-overlooked root vegetable that is relegated to a sad entry in a retirement home salad bar. But what if I told you that learning how to cook beets properly is the first step to appreciating the root vegetable?

Turns out, the easiest way to make vegetables taste good is to, you know, prepare them well. (And don't forget the seasoning!) That goes for beets in particular. When cooked well, they can be sweet, earthy, and incredibly satisfying. And beets are incredibly versatile as well, adding a splash of color, flavor, and nutrients into any savory dish you desire.

Experts In This Article

Now, when it comes to cooking them, you may be thinking, beets me. Indeed, beets can be intimidating to tackle in the kitchen (at least the first few times). (Read: pink-stained clothing, cutting boards, and fingertips.) But with the help of a few expert-backed culinary tips from Stephen Chavez, chef-instructor of Plant-Based Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education’s Los Angeles campus, you’ll learn how to cook beets in no time.

But before we jump right in, let’s delve into a few reasons why beets are pretty un-beet-able (ha) when it comes to their impressive health benefits.

What are the health benefits of beets?

Beets have a lot of nutritional value to offer, which makes it well-worth learning how to cook them. Here's what you'll find in every serving of beets:

1. Beets are high in gut-healthy fiber

"Beets are full of fiber," says registered dietitian Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RND, the founder of Milk & Honey Nutrition. You get four grams of fiber per cup, according to the USDA. This is great news for your body because a high-fiber diet supports good gut health, lower cholesterol levels, and other health benefits. (To fully reap the benefits, eat the beets whole, not juiced.)

2. Beets are good for your heart

Beets are essentially a poster child for heart health. According to the American Heart Association, beets are high in natural nitrates, which can support heart health by opening up blood vessels.1 Other studies on beetroot supplements specifically found that they can increase oxygen uptake2 (aka get more oxygen to your body so you don't tire out as easily).

Phipps adds that beets are a good source of folate, which can reduce risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease3. (It's also important for fetal development and healthy hair growth.)

Another perk: Phipps says that beets are a good source of iron, which is essential for keeping oxygen flowing through your blood4. One cup gets you about six percent of your recommended daily intake.

3. They're rich in magnesium

Love taking magnesium for better sleep? Phipps says beets are an oft-overlooked source of the nutrient, with 31 milligrams per cup (about 10 percent of your recommended daily intake). Considering magnesium can help with muscle soreness and recovery, beets might also make for a great post-workout juice or snack.

4. Beets' nutrients may boost athletic performance

To that point, consuming beets (specifically beet juice) can potentially help give your workouts a boost. "While we can't say for sure that beets will cause you to run faster or lift more weight, research has shown that consuming beet juice before a workout may help recreational5—not professional—athletes perform better," Phipps says. It's not clear from existing research how much beet juice needs to be consumed in order to see any kind of result, though.

5. They’re a good source of potassium

Here's another reason why beets are especially great for athletes: they have potassium, an electrolyte that's often lost through sweating. One cup has 442 milligrams (about 18 percent of what most people should be getting in a day). Seriously, for athletes, beets are the gift that keeps on giving.

6. They support your immune system

When you hear "vitamin C," oranges and other citrus fruits are probably the first association in your mind. But Phipps says that beets are an underrated source of the nutrient with nearly seven milligrams per cup (about 10 percent of the recommended daily value for adults). You may want to consider working them into your diet to keep your immune system up and running.

7. They may help improve seasonal allergies

Consuming beetroot can be beneficial for relieving allergy symptoms. “Beetroot can work as an antihistamine that quells inflammation, as they are a rich source of the antioxidant betalains. Research suggests that when consumed over time, betalains may be protective against oxidative stress,” Maya Feller, RD, CDN, a Brooklyn-based registered dietitian, previously shared with Well+Good.

What is the best way to cook beets?

The best way to cook beets is to roast them in the oven. (We have some tips for that below.) But if you're not into roasting, fret not: Chavez says that beets are incredibly versatile and lend themselves to just about any cooking method.

“Beets, like most other root vegetables, can be prepared in many ways: Among the best ways are roasted, pickled, steamed, fried as chips, pureed, turned into a great soup—classically Borscht—or can be consumed raw or juiced,” Chavez says.

Some experts consider steaming vegetables, including beets, to be the healthiest cooking method. The method retains lots of nutrients and typically increases the amount of certain antioxidants6 present. However, steaming veggies often doesn't make them very flavorful, and sometimes the texture leaves something to be desired. Roasting vegetables is a nice compromise—many nutrients are retained, and the results are typically really delicious.

Tips for preparing beets

Nailing delicious, perfectly-cooked beets you want to eat starts with your prepwork. Here are some of Chavez's tips for prepping beets:

1. Choose your beets carefully

Chavez says says the freshest beets are the plumpest and roundest ones that don’t have any bruises or soft spots. “If they are soft in any way, it shows that they are old and will not be very good to eat,” he says.

2. Store them properly

Once you’ve got the beet(s), they should be stored in a cold, dry spot until ready for cooking. They can also be stored in the fridge for several weeks. But wrap them in a plastic bag or airtight container if you put them in the fridge to reduce the risk of drying out, Chavez recommends.

3. Wash them thoroughly

Once ready to roast the beets, gently wash them thoroughly with clean, running water to remove any dirt on the outside. (You might want to scrub them if they're super dirty.)

Wondering if you should peel beets before cooking them? Chavez says either way works, but one method is a lot easier than the other. “You can peel them before cooking by using a classic peeler, however, the easiest way to peel them is [after roasting] them whole, with the skin on,” he says. (More on that in a minute.)

4. Save the greens

Don't ditch the beet greens!“Greens can be sautéed, braised, stewed, or juiced,” Chavez says. “They’re very heart-healthy and offer many vitamins and minerals,” Chavez says. Keep in mind, however, they’ll only last in the fridge a few days or so, and should be used quickly.

How to roast beets

Ready to get cooking? Here's your step-by-step on how to roast beets, straight from Chavez.

1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Wash and dry beets, leaving the skin on.

2. Cut off the ends (including the greens), then pierce the beet several times with a fork or a knife. (This will help with ventilation while roasting.)

3. Rub the outside of each beet with a bit of oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap each beet individually in foil.

4. Place the foil-wrapped beets in a small pan. (You can also line the pan with foil if you're worried about the juices staining your pan.)

5. Roast for 30 minutes to an hour until they are tender when pierced with a fork or knife; larger beets will need more time in the oven to cook.

6. Let the beets cool slightly in their foil until you can safely hold them. Then open up the foil and rub the beets gently with your fingers or a paper towel to peel them. You may want to wear a pair of gloves to prevent staining.

Once you have your roasted beets, you can eat them as is or use them to make a dreamy and creamy beet pasta, protein-rich beet hummus, or a tasty vegetarian beet dish. They're surprisingly versatile!

Can you eat beets raw?

Don’t want to go through all the trouble of roasting beet? You can eat them raw, too. “You can absolutely eat beets raw,” Chavez says. “I like them sliced very thinly in a julienne cut or on a mandolin, then dressed with a balsamic vinegar and orange juice vinaigrette,” he says. They can also be juiced—plain and simple.

The perfect beet hummus to make ahead for your snacking emergencies:

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Clifford, Tom et al. “The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease.” Nutrients vol. 7,4 2801-22. 14 Apr. 2015, doi:10.3390/nu7042801
  2. Stanaway, Luke et al. “Performance and Health Benefits of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation in Older Adults: A Systematic Review.” Nutrients vol. 9,11 1171. 27 Oct. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9111171
  3. Li, Yanping et al. “Folic Acid Supplementation and the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of the American Heart Association vol. 5,8 e003768. 15 Aug. 2016, doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.003768
  4. Abbaspour, Nazanin et al. “Review on iron and its importance for human health.” Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences vol. 19,2 (2014): 164-74.
  5. Domínguez, Raúl et al. “Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review.” Nutrients vol. 9,1 43. 6 Jan. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9010043
  6. Miglio, Cristiana et al. “Effects of different cooking methods on nutritional and physicochemical characteristics of selected vegetables.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 56,1 (2008): 139-47. doi:10.1021/jf072304b

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