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Beet greens Nutrition facts

Beet greens are young, leafy tops of the beetroot plant. Indeed, beet tops carry more minerals, vitamins, and health-benefiting pigment antioxidants than taproot, and yet they come as one of the very low-calorie leafy greens. Although its top greens can be gathered at any stage of plant growth, they are at their best while the plant is young, and its stems are soft and tender.

Botanically, beet is a tuberous taproot belonging to the major Amaranthaceae family, in the subfamily of Betoideae. Its scientific name is Beta vulgaris. Sugar beet, Mangelwurzel, and Swiss chard are other close members of the Betoideae subfamily.

beet with to grees
Beets with green tops.

Beta vulgaris plant is a cool season crop and grows best under organic-rich, loamy, well-drained soil. Root-beet is an underground fleshy taproot from which leaves emerge directly from its crown with long, stem-like petioles.

The beet plant reaches about 1 to 2 feet in height. Depending upon the cultivar type, its long-petioled leaves may feature pink, light green, white, and crimson red veins and broad, deep-green succulent leaves. Its top-green most sought-after while young, tender, and crispy.

Health benefits of Beet greens

  1. Beet tops are one of the very versatile, nutritious green leafy vegetables. The greens are indeed very low in calories; 100 grams hold just 22 calories. Nonetheless, they are one of the healthiest greens recommended in the diet for their low fat, no cholesterol but health-benefiting vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants.

  2. Just as in the case of beetroot, its top greens are also a good source of the phytochemical compound, glycine betaine (Trimethylglycine). Betaine has the property of lowering homocysteine level in the blood, especially in persons with homocystinuria, a kind of inherited homocysteine metabolism disease. Homocysteine is of highly toxic metabolite that promotes platelet clot as well as atherosclerotic plaque formation inside the blood vessels. An excessive amount of this compound in the blood can damage blood vessels resulting in the development of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and peripheral vascular diseases.

  3. Beet greens carry more minerals, vitamins, and fiber than beetroot (except for the folate vitamin), yet they are low in calories, fat, and sugar.

  4. Beet greens are the finest sources of ß-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These flavonoids have strong antioxidant and anti-cancer activities. Beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A inside the human body.

  5. Zeaxanthin, an important dietary carotenoid, is absorbed selectively into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes, where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV light-filtering functions. Thus, it helps prevent retinal detachment and offers protection against "age-related macular degeneration related macular degeneration disease" (ARMD) in older adults.

  6. The top greens are excellent sources of vitamin-A; 100 g leaves provide 6,326 IU or 211% of RDA. Vitamin A required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin and is essential for vision. A diet rich in this vitamin has been found to be effective in the protection against lung and oral cavity cancers.

  7. The greens are excellent vegetable sources of vitamin-K; 100 g provides 400 ug of this vitamin; that is about 333% of recommended daily intake. Vitamin K has a potential role in bone health by promoting osteoblastic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limit neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has an established role in the treatment of patients who have Alzheimer's disease.

  8. 100 g of fresh leaves contain 30 mg or 50% of daily recommended levels of vitamin-C. Vitamin C is a moderately powerful water-soluble antioxidant, which helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.

  9. This leafy vegetable is notably good in many B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, folate, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid that work as coenzymes during the metabolism in the human body.

  10. Its leaves are also a rich source of minerals like magnesium, copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cells and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium.

  11. The human body utilizes manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for cellular oxidation and red blood cell formation.

Beet Green's high-quality nutrition profile offers protection from vitamin-A deficiency, osteoporosis, and iron-deficiency anemia, and is believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and possibly colon and leukemia (blood cancers).

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 --

Selection and storage

Beetroot tops can be readily available in the farmer's markets around the year. However, they are at their best during the winter months, from November to March. Choose fresh-looking, young tender deep green leaves with firm petioles. Generally, its top greens are sold in bunches along with their taproots. If that is the case, then look for a plant featuring small size, firm, and healthy roots.

Avoid yellow, sunken, wilted, or over-matured leaves as they are less appetizing and spoil early. As in any other greens, beet tops also perish early and are consumed soon after their harvest.

At home, trim the top greens an inch above the root since they deprive nutrients and moisture of the root. Treat them like chard, spinach or turnip greens. To store them, keep them in a perforated plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator set at a relative humidity of over 95%. In this condition, its greens stay fresh and vital for about 2-3 days.

Preparation and serving methods

Beet greens feature very broad leaves akin to swiss chard, with long and sometimes broad, thick petioles. Trim away any tough and woody petioles. Remove old over-mature, wilted, bruised leaves. Then, wash its leaves in a colander under cold tap water to remove any surface sand and dirt. Gently swish away excess water or mop dry using a paper towel. Chop the leaves and petioles to the desired length using a kitchen knife.

Young tender beet greens can be eaten raw or preferably mixed with other greens and vegetables. However, large mature leaves are quite bitter in taste as they contain oxalic acid, and should be eaten cooked, sautéed, steamed, or braised.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Beet greens complement well with other greens such as chard, spinach, kale, etc. They can be employed in the preparation of soups, ravioli, pasta, sandwiches, pizza, omelets, stuffed bread and quiche, etc.

  • Tender, fresh, and young greens can be juiced into a healthy drink. However, since beet greens contain high amounts of oxalic acid, they should be subdued with other greens and vegetables like cucumber and fruits like lime, oranges, etc.

  • Fresh, very young, and crispy beet greens can be used raw in salads.

  • Mature leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed.

Safety profile

Just like other greens and Brassica family vegetables, beet greens contain unusually high levels of oxalic acid. 100 g of fresh beetroot leaves composed of 0.67 mg of this compound. Oxalic acid is a chelating compound and binds to minerals like calcium, phosphorous, etc., which then expelled unused from the body.

Besides being anti-nutrient, oxalic crystals can cause kidney stones when eaten in large quantities for extended periods of time.

Because of its high vitamin-K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid these greens in their food. High vitamin-K content in the beets tops further increases this vitamin concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are attempting to lower. It effectively raises the dose of the medicine and causes toxicity.

Beets leaves contain 0.2 g/100 g of oxalic acid, a value far less than some other comparable greens such as spinach (0.97 g/100) and purslane (1.31 g/100 g). It may be used; however, with caution, even in individuals with known oxalate urinary tract stones. Adequate intake of water is advised to maintain 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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