Just Beet It

Beets get a bad rap because of their glycemic index (a system for rating carbohydrates based on how quickly and how high they raise blood sugar).

Beets get a bad rap because of their glycemic index (a system for rating carbohydrates based on how quickly and how high they raise blood sugar). Beets have a moderately high glycemic index (64), but that’s misleading because it’s based on a 50 gram portion of carbs.

Lentils-Roasted-Beets-Feta-Herbs

Far more accurate is the glycemic load, which takes portion size into account. Since there are only 8 net grams of carbs in a cup of beets , they have a pretty low glycemic load (5). So if you are watching your blood sugar, beets aren’t as scary as you may have once thought. Here, Chef Jeannette has combined beets with the slowest burning carbs on the planet—lentils. This dish won’t be a problem as far as blood sugar is concerned for most of us.

And don’t forget the other good stuff in beets. They’re a good source of betaine and folate, two nutrients that work together to reduce homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that can be harmful to blood vessels. Beets are also loaded with potassium (important for heart health), as well as magnesium and even a tiny bit of vitamin C. —Dr. Jonny

Fragrant Lentils with Roasted Beets, Feta & Fresh Herbs

Serves 4

Feta cheese adds a salty tang and pairs perfectly with sweet beets and earthy lentils.

4 medium beets, red, golden, or candy-striped (Chioggia), well-scrubbed

2 tsp. plus 1/3 cup olive oil

1½ cups dried French green lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones*

3 shallots, finely diced

1 carrot, grated

1 bay leaf

Juice and zest of 1 large lemon

¼ tsp. salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbs. minced fresh mint

3 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, or a combination

6 oz. pastured feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1–2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat beets lightly with 2 tsp. olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil, place on baking sheet, and roast until tender, 45–60 minutes.
  2. While beets are roasting, combine lentils, shallots, carrots, and bay leaf in pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until soft. Drain off excess liquid, and remove bay leaf. Set aside.
  3. While lentils are simmering, combine 3 Tbs. lemon juice, 1½ tsp. lemon zest, salt, cayenne, and garlic in small bowl. Whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil until lightly emulsified. Taste, and add more lemon juice or zest if desired. Set aside.
  4. In large bowl, combine lentils, mint, cilantro, and feta. Pour dressing over all, and toss gently to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel and quarter. Surround lentils with beets, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if using.

*For a quick, low-fuss alternative, substitute two drained and rinsed 15-oz. cans of lentils, and skip the lentil cooking step.

per serving: 556 cal; 23g pro; 29g total fat (9g sat fat); 56g carb; 38mg chol; 706mg sod; 14g fiber; 11g sugars

Notes from: Chef Jeannette

To choose the freshest and most flavorful beets, look for varieties that have rich color and firm, smooth skin. If they look shriveled or have visible pits or soft spots, take a pass. Fresh beets may still have the greens attached. Beet greens are flavorful and nutritious. Slice them off for this recipe, but keep them to steam or sauté in a little olive oil as a side dish. They have a pleasant, earthy taste somewhat similar to Swiss chard.

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Photo: Pornchai mittongtare; prop Styling: Robin Turk; food Styling: Claire Stancer

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Take It Slow

The opposite of fast food, the Slow Food movement emphasizes a fresh, local, and sustainable approach to nutrition. Do you make a weekly trip to the farmers market, seeking out the best and freshest local produce, honey, cheese, and fish?