Ten years ago I was living a dream. I had made it to the pinnacle of my athletic career and I was racing for a medal at the Olympic games in Beijing. On August 17th, 2008 that dream became a reality as I watched the Canada flag rise and felt the weight of my shiny Olympic medal around my neck. The moment was surreal and the memories are still very vivid in my mind. In this milestone anniversary year, I often reflect back to that time in my life and reminisce about what it takes to make a champion.
When I speak of feats of athletic prowess, of course everyone knows there are hours of training and hard work that go into those elite performances. We’ve heard all athletics talk about the mental game, the laser focus and the sacrifice that is required to create a champion. You can also imagine the other elements like the power of having a good night sleep. These are the elements of sport that is common knowledge, however there is the more secretive side in the realm of sport science where the exercise physiologists are in a constant quest to find an edge.
Testing in the human performance lab was commonplace on our team, but the results and trials were not shared with other countries, in hopes of finding something special. Often our performance enhancing supplements were extremely scientific by name and nature, for example, beta alanine, creatinine, branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and the like. So, you can imagine my surprise when our exercise physiologist showed up at the lake one training session with beetroot juice; who knew that something so simple (that we could pronounce), that could be picked in our own back yard could have such an astounding affect on athletic performance! Simplistically put, beetroot juice contains nitric oxide, which opens up the blood vessels (vasodilation) increasing blood flow and feeding more oxygen to working muscles.
As it turns out the beet is quite an impressive root vegetable that is bursting with health benefits. I found an evidence based article online that outlines the beets benefits in a concise way; I was awed by the evidence!
As a tribute to the ten year anniversary of my Olympic medal, this harvest I would like pay tribute to the beet! The beet will always have a place in my garden and I will continue to celebrate it as a nutritional powerhouse.
There are so many ways that you can dress up this crimson beauty, but my favourite is raw (in the warmer months) and roasted (in the colder months). The crunch and the sweet bursts in every bite make my mouth water as I imagine a roasted beet salad. Here is one of my favourite recipes from the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. It’s a salad that is sure to bring delight in every bite.
Roasted Beet Salad with Hazelnuts, Thyme and Balsamic Reduction
Prep time: 20 to 25 mins
Cook time: 1 hour to 1 hour 30 mins
5 to 6 medium beets, trimmed
½ cup (125ml) hazelnuts, toasted
3 to 4 Tbsp (45 to 60 ml) Balsamic reduction
1 Tbsp (15ml) roasted hazelnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Wrap each beet individually in a piece of foil and place them on a baking sheet. Roast the beets for 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the beets, until the fork easily slides into the largest beet. Let cool for about 20 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the skins have darkened and are almost falling off. Place the nuts on a damp dish towel and rub vigorously until most of the skins fall off. Discard the skins and roughly chop the hazelnuts. Set aside.
- Carefully unwrap the beets and trim the ends. Under cold running water, push the beet skins off with your fingers. Discard the skins.
- Thinly slice the beets into “-thick (3-mm) rounds and arrange seven to 12 beet slices on each of three plates. Sprinkle a handful of toasted hazelnuts on top of each plate of beets. Add a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a drizzle of oil. Scatter the leaves from 1 to 2 sprigs of thyme all over the beets on each plate and serve.