Beet greens are the leafy tops of beetroot plants that are often removed before beets are sold in stores. While beetroots are frequently consumed, beet greens are an underutilized nutritional powerhouse. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, raw beet greens offer a wide range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about the many advantages of incorporating more raw beet greens into your diet.
Beet greens grow from the same plant as the beetroot vegetable. However, while beetroots are an underground root vegetable, beet greens are the vibrant leafy tops that extend from above ground. Beet greens have been eaten for thousands of years but have remained less popular than beetroot over time.
This is unfortunate, as beet greens provide an impressive nutritional profile. In fact, beet greens contain higher amounts of many nutrients than beetroot. Over the past decade, beet greens have been gaining more recognition for their broad spectrum of health benefits.
Beet greens can be eaten raw or cooked. However, raw beet greens provide the most nutrients. Eating raw beet greens allows you to take advantage of their natural vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content before any is potentially lost during the cooking process.
Raw beet greens are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of the standout nutrients in raw beet greens include:
- Vitamin C – supports immune function and collagen production.
- Vitamin A – important for eye and skin health.
- Folate – crucial for cell division and DNA synthesis.
- Magnesium – involved in energy production and muscle contraction.
- Potassium – helps regulate fluid balance and blood pressure.
- Calcium – key for bone strength, muscle and nerve function.
- Iron – enables red blood cell production and oxygen transport.
- Antioxidants – help neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.
The table below compares the nutritional content of raw beet greens versus raw beetroot per 100 grams:
|Vitamin A||338% DV||2% DV|
|Vitamin C||110% DV||4% DV|
|Folate||37% DV||6% DV|
|Magnesium||24% DV||12% DV|
|Potassium||27% DV||11% DV|
|Calcium||11% DV||2% DV|
|Iron||23% DV||6% DV|
As you can see from the table, raw beet greens contain significantly higher amounts of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to raw beetroots. This makes them one of the most nutrient-dense leafy green vegetables available.
Consuming more raw beet greens can provide many potential health benefits:
1. Support Heart Health
Raw beet greens contain compounds called nitrates that can help expand blood vessels and improve blood flow. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide in the body, which helps relax and dilate blood vessels while lowering blood pressure.
In one study, consuming nitrate-rich beetroot juice lowered blood pressure and reduced artery stiffness in healthy people within 3 hours. Improved blood vessel function and lower blood pressure reduces strain on the heart and cardiovascular system.
2. Aid Detoxification
Raw beet greens are filled with compounds that support the body’s natural detoxification processes. They contain antioxidants like alpha lipoic acid, phytochemicals like betalains, and glutathione – the body’s master antioxidant.
These compounds help neutralize toxins, stimulate toxin elimination, and protect liver cells from damage. Beet greens’ high fiber content also supports regular bowel movements and the removal of waste products from the body.
3. Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in raw beet greens help fight inflammation in several ways.
For example, vitamin C lowers inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) while magnesium helps reduce cytokine production. Betaine, an amino acid in beet greens, may also suppress inflammatory responses.
4. Support Brain Health
Decreased blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain are linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Nitrates in beet greens boost blood flow and may improve cognitive function.
Research also shows that eating more leafy greens helps slow cognitive decline. Folate is needed to produce neurotransmitters critical for brain and nervous system health.
5. Build Strong Bones
Raw beet greens provide calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium – key nutrients for bone health. Vitamin K aids calcium absorption and bone calcification while magnesium and potassium help retain calcium in bones.
One study in middle-aged and elderly Chinese found that greater intake of vegetable nitrates, including from beet greens, helped preserve bone mineral density.
6. Boost Immunity
Raw beet greens provide almost triple the RDI for vitamin C per 100 grams. Vitamin C stimulates white blood cell production, supports immune cell function, and acts as a powerful antioxidant.
Carotenoids like beta-carotene in beet greens also boost immunity. Research indicates that adequate vitamin A and carotenoid status reduces infection risk and severity.
7. Support Digestion
The fiber content of raw beet greens assists digestion in multiple ways. It promotes regularity, increases stool bulk, and feeds beneficial gut bacteria. The minerals in beet greens also aid digestive enzyme production.
Consuming more beet greens may be particularly helpful for those with constipation. In one small study, eating 60 grams of beet fiber per day increased stool frequency and eased laxative dependence in chronically constipated elderly patients.
8. Help Control Blood Sugar
Raw beet greens have a low glycemic index, meaning they do not cause sharp spikes in blood sugar. The fiber content also slows sugar absorption and helps improve insulin sensitivity.
The alpha lipoic acid and other antioxidants in beet greens further improve insulin function and blood sugar control. These effects help prevent diabetes complications like nerve damage.
9. Promote Liver Function
Animal studies demonstrate that beet green extract protects liver cells from injury and inflammation while enhancing detoxification enzymes. Beet greens activate a cellular signaling pathway called Nrf2 that boosts antioxidant levels in liver tissue.
The betalains and glutathione in raw beet greens also support the liver’s natural detoxification process. This helps remove toxins, drug metabolites, and excess hormones from the body.
10. Provide Antioxidant Protection
Raw beet greens are brimming with diverse antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, and glutathione. These compounds help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to tissues and DNA.
Consuming antioxidant-rich foods like beet greens helps inhibit the development and spread of cancers. Oxidative stress also contributes to many chronic diseases that can be better managed with antioxidant-rich foods.
Beet greens are very safe for most people, but there are some potential concerns to keep in mind:
- Kidney stones – for those prone to kidney stones, excess oxalates in beet greens could be an issue. Cooked beet greens contain lower oxalate levels.
- Blood thinners – the vitamin K content may interfere with blood-thinning medication. Consult your doctor.
- Allergies – allergies to beet greens are rare but possible. Discontinue use if any reactions occur.
- Thyroid issues – very high intake of raw brassica vegetables may affect thyroid function. Moderate your intake if you have thyroid problems.
How to Eat More Raw Beet Greens
Here are some simple ways to enjoy more raw beet greens:
- Add raw leaves to smoothies, juices and health shakes.
- Use young tender greens in salads for a nutritional boost.
- Mix chopped greens into dips, herb oils and dressings.
- Top soups, stews or curries with torn beet greens before serving.
- Wrap nori sheets with beet greens and sliced veggies for homemade sushi.
- Blend greens with avocado, garlic and olive oil for flavorful pesto.
When buying beets with attached greens, look for perky, vibrant leaves without wilting or discoloration. For pre-cut greens, opt for bunches with crisp leaves that are not limp or dry around the edges. Store greens in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to four days.
Incorporating more raw beet greens into your diet is a simple way to boost nutrition and improve overall health. Raw beet greens are low in calories but packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and plant compounds. Research shows that eating more raw beet greens may protect heart health, strengthen immunity, build stronger bones, and aid detoxification.
Raw beet greens are very nutritious and easy to include in juices, smoothies, salads, pesto sauces, dips, and many other dishes. Their mild yet earthy taste combines well with other vegetables, herbs, nuts, oils, and citrus flavors. Give raw beet greens a try to enhance your nutritional intake and enjoy their many benefits.