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Once forgotten vegetable now ‘beets’ with love

  • Beets can be added to red velvet cake in lieu of food coloring. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

BEIRUT: For many, Valentine’s Day can mean chocolate overdose. Love it or hate it, the holiday will see sweethearts exchanging sweets of all shapes and colors in Lebanon.

But how to indulge in all the sugary goodness without breaking your New Year’s resolution to stay in shape?

While many may rush to the chocolatier or grocery store for the ubiquitous box of chocolate, nothing says “I love you” more clearly than a homemade cake, preferably something red or pink and heart shaped. It is without a doubt the healthier way to go, especially when you sneak in this sneaky substitute: beets.

To get the rich red color essential for Valentine’s signature sweet, red velvet cake, you need look no further than the humble beetroot.

A staple of the Lebanese pantry, beets – which also happen to be in season – are an excellent source of natural sugars that can be added to baked goods in lieu of food coloring for a more complex taste.

“They don’t invade but they add a richer structure,” said Farid Chehab, who runs Kitchen Central, a catering company and cooking school in Beirut.

Chehab said for years beetroot had been known as the “légume oblié” or forgotten vegetable, but that it was now making a comeback in top kitchens everywhere.

And with a seemingly endless list of health benefits, the vegetable’s newfound popularity is no surprise.

Licensed dietitian Lynn Charabaty of Vie Saine wellness center said that adding simple boiled beets to your meals had been shown to increase weight loss, boost energy levels, decrease inflammation that can lead to wrinkles and arthritis, detoxify cells, help prevent cancer, improve mental health and, most importantly for the holiday of love, increase sex drive.

According to Charabaty, ancient Romans used the veggie as a “medicinal aphrodisiac,” and they weren’t wrong. The nitrates found in beets get the blood pumping, and the roots also contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of sex hormones.

So instead of a store-bought batch of cupcakes or a heart-shaped box of chocolate, why not try showing your loved one you care with an antioxidant-rich beetroot cake this Feb. 14.

 
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Summary

To get the rich red color essential for Valentine's signature sweet, red velvet cake, you need look no further than the humble beetroot.

A staple of the Lebanese pantry, beets – which also happen to be in season – are an excellent source of natural sugars that can be added to baked goods in lieu of food coloring for a more complex taste.

Chehab said for years beetroot had been known as the "legume oblie" or forgotten vegetable, but that it was now making a comeback in top kitchens everywhere.

And with a seemingly endless list of health benefits, the vegetable's newfound popularity is no surprise.


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