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Beet greens

When purchasing fresh beets in the produce section of your grocery, you are very likely to find them bunched together with their colorful leafy greens adorning their tops. While many people can cut off these greens and only consume their round root portion, beet greens are actually the most nutrient-rich part of the plant and provide amazing health benefits.

What's New and Beneficial About Beet Greens

  • A recent study from Chile has shown beet greens to be one of the top 10 food contributors to iron intake in that country. Even though legumes were the most important food group contributor to iron (with pinto beans ranking as the number one food source), beet greens were nevertheless a standout source, especially within the vegetable group. (Our WHFoods rating system ranks beet greens as a very good source of iron, providing 15% of the daily recommended amount in a 1-cup serving.)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLV) are often lumped together as a group and treated interchangeably. However, up-to-date nutrient information reveals important differences between members of this incredibly nutrient-rich food group. For example, when beet greens are compared with two other common DGLVs—turnip greens and mustard greens—only beet greens provide excellent amounts of both calcium and magnesium, While all three of these DGLVs provide excellent amounts of calcium, only beet greens also provide an excellent amount of magnesium at 98 milligrams per serving, or nearly 25% of the recommended daily amount. This unique aspect of beet greens gives them a calcium:magnesium ratio of 1.6:1, in comparison to the ratio in turnip greens of 6.2:1, or the ratio in mustard greens of 9.2:1.
  • Both beet greens and beet roots can provide you with outstanding nourishment. The roots are especially concentrated in folate, providing 5-6 times the amount of this vitamin as the leaves. However, from an overall nutritional perspective, beet greens achieve 11 rankings of excellent, 6 rankings of very good, and 3 rankings of good in our WHFoods rating system, for a total of 20 rankings. (By comparison, beet roots achieve a total of 10 rankings.) This outcome places beet greens in our Top 10 foods in terms of total rankings.
  • A recent study has shown beet greens to be a major contributor in many diets to total intake of the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. While not as concentrated in lutein as collard greens or spinach, beet greens have nevertheless been shown to be an outstanding source of this key carotenoid. (Lutein is known to play an especially important role in eye health, including the health of the retina.)

WHFoods Recommendations

Foods belonging to the chenopod family—including beets, chard, spinach and quinoa—continue to show an increasing number of health benefits not readily available from other food families. The red and yellow betalain pigments found in this food family, their unique epoxyxanthophyll carotenoids, and the special connection between their overall phytonutrients and our nervous system health (including our specialized nervous system organs like the eye) point to the chenopod family of foods as unique in their health value. While we have yet to see large-scale human studies that point to a recommended minimum intake level for foods from this botanical family, we have seen data on chenopod phytonutrients, and based on this data, we recommend that you include foods from the chenopod family in your diet 1-2 times per week. In the case of a leafy food like spinach, we recommend a serving size of at least 1/2 cup, and even more beneficial, at least one full cup. In the case of a root food like beet root, we recommend a serving size of at least 1/2 whole medium beet, and even more beneficial, at least 1 whole medium beet. For quinoa, our recommended minimum serving size is 1/2 cup pre-cooked.

Beet Greens, boiled
1.00 cup
(144.00 grams)
Calories: 39
GI: not available


 vitamin K774%

 vitamin A61%

 vitamin C48%


 vitamin B232%




 vitamin E17%




 vitamin B114%

 vitamin B611%




This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Beet greens provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Beet greens can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Beet greens, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

Unusually Comprehensive Nourishment of Beet Greens

As mentioned earlier in this profile, beet greens achieve 20 rankings of excellent, very good, or good in our WHFoods rating system. These results place beet greens among our Top 10 ranked foods. Equally important, no major category of nutrients is left out of these high ratings. In the macronutrient category, beet greens are an excellent source of fiber and a very good source of protein. In the vitamin category, they are an excellent source of both fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A and K, as well as water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B2. In the mineral category, they are an excellent source of 5 minerals, including copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and calcium. In fact, when beet greens are compared with two other common dark green leafy vegetables (DGLV)—turnip greens and mustard greens—only beet greens provide excellent amounts of both calcium and magnesium. While all three of these DGLVs provide excellent amounts of calcium, only beet greens also provide an excellent amount of magnesium at 98 milligrams per serving, or nearly 25% of the recommended daily amount. This unique aspect of beet greens gives them a calcium:magnesium ratio of 1.6:1, in comparison to the ratio in turnip greens of 6.2:1, or the ratio in mustard greens of 9.2:1. The ratio in beet greens may be more helpful to the average U.S. adult than the ratio in these other greens, since the average U.S. adult is more deficient in magnesium than calcium.

In the phytonutrient category, beet greens show special benefits in the area of carotenoid richness. We rank them as an excellent source of vitamin A due to their rich concentration of beta-carotene and lutein. Beet greens have been shown to be a major contributor in many diets to total intake of the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. While not as concentrated in lutein as collard greens or spinach, beet greens have nevertheless been shown to be an outstanding source of this key carotenoid. Lutein is known to play an especially important role in eye health, including the health of the retina.

Other Health Benefits of Beet Greens

Unfortunately, few studies have tried to separate out health benefits specific to beet greens from health benefits associated with intake of dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) as a group. Without question, increased intake of DGLVs has been associated in large-scale, epidemiologic studies with lower risk of certain chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Based on the most recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research (WCFR/AICR), we also believe there is evidence in support of decreased risk of certain cancers following generous intake of DGLVs. While we fully expect to see these health benefits coming from intake of beet greens as such, we also look forward to future research where beet green intake is analyzed independently from intake of other DGLVs.


Both beets and Swiss chard are different varieties within the same plant family (Amaranthaceae-Chenopodiaceae) and their edible leaves share a resemblance in both taste and texture. All varieties of table beets have edible leaves that are primarily green in color. However, the veins in these beet greens tend to take on the color of the beet root. For this reason, you will find beet greens from yellow beets with vibrant yellow veins, beet greens from red beets having rich red veins, and beet greens from white beets with distinct white veins. Each of these greens can make an outstanding contribution to your health.

The similarity between beets greens and Swiss chard does not stop with their plant family, taste, or texture. At WHFoods, we use a quick boil for both foods to help preserve their nutrient richness during cooking. In addition, both foods achieve of 20 rankings of excellent, very good, or good in our rating system!

The science name for the beet plant is Beta vulgaris. There are several subspecies of beets within this scientific category, including the subspecies vulgaris, macrocarpa, crassa, and maritime. The greens attached to the beet roots are delicious and can be prepared like spinach or Swiss chard. They are incredibly rich in nutrients, concentrated in vitamins and minerals as well as carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin.

While beets are available throughout the year, their season runs from June through October when the youngest, most tender beets are easiest to find.


Beet greens have been enjoyed in cuisines worldwide since prehistoric times, especially in Northern Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe. Today, of course, they are enjoyed worldwide.

From a commercial production standpoint, beets fall into three basic categories: table beets, which are grown primarily for consumption as fresh vegetables; sugar beets, which are grown primarily for the extraction of beet sugar; and fodder beets, which are grown primarily for use in animal feed. From a practical standpoint, one of the key differences that has emerged between sugar beets and table beets involves the role of genetic engineering. The vast majority of all sugar beets grown worldwide involve genetically modified versions of the plants. This extensive use of genetic engineering does not exist to the same degree for table beets, and organic table beets (and beet greens) are widely available in the marketplace with USDA certification as having been grown from seeds that have not been genetically engineered. It is also worth noting here that when used as feed for the raising of animals providing certified organic meats, milks, cheeses, and other foods, fodder beets must be organically grown.

Sugar beets far outstrip table beets in terms of U.S. production as well as production worldwide. Approximately 30 million tons of sugar beets are grown and harvested in the U.S. each year, with Minnesota, North Dakota, and Idaho producing the greatest volume. Worldwide, sugar beet production production averages close to 300 million tons, with the Russian Federation, France, United States, and Germany among the leading sugar beet producers. On a global basis, over 12,500,000 acres of sugar beets are plants each year. In the U.S. approximately 1,250,000 acres of sugar beets are planted each year, By comparison, only 700 acres are planted in the production of U.S. table beets.

How to Select and Store

Beet Greens are available throughout the garden season. Here are a few things to look for when selecting fresh beet greens:

When choosing beet greens that comes attached to the roots, choose smaller beet roots over larger, tougher ones. Beets over 2-1/2 inches in diameter may be tough and have a woody core. Pass over any beet roots that are cracked, soft, bruised, or shriveled, or look very dry. Avoid elongated beets with round, scaly areas around the top surface. These beets will be tough, fibrous, and strongly flavored.

If the beet greens are still attached to the root, they should be crisp looking and not wilted or slimy. They should appear fresh, tender, and have a lively green color.

At WHFoods, we encourage the purchase of certified organically grown foods, and beets (and their accompanying greens) are no exception. Repeated research studies on organic foods as a group show that your likelihood of exposure to contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals can be greatly reduced through the purchased of certified organic foods, including beet greens. In many cases, you may be able to find a local organic grower who sells beets but has not applied for formal organic certification either through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or through a state agency. (Examples of states offering state-certified organic foods include California, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.) However, if you are shopping in a large supermarket, your most reliable source of organically grown beets is very likely to be beets that display the USDA organic logo.

Cut the majority of the greens and their stems from the beet roots. Store the unwashed greens in a separate plastic bag squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Place in refrigerator where they will keep fresh for about four days.

Here is some background on why we recommend refrigerating beet greens. Whenever food is stored, four basic factors affect its nutrient composition: exposure to air, exposure to light, exposure to heat, and length of time in storage. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and carotenoids are good examples of nutrients highly susceptible to heat, and for this reason, their loss from food is very likely to be slowed down through refrigeration.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Beet

If Beet Greens are still attached to the beet root, cut leaves off at the stem where the leafy portion ends; the portion of the stem between the leaf and the root is too tough to enjoy. Rinse the leaves under cold running water and cut into ½" slices. Do not soak the leaves in the water as water-soluble nutrients will leach into the water.

The Nutrient-Rich Way of Cooking Beet Greens

Beet greens are only one of three vegetables we recommend Quick Boiling to free up acids and allow them to leach into the boiling water; this brings out a sweeter taste from the beet greens. Discard the boiling water after cooking; do not drink it or use it for stock because of its acid content.

Quick Boiling—similar to Quick Steaming and Healthy Sauté, our other recommended cooking methods—follows three basic cooking guidelines that are generally associated in food science research with improved nutrient retention. These three guidelines are: (1) minimal necessary heat exposure; (2) minimal necessary cooking duration; (3) minimal necessary food surface contact with cooking liquid.

Use a large pot (3 quart) with lots of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add beet greens to the boiling water and boil for 1 minute. Begin timing as soon as you place the beet greens in the pot if you are using 1 pound or less of beet greens. If you are cooking larger quantities of beet greens bring the water back to a boil before beginning timing the 1 minute. Do not cover the pot when cooking beet greens. Leaving the pot uncovered helps to release more of the acids with the rising steam. Research has shown that the boiling of beet greens in large amounts of water helps decrease the oxalic acid content.

Remove beet greens from pot, press out liquid with a fork, place in a bowl, toss with our Mediterranean Dressing, and top with your favorite optional ingredients. Beet Greens are prepared in the same way as spinach. For details, see 1-Minute Spinach.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Add layers of beet greens to your next lasagna recipe.
  • Pine nuts are a great addition to cooked beet greens..

WHFoods Recipes That Feature Beet Greens

You can substitute the spinach in any of the spinach recipes with beet greens:

If you'd like even more recipes and ways to prepare beet greens the Nutrient-Rich Way, you may want to explore The World's Healthiest Foods book.

Individual Concerns

Oxalate Content

Beet greens have consistently been determined to have high oxalate content. Oxalates are naturally occurring organic acids found in a wide variety of foods, and in the case of certain medical conditions, they must be greatly restricted in a meal plan to prevent over-accumulation inside the body. Our comprehensive article about oxalates will provide you with practical and detailed information about these organic acids, food, and health.

Nutritional Profile

Our WHFoods rating system places beet greens among our Top 10 foods in terms of their total nutrient rankings of excellent, very good, and good. Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber and calcium. They are a very good source of iron, vitamins B1, B6, and pantothenic acid, as well as phosphorus and protein. Beet greens are also a good source of zinc, folate and vitamin B3.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Beet Greens, boiled
1.00 cup
144.00 grams
Calories: 39
GI: not available
Nutrient Amount DRI/DV
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K 696.96 mcg 774 358.5 excellent
vitamin A 551.09 mcg RAE 61 28.3 excellent
vitamin C 35.86 mg 48 22.1 excellent
copper 0.36 mg 40 18.5 excellent
vitamin B2 0.42 mg 32 15.0 excellent
manganese 0.74 mg 32 14.9 excellent
potassium 1308.96 mg 28 12.9 excellent
magnesium 97.92 mg 23 10.8 excellent
vitamin E 2.61 mg (ATE) 17 8.1 excellent
calcium 164.16 mg 16 7.6 excellent
iron 2.74 mg 15 7.0 very good
fiber 4.18 g 15 6.9 very good
vitamin B1 0.17 mg 14 6.6 very good
vitamin B6 0.19 mg 11 5.2 very good
pantothenic acid 0.47 mg 9 4.4 very good
phosphorus 59.04 mg 8 3.9 very good
protein 3.70 g 7 3.4 very good
zinc 0.72 mg 7 3.0 good
folate 20.16 mcg 5 2.3 good
vitamin B3 0.72 mg 5 2.1 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, here is an in-depth nutritional profile for Beet greens. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Beet Greens, boiled
(Note: "--" indicates data unavailable)
1.00 cup
(144.00 g)
GI: not available
nutrient amount DRI/DV
Protein 3.70 g 7
Carbohydrates 7.86 g 3
Fat - total 0.29 g 0
Dietary Fiber 4.18 g 15
Calories 38.88 2
nutrient amount DRI/DV
Starch -- g
Total Sugars 0.86 g
Monosaccharides -- g
Fructose -- g
Glucose -- g
Galactose -- g
Disaccharides -- g
Lactose -- g
Maltose -- g
Sucrose -- g
Soluble Fiber 0.66 g
Insoluble Fiber 3.51 g
Other Carbohydrates 2.82 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.05 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.10 g
Saturated Fat 0.04 g
Trans Fat 0.00 g
Calories from Fat 2.59
Calories from Saturated Fat 0.40
Calories from Trans Fat 0.00
Cholesterol 0.00 mg
Water 128.35 g
nutrient amount DRI/DV
Water-Soluble Vitamins
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B1 0.17 mg 14
Vitamin B2 0.42 mg 32
Vitamin B3 0.72 mg 5
Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents) 1.68 mg
Vitamin B6 0.19 mg 11
Vitamin B12 0.00 mcg 0
Biotin -- mcg --
Choline 0.72 mg 0
Folate 20.16 mcg 5
Folate (DFE) 20.16 mcg
Folate (food) 20.16 mcg
Pantothenic Acid 0.47 mg 9
Vitamin C 35.86 mg 48
Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)
Vitamin A International Units (IU) 11021.76 IU
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) 551.09 mcg (RAE) 61
Vitamin A mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE) 1102.18 mcg (RE)
Retinol mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE) 0.00 mcg (RE)
Carotenoid mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE) 1102.18 mcg (RE)
Alpha-Carotene 5.76 mcg
Beta-Carotene 6609.60 mcg
Beta-Carotene Equivalents 6612.48 mcg
Cryptoxanthin 0.00 mcg
Lutein and Zeaxanthin 2619.36 mcg
Lycopene 0.00 mcg
Vitamin D
Vitamin D International Units (IU) 0.00 IU 0
Vitamin D mcg 0.00 mcg
Vitamin E
Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE) 2.61 mg (ATE) 17
Vitamin E International Units (IU) 3.88 IU
Vitamin E mg 2.61 mg
Vitamin K 696.96 mcg 774
nutrient amount DRI/DV
Boron -- mcg
Calcium 164.16 mg 16
Chloride -- mg
Chromium -- mcg --
Copper 0.36 mg 40
Fluoride -- mg --
Iodine -- mcg --
Iron 2.74 mg 15
Magnesium 97.92 mg 23
Manganese 0.74 mg 32
Molybdenum -- mcg --
Phosphorus 59.04 mg 8
Potassium 1308.96 mg 28
Selenium 1.30 mcg 2
Sodium 347.04 mg 23
Zinc 0.72 mg 7
nutrient amount DRI/DV
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 0.01 g 0
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 0.09 g
Monounsaturated Fats
14:1 Myristoleic 0.00 g
15:1 Pentadecenoic 0.00 g
16:1 Palmitol 0.00 g
17:1 Heptadecenoic 0.00 g
18:1 Oleic 0.05 g
20:1 Eicosenoic 0.00 g
22:1 Erucic 0.00 g
24:1 Nervonic 0.00 g
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
18:2 Linoleic 0.09 g
18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA) -- g
18:3 Linolenic 0.01 g
18:4 Stearidonic 0.00 g
20:3 Eicosatrienoic 0.00 g
20:4 Arachidonic 0.00 g
20:5 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA) 0.00 g
22:5 Docosapentaenoic (DPA) 0.00 g
22:6 Docosahexaenoic (DHA) 0.00 g
Saturated Fatty Acids
4:0 Butyric 0.00 g
6:0 Caproic 0.00 g
8:0 Caprylic 0.00 g
10:0 Capric 0.00 g
12:0 Lauric 0.00 g
14:0 Myristic 0.00 g
15:0 Pentadecanoic 0.00 g
16:0 Palmitic 0.04 g
17:0 Margaric 0.00 g
18:0 Stearic 0.00 g
20:0 Arachidic 0.00 g
22:0 Behenate 0.00 g
24:0 Lignoceric 0.00 g
nutrient amount DRI/DV
Alanine 0.14 g
Arginine 0.11 g
Aspartic Acid 0.22 g
Cysteine 0.03 g
Glutamic Acid 0.45 g
Glycine 0.14 g
Histidine 0.06 g
Isoleucine 0.08 g
Leucine 0.17 g
Lysine 0.11 g
Methionine 0.03 g
Phenylalanine 0.10 g
Proline 0.09 g
Serine 0.12 g
Threonine 0.11 g
Tryptophan 0.06 g
Tyrosine 0.09 g
Valine 0.11 g
nutrient amount DRI/DV
Ash 3.80 g
Organic Acids (Total) -- g
Acetic Acid -- g
Citric Acid -- g
Lactic Acid -- g
Malic Acid -- g
Taurine -- g
Sugar Alcohols (Total) -- g
Glycerol -- g
Inositol -- g
Mannitol -- g
Sorbitol -- g
Xylitol -- g
Artificial Sweeteners (Total) -- mg
Aspartame -- mg
Saccharin -- mg
Alcohol 0.00 g
Caffeine 0.00 mg


The nutrient profiles provided in this website are derived from The Food Processor, Version 10.12.0, ESHA Research, Salem, Oregon, USA. Among the 50,000+ food items in the master database and 163 nutritional components per item, specific nutrient values were frequently missing from any particular food item. We chose the designation "--" to represent those nutrients for which no value was included in this version of the database.


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