Can you eat the raw leaves of beets?

Yes, the leaves of beets are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. While the beetroot is the most commonly consumed part of the plant, the leaves actually offer some nutritional benefits as well.

Nutrition in Beet Leaves

Beet leaves are highly nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of the key nutrients found in beet leaves include:

  • Vitamin A – Important for eye health and immune function
  • Vitamin C – An antioxidant that supports immune health
  • Vitamin K – Plays a role in blood clotting and bone health
  • Potassium – Helps regulate fluid balance and blood pressure
  • Magnesium – Supports nerve function and energy production
  • Calcium – Important for bone health
  • Iron – Helps transport oxygen in the blood
  • Betaine – May help lower homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart disease
  • Nitrates – Have been shown to improve exercise performance and lower blood pressure

So while beet greens may not seem very exciting, they are packed with beneficial plant compounds and vitamins and minerals. Eating them is an easy way to get more nutrition into your diet.

Are There Any Concerns with Eating Raw Beet Leaves?

Most sources consider beet leaves safe to eat raw for most people. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Oxalates – Like spinach and chard, beet leaves contain oxalic acid which can cause issues for those prone to kidney stones.
  • Nitrates – High amounts may be harmful to those with certain medical conditions.
  • Pesticides – As with any produce, try to buy organic beets when possible to minimize chemical exposure from conventional farming practices.
  • Texture – Raw beet leaves can be quite firm or even gritty when chewed. Cooking them can make them more tender and palatable.

So as long as you don’t fall into a high risk group, beet greens should be safe to eat raw. But cooking them is always an option if you want to improve their texture and palatability.

Taste and Texture of Raw Beet Greens

Raw beet greens have an earthy, mildly bitter taste. The texture is very firm and fibrous.

When chewed raw, the leaves have a definite crunch and grittiness to them that can be surprising if you’re expecting a tender green like spinach.

The red veined varieties tend to be slightly less bitter and earthy than green/white veined beet leaves. But in general, uncooked beet greens are known for having strong, earthy undertones.

Cooking beet leaves reduces some of the toughness and makes them easier to chew and digest. Even a quick sauté or steaming can soften them up substantially.

But the hearty texture of raw beet greens can be appealing in certain dishes, similar to eating raw kale leaves or collard greens.

How to Eat Raw Beet Greens

While beet greens can be eaten on their own, they are often more palatable when incorporated into recipes:

  • Salads – Raw beet leaves work great in hearty green salads. Slice them into thin ribbons to make them easier to eat. Combining them with sweeter greens can help offset their bitterness.
  • Sandwiches and wraps – Try sliced raw beet greens in place of lettuce on sandwiches and wraps.
  • Smoothies – Add a few leaves to fruit or vegetable smoothies. Their earthy flavor blends well in smoothies.
  • Pesto – Blanch the leaves and use in place of basil to make a vibrant green beet leaf pesto.
  • Juice – Juice beet greens alone or mix them with carrot, apple, ginger or other produce.
  • Soups – Place whole leaves in hearty soups and stews and allow them to wilt down as the soup simmers.

Pairing raw beet greens with sweeter and milder ingredients can help balance out their strong flavor. Lemon juice, fresh herbs, nuts, fruits and tangy cheeses are good complements.

Storing Raw Beet Greens

If you buy beets with the greens still attached, remove the leaves as soon as possible. The leaves will leech moisture from the beetroot and cause it to deteriorate faster.

Store the leaves and beetroots separately in the fridge:

  • Beet greens – Store in a plastic bag or container, like other leafy greens. They will keep for 3-5 days.
  • Beets – Trim the stems and store the roots in a separate bag. They will keep for several weeks.

You can also blanch the greens and freeze them if you want to preserve them for longer storage. Place blanched leaves in freezer bags and squeeze out the air.

How to Cook Beet Greens

While beet greens can be eaten raw, cooking them is a smart way to maximize their flavor and texture. Here are some ways you can cook beet greens:

  • Sauté – Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped greens and sauté 5-7 minutes until wilted. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, etc.
  • Roast – Toss leaves with olive oil, spread on a baking sheet and roast 10-15 minutes at 400°F, until crispy.
  • Steam – Steam over boiling water for 2-3 minutes just until wilted. Toss with olive oil or creamy dressings.
  • Boil – Boil beet greens as you would spinach or other greens, just until tender.
  • Braise – Braise the greens in broth or a small amount of water over medium heat until tender.

Cooking helps reduce the fibrous texture of raw beet greens, bringing out their natural sweetness. Wilting the leaves concentrates their mineral and antioxidant content as well.

Health Benefits of Beet Greens

Here is a closer look at some of the top health benefits associated with beet greens:

1. Rich in Antioxidants

Beet greens contain colored antioxidants called betalains. The two main types are betacyanins which create red pigments and betaxanthins which create yellow pigments.

These antioxidants support health by counteracting oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Studies show antioxidants like these can help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

2. Support Heart Health

One of the most researched areas around beet greens is their impact on heart health. Research indicates they may:

  • – Lower blood pressure
  • – Improve blood flow and circulation
  • – Reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol
  • – Lower homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease

Compounds like nitrates, magnesium, and betalains contribute to these cardiovascular benefits.

3. Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is at the root of most diseases. Beet greens provide anti-inflammatory benefits in a few key ways:

  • – Contain high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory betalains
  • – Provide vitamin K which can reduce inflammation markers
  • – Supply betaine to help lower homocysteine, a pro-inflammatory compound

Animal studies also found beetroot juice reduced inflammatory markers, though more research is needed on beet greens specifically.

4. Support Detoxification

Beet greens provide important nutrients for the liver, the body’s main detox organ. Specifically:

  • – Betaine stimulates liver cell function
  • – Vitamin C, vitamin E, copper and vitamin B6 aid with liver detoxification processes
  • – Betalains may help protect liver cells from toxicity and oxidative damage

More human research is needed, but the nutrients in beet greens appear promising for supporting natural detoxification.

5. Benefit Digestive Health

Beet greens are high in fiber, providing 4 grams per half cup cooked. The fiber aids digestion by:

  • – Promoting regularity and healthy stool formation
  • – Feeding beneficial gut bacteria
  • – Reducing constipation
  • – Supporting healthy cholesterol levels

Fiber is also linked to lower risks of diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and stomach ulcers.

6. Support Brain Function

The nutrients in beet greens may aid brain function and cognition in several ways:

  • – Nitrates help widen blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the brain
  • – Betaine lowers homocysteine levels, protecting blood vessels in the brain
  • – Vitamin K aids in sphingolipid metabolism, important for brain cell signaling
  • – Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress that can damage brain cells

More human studies are needed to confirm direct links between beet greens and brain health.

Downsides of Beet Greens

Beet greens are highly nutritious and associated with many health benefits. However, there are some downsides to consider as well:

  • Kidney stones – The oxalates in beet greens may contribute to kidney stone formation in those prone to the condition.
  • Thyroid issues – Goitrogens in beet greens may interfere with thyroid function, especially in those with hypothyroidism.
  • Allergies – Some people are allergic to beets and experience reactions to beet greens.
  • Nitrate buildup – Buildup of nitrates may cause issues for some people with certain medical conditions.
  • Pesticide exposure – Conventional beet greens may contain higher pesticide residues if not washed properly.

To minimize risks, drink plenty of water, moderate intake if you are at risk for kidney stones, choose organic when possible, and avoid eating beet greens every day. Introduce them gradually to identify any food sensitivities.

Beet Greens vs. Chard vs. Spinach

How do beet greens compare to leafy greens like chard and spinach?

Here’s a quick nutrient profile comparison (per 1 cooked cup):

Nutrient Beet Greens Swiss Chard Spinach
Calories 39 35 41
Protein 3g 3g 5g
Carbs 8g 6g 7g
Fiber 4g 4g 2g
Vitamin A 148% DV 44% DV 56% DV
Vitamin C 53% DV 52% DV 28% DV
Vitamin K 648% DV 1038% DV 145% DV
Potassium 37% DV 36% DV 29% DV
Magnesium 22% DV 28% DV 29% DV

As you can see, beet greens are very nutritionally dense, often providing equal or greater amounts of key vitamins and minerals compared to chard and spinach.

All three are extremely healthy. But beet greens contain unique antioxidants called betalains that provide additional anti-inflammatory benefits.

Incorporating More Beet Greens Into Your Diet

Here are some tips for enjoying more beet greens:

  • – When buying beets, look for fresh, perky greens as a sign of quality and freshness.
  • – Remove greens promptly from beets after purchasing and store separately.
  • – When prepping greens, separate leaves from tougher stems which can be discarded.
  • – Mellow flavor by combining raw greens with dressings, lemon, nuts, cheese, and fruits.
  • – Add wilted greens at the end of soups, stews, and broth-based dishes.
  • – Sauté greens in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and spices for a quick side dish.
  • – Roasting or steaming tenderizes texture and brings out sweetness.
  • – Blanch leaves first before freezing for longer storage.

Enjoy experimenting with these vibrantly colored, mineral-rich greens. Just be sure to introduce them gradually in case of any digestive issues or allergies.


Beet greens are the edible leaves of the beetroot plant. Often discarded, these leaves are entirely edible and contain concentrated amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

Eating the greens raw provides the most nutrients, but cooking them improves their palatability and texture. Sauteeing, steaming, roasting and boiling are easy cooking methods.

Incorporating more beet greens provides anti-inflammatory benefits, supports heart and liver health, and supplies important antioxidants unique to beets. The nutrients in the greens complement those found in the beetroot itself.

While mostly safe, those prone to kidney stones or thyroid issues should moderate intake of beet greens due to their oxalate and goitrogen content. Start slowly when introducing them to be sure they agree with you.

Overall, beet greens deserve a second look and provide a simple way of adding more antioxidant-rich variety to your diet.

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