Borscht: A Spectacularly Healthy Ukrainian Comfort Food
With all eyes on the heartbreaking Ukrainian crisis, it seems apropos to pay homage to one of the most loved and influential Ukrainian dishes: borscht. This classic beet soup is as traditional as it gets. Typically, borscht is made using cut-up beets with added sauteed vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes, all simmered in a bone-broth soup base. It is the perfect addition to a plant-based diet as it is a nutrient powerhouse food. It is an impressive source of fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C.
Beets also contain pigments called betalains, which give them their exquisite red-purple hue. Betalains are biologically active plant chemicals with superb health benefits: They counter inflammation, protect the liver, improve exercise performance, and have anticancer and antioxidant activity.
The superfood ingredients in borscht could benefit several aspects of health, as chronic inflammation has been associated with conditions like obesity, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. In fact, eating beets frequently has been scientifically proven to improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and improve heart health and brain function.
I urge you to tap into the extraordinary health benefits of borscht by cooking this simple recipe.
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Dr. Janet’s Warm and Comforting Vegetarian Borscht
2 beets, coursely grated
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
2 carrots, coarsely grated
8 cups water
2 cups Savoy cabbage, shredded
¾ cup dry lentils
3 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
6 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream, or more to taste
6 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Combine beets and vinegar in a frying pan over low heat. Cook, stirring continuously, until soft (about 15 minutes). In a separate frying pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onion and stir for two minutes. Add carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 more minutes. Set aside. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil (alternatively, you can use bone broth or vegetarian broth for extra flavor*). Add cabbage and lentils. Cook for 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes more. Stir in cooked beets and onion-carrot mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and simmer until all vegetables are tender about 10 more minutes. Serve with a dollop of fat-free sour cream, a sprinkle of dill, and a loaf of crusty whole-grain bread.
Yield: 8 servings
Nutritional Information Per Serving if made with water (approximately 3 cups):
180 calories; carbohydrate 30g; fat 3.5g; cholesterol 0mg; fiber 4g; protein 7g; sodium 45mg.
*Using broth may alter the nutritional information