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Beet Greens Nutrition Facts

Beet greens refer to the young, leafy tops of the beetroot plant. They contain an abundance of minerals, vitamins, and health-promoting pigment antioxidants, surpassing the taproot in nutritional value. Despite their nutritional richness, beet greens are remarkably low in calories. For optimal flavor and tenderness, it is recommended to harvest them while the plant is young and the stems are soft.

Botanically, beets belong to the tuberous taproot category within the Amaranthaceae family, specifically in the Betoideae subfamily. Their scientific name is Beta vulgaris. Other closely related members of the Betoideae subfamily include sugar beet, Mangelwurzel, and Swiss chard.

beet with to grees
Beets with green tops.

The Beta vulgaris plant thrives as a cool-season crop, preferring organic-rich, loamy, well-drained soil. Its root, the beet, is an underground fleshy taproot from which leaves emerge directly from the crown, supported by long, stem-like petioles.

A typical beet plant grows to about 1 to 2 feet in height. Depending on the cultivar, its long-petioled leaves may exhibit pink, light green, white, or crimson red veins, accompanied by broad, deep-green succulent leaves. The top greens of the beet are most desired when young, tender, and crispy.

Health Benefits of Beet Greens

  1. Nutrient Powerhouse: Beet greens are a versatile and highly nutritious green leafy vegetable. They are low in calories, with just 22 calories per 100 grams, making them an excellent addition to any diet.

  2. Lowering Homocysteine Levels: Similar to beetroot, beet greens contain glycine betaine (Trimethylglycine), which helps lower homocysteine levels in the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels can contribute to various cardiovascular diseases.

  3. Nutrient Rich: Beet greens are packed with essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber, surpassing beetroot in most nutrients except folate. Despite their nutritional density, they are low in calories, fat, and sugar.

  4. Antioxidant Powerhouses: Beet greens are rich in ß-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, potent antioxidants with anti-cancer properties. Beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A, while zeaxanthin protects against age-related macular degeneration.

  5. Vitamin A Source: With 6,326 IU or 211% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 100 grams, beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, essential for vision and mucosal health.

  6. Abundant in Vitamin K: Beet greens provide 400 micrograms of vitamin K per 100 grams, equivalent to 333% of the RDA. Vitamin K supports bone health and may aid in Alzheimer's disease treatment by limiting neuronal damage.

  7. Vitamin C Rich: 100 grams of beet greens contain 30 milligrams or 50% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant crucial for immune function.

  8. B-Complex Vitamins: Beet greens contain various B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, folate, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid, essential for metabolism.

  9. Mineral Rich: Beet greens are a rich source of minerals including magnesium, copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus, crucial for overall health.

  10. Iron and Manganese Content: Iron aids in cellular oxidation and red blood cell formation, while manganese acts as a co-factor for antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase.

Beet greens offer protection against vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, and iron-deficiency anemia. Additionally, their nutritional profile may contribute to cardiovascular health and potentially protect against colon cancer and leukemia.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Beet greens (Beta vulgaris), fresh, raw leaves, Nutrition value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 22 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 4.33 g 3%
Protein 2.20 g 4%
Total Fat 0.13 g <1%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 3.7 g 10%
Folates 15 µg 4%
Niacin 0.400 mg 2.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.250 mg 5%
Pyridoxine 0.106 mg 8%
Riboflavin 0.220 mg 17%
Thiamin 0.100 mg 8%
Vitamin A 6326 IU 211%
Vitamin C 30 mg 50%
Vitamin K 400 µg 333%
Sodium 226 mg 15%
Potassium 762 mg 16%
Calcium 117 mg 12%
Copper 0.191 mg 21%
Iron 2.57 mg 32%
Magnesium 70 mg 17.5%
Manganese 0.391 mg 14%
Phosphorus 41 mg 6%
Selenium 0.9 µg 1.5%
Zinc 0.38 mg 2.5%
Carotene-ß 3794 µg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 1503 µg --

Selecting and Storing Beetroot Tops

Beetroot tops are readily available in farmer's markets throughout the year, but they are at their peak during the winter months, from November to March. When choosing beetroot tops, opt for fresh-looking, young, tender leaves with deep green color and firm petioles. Typically, the greens are sold in bunches along with the taproots. If this is the case, select plants with small, firm, and healthy roots.

Avoid beetroot tops with yellow, sunken, wilted, or over-matured leaves, as they are less appetizing and spoil quickly. Like other greens, beet tops perish soon after harvest and should be consumed promptly.

At home, trim the beetroot tops about an inch above the root to remove the portion that deprives the root of nutrients and moisture. Treat them similarly to chard, spinach or turnip greens. For storage, place the trimmed greens in a perforated plastic bag and keep them in the refrigerator set at a relative humidity of over 95%. Under these conditions, the greens will remain fresh and vibrant for about 2-3 days.

Preparation and Serving Methods for Beet Greens

Beet greens boast broad leaves similar to Swiss chard, accompanied by long and sometimes wide, thick petioles. Begin by trimming away any tough and woody petioles, as well as removing any old, over-mature, or bruised leaves. Proceed to wash the leaves in a colander under cold tap water to eliminate any surface sand and dirt. Gently swish away excess water or pat dry using a paper towel. Then, chop the leaves and petioles to the desired length with a kitchen knife.

Young, tender beet greens can be enjoyed raw or preferably mixed with other greens and vegetables. However, larger, mature leaves tend to be quite bitter in taste due to their oxalic acid content and are best enjoyed cooked—whether sautéed, steamed, or braised.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Beet greens pair well with other greens such as chard, spinach, kale, and more. They can enhance the flavor of soups, ravioli, pasta, sandwiches, pizza, omelets, stuffed bread, quiche, and other dishes.

  • Tender, fresh, and young greens can be juiced to create a nutritious beverage. However, due to their high oxalic acid content, beet greens should be balanced with other greens, vegetables like cucumber, and fruits such as lime, oranges, etc.

  • For a refreshing twist, use fresh, very young, and crispy beet greens raw in salads.

  • Mature leaves and stalks are best enjoyed cooked or sautéed.

Safety profile

Like other greens and vegetables from the Brassica family, beet greens contain unusually high levels of oxalic acid, with 100g of fresh beetroot leaves containing 0.67 mg of this compound. Oxalic acid acts as a chelating agent, binding to minerals like calcium and phosphorus, which are then expelled from the body unused.

While oxalic acid can be considered an anti-nutrient, consuming large quantities of oxalic crystals over extended periods can lead to the formation of kidney stones.

Due to their high vitamin K content, individuals taking anticoagulants such as warfarin are advised to avoid beet greens in their diet. The elevated vitamin K levels in beet tops can further increase the concentration of this vitamin in the blood, counteracting the effects of the medication and potentially leading to toxicity.

Beet leaves contain 0.2 g/100 g of oxalic acid, which is significantly lower than some other greens such as spinach (0.97 g/100 g) and purslane (1.31 g/100 g). Despite this, caution should still be exercised, especially by individuals with known oxalate urinary tract stones. It is recommended to maintain adequate water intake to ensure normal urine output. (Medical disclaimer)

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Further resources:

  1. Beets-The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

  2. USDA National Nutrient Database.

  3. University of Illinois Extension-Watch your garden grow.

  4. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition-Betaine in Human nutrition.

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