The Vibrant Root Vegetable You Should Be Adding To Smoothies

If you've ever uttered the phrase, "This tastes like dirt," behind a twisted-up grimace, you've been eating root vegetables wrong. Don't let the coarse skin, knobby exterior, or literal coating of dirt and dust deter you. Inside, root veggie meat is wicked worth the effort of extraction. Root vegetables offer an earthy, savory flavor incomparable to the bitterness or sweetness of other veggies. Plus, their hearty skin means root vegetables keep at room temperature for as long as six months, making them an all-season veggie, even during winter months when fresh produce can be scarce. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're not just for roasting: You should be adding one particular root vegetable to your smoothies. That's right — we're talking about beets. (Yes, really).

That characteristic "dirt" taste and smell that either turns folks onto (or very, very off of) beets is caused by a naturally-occurring molecule called "geosmin." But, while that might mean something for the soil those beets grow in, it really doesn't mean much for your tastebuds. Either way, the beet flavor is still there — which, believe it or not, can take your smoothies to the next level.

Just beet it

On a utilitarian level, beets can be instrumental in turning a simple smoothie into a nutrient-dense healthy breakfast. Beets are packed with antioxidants and inflammation-curbing betacyanin, not to mention high levels of vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Just one cup of beet juice packs 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. According to Sarah Thomsen Ferreira, RD, of the Cleveland Clinic, beets also promote heart and vascular health and lower LDL cholesterol. But, on a culinary level, beets can be just as impactful.

Beets add an earthy flavor to smoothies, which creates a complex profile. The result is a dimensional kaleidoscope of tastes beyond just bitter or sweet, as in many fruit- or leafy-green-forward smoothies. Yet, due to their fairly high natural sugar content, beets still offer a pleasant, accessible taste — not to mention the visually impressive deep red hue. For a smoothie that showcases beets' natural sweetness, pair them with raspberries, white cherries, and chopped fuji apples. (You could even top it with goji berries as a chewy garnish). 

Want a boost of brightness? Blend those beets with chopped pineapple, grapefruit, and orange juice. For a protein boost, combine beets with plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, a pinch of cinnamon, and blueberries. (Hello, pretty purple color.) Or, if you're a card-carrying beet fan, and you actually want to emphasize that earthy flavor, try blending up a smoothie with nectarines, turmeric powder, and dandelion honey.