The Benefits of Beets + Raw Ruby Noodle Salad

Let’s flash back to my April eats. April was the month that I was obsessed with red foods. I had so many beets, red bell peppers, strawberries, frozen cherries, frozen persimmons, grape tomatoes (ya, it wasn’t quite tomato season, but I couldn’t wait), red apples, goji berries, frozen raspberries, dulse, acai berry puree, red grapefruit and even hibiscus tea. Deep reds, orange reds, pink reds, purple-y reds. Ok, you get it.While each of these foods have unique properties and particular benefits, in general, red foods are great for the heart and blood, they’re rich in antioxidants and fight inflammation, and they protect against certain cancers. Some nutritional components like lycopene (tomatoes famously contain high amounts) are best absorbed when eaten with some fat. To make sure you’re absorbing lycopene in your food, add diced avocado, a drizzle of cold-pressed oil, a creamy nut-based dressing, or any other healthy fat to your dish. (Keep in mind that while I’m talking about red foods here, lycopene is also abundant in many other non-red foods like parsley and asparagus!)

Let’s zero in on the amazing yet often underestimated beet. I used to crinkle my nose at the idea of eating beets. My experience with them went no further than the mushy, tasteless canned beets found on salad bars. Yuck. Nowadays, I juice them, blend them, roast them, steam them, spiralize them, shred them. I never tire of ways to enjoy beets.

Beets are a phenomenal food for your liver because they lend a helping hand in the the detoxification process. Sometimes our bodies can be so toxic that the liver is overloaded and is not able to do its full job. The soluble fiber in beets neutralizes toxins by binding with them and carrying them out of the body. When I was detoxifying my body from candida overgrowth as well as the mold spores and other toxins that were permeating in the air at that house, beets were an important part of my diet for this very reason.

Another interesting fact about beets is that they are really high in betaine. Betaine lowers high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked to increased cardiac events and possibly to increased risk for Alzheimers. (Side note: We vegans are not exempt from high homocysteine. High levels can result from low B12. Nudge, nudge. Take your supplement!) Betaine also increases stomach acid (more on that in a minute), prevents fatty liver deposits, and is used to treat depression in both whole food and supplemental preparations.Other nutritional benefits of beets include: They’re high in a slew of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins especially folate (B9) and niacin (B3), potassium, vitamins A and C (highest in the green tops), magnesium, and iron. They successfully reduce blood pressure. They promote healthy sex lives; in addition to the betaine which keeps the blood from clotting, they also are a great source of boron which is involved in sex hormone production. They help prevent skin, lung, liver, and spleen cancers and are especially powerful in the prevention of colon cancer. Beets are a potent source of both zeaxanthin and lutein, so they will keep your eyesight sharp and free from disease.

Remember how I mentioned lycopene earlier? While lycopene is responsible for giving red foods like tomatoes and watermelon their color, beets get their color from a phytonutrient called betalain. Betalains depend on gastric acid to break down. If you eat beets and have low stomach acid be prepared for what is medically referred to as beeturia. Don’t mistake pink urine and/or pink and red poo for blood; it’s undigested betalains!

The blood maintains a slightly alkaline pH around 7.4. That’s where all the talk comes in about eating an alkaline diet for optimum health. The stomach, however, should be very acidic during digestion. It is the acidity of the gastric acid (yes, I know how redundant that is to write!) that keeps the bad bacteria at bay and helps facilitate the breakdown of food, nutrient absorption, and general smooth digestion. Experiencing beeturia is a sign that you are not producing enough gastric acid. How do you improve this? Well, one easy thing you can do is eat more beets and betaine-rich foods since they can increase stomach acid production.

The last of my CSA sauerkraut

If your beets have tops (I try to buy mine with the tops intact whenever possible), you can chop them up and throw them in the salad, too. If you’re not used to very bitter greens, I’d go light on them though until you’re used to them. Also, be aware that beet greens are very high in oxalic acid which interferes with calcium absorption. Barring certain severe health conditions, avoiding oxalic acid isn’t necessary. There are too many positives in eating these foods (like beet greens and spinach), and it would not be prudent to cut out of your diet completely. I see it as a gentle reminder that we should be eating variety. I eat or juice the beet greens that come on my beets, but I don’t do it every day for weeks on end. Variety is the key here. Rotate your greens!

For several days, this salad made a filling and satisfying lunch for me. The sauerkraut I used came from my CSA. They had extra winter boxes and gave summer subscribers the opportunity to buy one of them. I was stoked that they gave us a bunch of sauerkraut and was throwing it on pretty much everything I made. It went really well on this salad. I’d suggest going easy on the salt in the slaw because the kraut will provide the salty bite for this salad.Raw Ruby Noodle Salad  raw, gluten-free, vegan
makes about 4 servings

Beet and Kelp Noodle Slaw:

1 package of kelp noodles, rinsed and drained
2 small zucchini, shredded
3 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium beet, shredded
2 large handfuls of parsley, chopped
1 small handful of fresh dill, chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
dash of onion powder
dash of garlic powder
pinch of sea salt

-Place rinsed kelp noodles into a large bowl.
-Shred zucchini, carrots, and beets and toss with the kelp noodles.
-Chop parsley and dill. Toss with kelp noodles.
-Add lemon juice and seasonings and mix one final time.

To construct the salad:

Arugula greens
1 cup of slaw
1/4 c sauerkraut, preferably raw
1/2 small avocado, sliced

-Arrange a bed of arugula on each plate.
-Top each salad with 1 cup of slaw.
-Measure out 1/4 cup of sauerkraut (per salad) and spread evenly on top.
-Garnish with avocado slices.

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