People who are into sports could take a winning tip from Sonny and Cher’s top-100 hit of 1967: The beet goes on. Yeah. They’re saying, like: Eat your beets, man, and you’ll run harder, longer, faster. Crazy but true!
A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating 7 ounces of baked beets 75 minutes before exercise helped racers run 3% faster during a 5-kilometer race. Better yet, in the last 1.8 kilometer, they ran 5% faster. Upping your performance at the end like that means you torch both your opponents and major calories.
The secret is all those nitrates in beets. Nitrates help deliver more oxygen to your muscles, so you don’t tire as fast during a race.
Also, don’t throw out the leaves. Beet leaves are totally delicious, especially when you use them to make my favorite dish, beetniks. This dish, a favorite party food in Western Canada, is easy, especially if you start with frozen dough. They just take a little time. Make them ahead and freeze them, so they’re ready in a wink.
Of course, beetniks use the leaves of beets, not the roots. That makes it a different food from what scientists tested in the study up front. But you won’t go wrong with beet greens. They’re loaded with minerals to keep your blood and bones strong… making you a better athlete!
A 1-cup serving of beet leaves provides you with 15 percent of the daily recommended value of iron, a mineral vital to your red blood cells, which carry the oxygen to your muscles. Iron also regulates cell growth. Besides iron, the same serving of beet greens also contains 15 percent of the calcium you need every day to keep your bones healthy.
Beetniks in creamed onions
- 2 or 3 dozen larger beet leaves, washed
- Bread dough, a pound or so (I use whole-wheat frozen bread dough)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or 2 tablespoons butter)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup milk thickened with 1 tablespoon flour (or 1 cup cream)
- Handful of fresh dill
- Defrost frozen bread dough in the fridge overnight.
- Wash the beet leaves and leave them to wilt and dry overnight in a tea towel.
- Chop the onion and garlic.
- Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.
Make the beetniks…
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a golf ball and roll it in your hands into a sausage. Wrap a beet leaf loosely around the middle of the dough, leaving the ends unwrapped.
- Place the rolls on a cookie sheet, an inch apart.
- Cover rolls with a damp, clean towel and let the rolls rise for an hour or so. While one tray of rolls is rising, prepare more for a second tray.
- Once the rolls have risen, bake them 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- You can freeze beetniks at this point for later. If eating right away, continue to the next step.
Make the cream sauce…
- Sauté the onion and garlic in coconut oil in a large pan until soft.
- Remove from heat and stir in flour, then add milk slowly, stirring until well mixed. Return to the heat and continue stirring until sauce thickens. Keep warm and when ready to serve, add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in dill.
- If you are using cream instead, stir it into the sautéed onions and garlic (no flour needed) and allow it to simmer until it thickens. Add dill last.
- Put three beetniks per person into the warm cream sauce and let them simmer away until they’re hot. This takes more time if the beetniks are frozen than if they are fresh out of the oven.
- Serve as a side or as a buffet item.
It’s like Cher says: Beets, both the root and the leaves, help you go on, and on, and on, and on…
- Zoë‘s Christmas Borscht revisited – Check out our favorite recipe for Christmas borscht
- Jack Spratt’s breakfast beets – After his gall bladder attacked him, Jack Spratt could eat no fat. He had to learn a few new tricks in the kitchen. Beets are bile’s best friend! Recipes include Jack’s beety breakfast bowl. Delicious!
- The Queen’s beets: Let them eat cake – Grated beets add nutrition as well as sweetness and color to your chocolate birthday cake. Also, read the untold story of Marie Antoinette.
- Pretty in pink – At your next party, serve a low-fat, low-salt beet hummus, packed with flavor and good carbs.
- 15 steps to making red and green pierogies – Another favorite Ukrainian recipe at Christmas. Use beets to make the red ones.
Click to try out these beet recipes, too – Go beets! Go kids! Run, run, run!