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    Beet greens

Food Percentage of DRI per 100 grams
vitamin K
538  
vitamin A
42  
vitamin C
33  
copper
28  
manganese
26  
potassium
26  
vitamin B2
22  
magnesium
17  
fiber
12  
vitamin E
12  
calcium
11  
iron
10  
vitamin B1
10  
vitamin B6
8  
pantothenic acid
6  
phosphorus
6  
protein
5  
zinc
5  
folate
3  
vitamin B3
3  
When purchasing fresh beets in the produce section of your grocery, you are very likely to find them bunched together with their colorful leafy greens adorning their tops. While many people can cut off these greens and only consume their round root portion, beet greens are actually the most nutrient-rich part of the plant and provide amazing health benefits. What's New and Beneficial About Beet Greens A recent study from Chile has shown beet greens to be one of the top 10 food contributors to iron intake in that country. Even though legumes were the most important food group contributor to iron (with pinto beans ranking as the number one food source), beet greens were nevertheless a standout source, especially within the vegetable group. (Our WHFoods rating system ranks beet greens as a very good source of iron, providing 15% of the daily recommended amount in a 1-cup serving.) Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLV) are often lumped together as a group and treated interchangeably. However, up-to-date nutrient information reveals important differences between members of this incredibly nutrient-rich food group. For example, when beet greens are compared with two other common DGLVs—turnip greens and mustard greens—only beet greens provide excellent amounts of both calcium and magnesium, While all three of these DGLVs provide excellent amounts of calcium, only beet greens also provide an excellent amount of magnesium at 98 milligrams per serving, or nearly 25% of the recommended daily amount. This unique aspect of beet greens gives them a calcium:magnesium ratio of 1.6:1, in comparison to the ratio in turnip greens of 6.2:1, or the ratio in mustard greens of 9.2:1. Both beet greens and beet roots can provide you with outstanding nourishment. The roots are especially concentrated in folate, providing 5-6 times the amount of this vitamin as the leaves. However, from an overall nutritional perspective, beet greens achieve 11 rankings of excellent, 6 rankings of very good, and 3 rankings of good in our WHFoods rating system, for a total of 20 rankings. (By comparison, beet roots achieve a total of 10 rankings.) This outcome places beet greens in our Top 10 foods in terms of total rankings. A recent study has shown beet greens to be a major contributor in many diets to total intake of the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. While not as concentrated in lutein as collard greens or spinach, beet greens have nevertheless been shown to be an outstanding source of this key carotenoid. (Lutein is known to play an especially important role in eye health, including the health of the retina.) WHFoods Recommendations Foods belonging to the chenopod family—including beets, chard, spinach and quinoa—continue to show an increasing number of health benefits not readily available from other food families. The red and yellow betalain pigments found in this food family, their unique epoxyxanthophyll carotenoids, and the special connection between their overall phytonutrients and our nervous system health (including our specialized nervous system organs like the eye) point to the chenopod family of foods as unique in their health value. While we have yet to see large-scale human studies that point to a recommended minimum intake level for foods from this botanical family, we have seen data on chenopod phytonutrients, and based on this data, we recommend that you include foods from the chenopod family in your diet 1-2 times per week. In the case of a leafy food like spinach, we recommend a serving size of at least 1/2 cup, and even more beneficial, at least one full cup. In the case of a root food like beet root, we recommend a serving size of at least 1/2 whole medium beet, and even more beneficial, at least 1 whole medium beet. For quinoa, our recommended minimum serving size is 1/2 cup pre-cooked.

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Beet greens provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Beet greens can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Beet greens, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

Unusually Comprehensive Nourishment

As mentioned earlier in this profile, beet greens achieve 20 rankings of excellent, very good, or good in our WHFoods rating system. These results place beet greens among our Top 10 ranked foods. Equally important, no major category of nutrients is left out of these high ratings. In the macronutrient category, beet greens are an excellent source of fiber and a very good source of protein. In the vitamin category, they are an excellent source of both fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A and K, as well as water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B2. In the mineral category, they are an excellent source of 5 minerals, including copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium. In fact, when beet greens are compared with two other common dark green leafy vegetables (DGLV)—turnip greens and mustard greens—only beet greens provide excellent amounts of both calcium and magnesium. While all three of these DGLVs provide excellent amounts of calcium, only beet greens also provide an excellent amount of magnesium at 98 milligrams per serving, or nearly 25% of the recommended daily amount. This unique aspect of beet greens gives them a calcium:magnesium ratio of 1.6:1, in comparison to the ratio in turnip greens of 6.2:1, or the ratio in mustard greens of 9.2:1. The ratio in beet greens may be more helpful to the average U.S. adult than the ratio in these other greens, since the average U.S. adult is more deficient in magnesium than calcium.

In the phytonutrient category, beet greens show special benefits in the area of carotenoid richness. We rank them as an excellent source of vitamin A due to their rich concentration of beta-carotene and lutein. Beet greens have been shown to be a major contributor in many diets to total intake of the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. While not as concentrated in lutein as collard greens or spinach, beet greens have nevertheless been shown to be an outstanding source of this key carotenoid. Lutein is known to play an especially important role in eye health, including the health of the retina.

Other Health Benefits

Unfortunately, few studies have tried to separate out health benefits specific to beet greens from health benefits associated with intake of dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) as a group. Without question, increased intake of DGLVs has been associated in large-scale, epidemiologic studies with lower risk of certain chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Based on the most recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research (WCFR/AICR), we also believe there is evidence in support of decreased risk of certain cancers following generous intake of DGLVs. While we fully expect to see these health benefits coming from intake of beet greens as such, we also look forward to future research where beet green intake is analyzed independently from intake of other DGLVs.

Description

Both beets and Swiss chard are different varieties within the same plant family (Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae) and their edible leaves share a resemblance in both taste and texture. All varieties of table beets have edible leaves that are primarily green in color. However, the veins in these beet greens tend to take on the color of the beet root. For this reason, you will find beet greens from yellow beets with vibrant yellow veins, beet greens from red beets having rich red veins, and beet greens from white beets with distinct white veins. Each of these greens can make an outstanding contribution to your health.

The similarity between beets greens and Swiss chard does not stop with their plant family, taste, or texture. At WHFoods, we use a quick boil for both foods to help preserve their nutrient richness during cooking. In addition, both foods achieve of 20 rankings of excellent, very good, or good in our rating system!

The science name for the beet plant is Beta vulgaris. There are several subspecies of beets within this scientific category, including the subspecies vulgaris, macrocarpa, crassa, and maritime. The greens attached to the beet roots are delicious and can be prepared like spinach or Swiss chard. They are incredibly rich in nutrients, concentrated in vitamins and minerals as well as carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin.

While beets are available throughout the year, their season runs from June through October when the youngest, most tender beets are easiest to find.

History

Beet greens have been enjoyed in cuisines worldwide since prehistoric times, especially in Northern Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe. Today, of course, they are enjoyed worldwide.

From a commercial production standpoint, beets fall into three basic categories: table beets, which are grown primarily for consumption as fresh vegetables; sugar beets, which are grown primarily for the extraction of beet sugar; and fodder beets, which are grown primarily for use in animal feed. From a practical standpoint, one of the key differences that has emerged between sugar beets and table beets involves the role of genetic engineering. The vast majority of all sugar beets grown worldwide involve genetically modified versions of the plants. This extensive use of genetic engineering does not exist to the same degree for table beets, and organic table beets (and beet greens) are widely available in the marketplace with USDA certification as having been grown from seeds that have not been genetically engineered. It is also worth noting here that when used as feed for the raising of animals providing certified organic meats, milks, cheeses, and other foods, fodder beets must be organically grown.

Sugar beets far outstrip table beets in terms of U.S. production as well as production worldwide. Approximately 30 million tons of sugar beets are grown and harvested in the U.S. each year, with Minnesota, North Dakota, and Idaho producing the greatest volume. Worldwide, sugar beet production production averages close to 300 million tons, with the Russian Federation, France, United States, and Germany among the leading sugar beet producers. On a global basis, over 12,500,000 acres of sugar beets are plants each year. In the U.S. approximately 1,250,000 acres of sugar beets are planted each year, By comparison, only 700 acres are planted in the production of U.S. table beets.

How to Select and Store

Beet Greens are available throughout the garden season. Here are a few things to look for when selecting fresh beet greens:

When choosing beet greens that comes attached to the roots, choose smaller beet roots over larger, tougher ones. Beets over 2-1/2 inches in diameter may be tough and have a woody core. Pass over any beet roots that are cracked, soft, bruised, or shriveled, or look very dry. Avoid elongated beets with round, scaly areas around the top surface. These beets will be tough, fibrous, and strongly flavored.

If the beet greens are still attached to the root, they should be crisp looking and not wilted or slimy. They should appear fresh, tender, and have a lively green color.

Cut the majority of the greens and their stems from the beet roots. Store the unwashed greens in a separate plastic bag squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Place in refrigerator where they will keep fresh for about four days.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Beet

If Beet Greens are still attached to the beet root, cut leaves off at the stem where the leafy portion ends; the portion of the stem between the leaf and the root is too tough to enjoy. Rinse the leaves under cold running water and cut into ½" slices. Do not soak the leaves in the water as water-soluble nutrients will leach into the water.

The Healthiest Way of Cooking Beet Greens

Beet greens are only one of three vegetables we recommend boiling to free up acids and allow them to leach into the boiling water; this brings out a sweeter taste from the beet greens. Discard the boiling water after cooking; do not drink it or use it for stock because of its acid content.

Use a large pot (3 quart) with lots of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add beet greens to the boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Begin timing as soon as you place the beet greens in the pot if you are using 1 pound or less of beet greens. If you are cooking larger quantities of beet greens bring the water back to a boil before beginning timing the 1 minute. Do not cover the pot when cooking beet greens. Leaving the pot uncovered helps to release more of the acids with the rising steam. Research has shown that the boiling of beet greens in large amounts of water helps decrease the oxalic acid content.

Remove beet greens from pot, press out liquid with a fork, place in a bowl, toss with our Mediterranean Dressing, and top with your favorite optional ingredients. Beet Greens are prepared in the same way as spinach. For details, see 1-Minute Spinach.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Add layers of beet greens to your next lasagna recipe.
  • Pine nuts are a great addition to cooked beet greens..

WHFoods Recipes That Feature Beet Greens

You can substitute the spinach in any of the spinach recipes with beet greens:

Individual Concerns

Beet Greens and Oxalates

Beet greens are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. In fact, beet greens are an unusual food in this regard, because they can contain particularly high amounts of oxalates. Both beets (the root part) and beet greens are considered high oxalate foods, based on an oxalate content of well over 50 milligrams per serving. However, there is a significant difference between the total oxalate content of beet roots versus beet greens (leaves). While not all research findings are in strict agreement, studies on raw beet root tend to show between 95-175 milligrams of oxalate per 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of beet root. Some researchers have calculated an average of about 125 milligrams for total oxalates in raw beet root. By contrast, studies on raw beet leaves show between 1,200-2,300 milligrams of oxalate per 100 grams, with about 1,500 milligrams as an average amount. These numbers show raw beet greens (leaves) to be about 10 times more concentrated in oxalates than beet roots. If you enjoy both roots and greens, but are trying to limit your intake of oxalates, beet root is a better choice than beet leaves. However, if you are trying to limit your overall intake of oxalates, both root and leaves are very challenging to work into a meal plan because both are high oxalate foods.

Some of the oxalates found in beet greens are water soluble and some are water insoluble. Levels of water-soluble oxalates can be somewhat reduced through cooking. However, we have not seen any evidence to suggest that the cooking of beet greens can lower oxalate levels to an extent that would remove either food from the high-oxalate category. Health problems related to oxalates typically involve their crystallization in body fluids. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating beet greens. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we've seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits—including absorption of calcium—from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content. For more on this subject, please see "Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?"

Nutritional Profile

Our WHFoods rating system places beet greens among our Top 10 foods in terms of their total nutrient rankings of excellent, very good, and good. Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber, and calcium. They are a very good source of iron, vitamins B1, B6, and pantothenic acid, as well as phosphorus and protein. Beet greens are also a good source of zinc, folate, and vitamin B3.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Beet greens is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Beet Greens, boiled
1.00 cup
144.00 grams
Calories: 39
GI: not available
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K696.96 mcg774358.5excellent
vitamin A551.09 mcg RAE6128.3excellent
vitamin C35.86 mg4822.1excellent
copper0.36 mg4018.5excellent
potassium1308.96 mg3717.3excellent
manganese0.74 mg3717.1excellent
vitamin B20.42 mg3215.0excellent
magnesium97.92 mg2411.3excellent
vitamin E2.61 mg (ATE)178.1excellent
fiber4.18 g177.7excellent
calcium164.16 mg167.6excellent
iron2.74 mg157.0very good
vitamin B10.17 mg146.6very good
vitamin B60.19 mg115.2very good
pantothenic acid0.47 mg94.4very good
phosphorus59.04 mg83.9very good
protein3.70 g73.4very good
zinc0.72 mg73.0good
folate20.16 mcg52.3good
vitamin B30.72 mg52.1good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Beet greens

References

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  • Cancer Treat Res. 2014;159:35-50.
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  • Simpson TS, Savage GP, Sherlock R, et al. Oxalate content of silver beet leaves (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) at different stages of maturation and the effect of cooking with different milk sources. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Nov 25;57(22):10804-8. doi: 10.1021/jf902124w.
  • Song W, Derito CM, Liu MK et al. Cellular antioxidant activity of common vegetables. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Jun 9;58(11):6621-9.
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  • Wang C, Riedl KM, Schwartz SJ etl al. Fate of folates during vegetable juice processing — Deglutamylation and interconversion. Food Research International, Volume 53, Issue 1, August 2013, Pages 440-448.
  • Much grattidtude to George Mateljan,and the George Mateljan Foundation for www.whfoods.com