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Farro & Beet Salad

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Farro & Beet Salad

I can’t seem to get enough of this Farro & Beet Salad! It’s a deliciously satisfying combo of earthy roasted beets and garlic tossed with nutty, chewy farro and simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon and dill. The flurry of microgreens adds colour and boosts nutrition. Even better, microgreens make me think of spring right around the corner. So close, you can taste it!

You may recall from last month’s recipe post that broccoli sprouts are powerhouses of sulforaphane, a compound that acts against the formation of cancer at the molecular level. Broccoli microgreens are the next best thing. Living Earth Farm grows broccoli microgreens as well as several other varieties right here in Toronto. I’ve also made this salad using their basil microgreens and their cilantro microgreens (I told you I can’t seem to get enough of this salad) and each worked beautifully.

If your beets have greens that are as gorgeous as the ones in the photo, chiffonade them into the salad as well as (or instead of) the microgreens. Other bitter greens like arugula, dandelion or radicchio are also fantastic additions.

This Farro & Beet Salad is wonderful warm or at room temperature and can easily be made ahead. Feel free to scale up the recipe to serve a crowd. I like to crumble feta or goat cheese over top and sprinkle it with toasted pumpkins seeds. And it plays well with just about anything, roasted chicken and salmon being my current favourites. For a meatless meal, add about a cup of cooked chickpeas per serving.

Sign up to my newsletter today to receive the recipe for this scrumptious Farro & Beet Salad. And read on for more about why I’ve been craving this salad and the bevy of benefits from feasting on farro and beets

Farro & Beet Salad…Deconstructed

Perhaps one reason I’ve been craving this salad lately is I’ve begun a training plan for a 10K race this spring. The goal is to raise funds to help kids affected by childhood cancer or other serious illness attend camp (if you wish to help, click here). My mileage is ramping up and this salad is a bounty of whole grains, beets and greens. Read on for why these foods are BFFs for endurance runners.

Farro will help you run far-o  😉

Farro is an ancient whole grain wheat (which may refer to either einkorn, emmer or spelt varieties). And whole grains are super important for runners!  Read on for why…

  • Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Farro & Beet SaladThey are an excellent source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are stored in the body as glycogen in the muscles and liver and used as fuel during exercise, particularly higher intensity exercise.
  • They are also good sources of protein. In fact, grains have about 25% more protein when eaten their whole form as compared to their refined versions. And protein important for all of us, not just runners. As we age, it is even more crucial to ensure we consume sufficient protein to help fend off age-related sarcopenia (i.e., muscle loss).
  • Whole grains like farro are high in fibre, too. Fibre slows down digestion, thus providing your body with a steadier stream of nutrients. It also feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which improves digestion, controls inflammation and supports immune function. Just be sure to leave enough time for fiber to digest before going for a run, or you may find yourself going for the runs instead.  😉
  • They contain iron. And you need iron to produce hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells that is essential for the transport of oxygen to your working muscles. Iron deficiency causes fatigue and hampers athletic performance. Endurance runners may also have higher iron needs because of foot-strike hemolysis (this is when red blood cells passing through the feet are destroyed from the repetitive pounding). You usually have to run some serious mileage for this to become an issue, however. And adequate iron intake is particularly important for females experiencing menstruation-related blood loss.
  • Whole grains are rich in B-vitamins (such as niacin and folate). B vitamins help convert carbohydrates and protein to energy and aid in cellular repair. So B-vitamin deficiency can decrease both your athletic performance and your body’s ability to recover.
  • They are a good source of magnesium. Magnesium is essential for energy production, muscle function and muscle recovery (your heart, remember, is a muscle). And it is critical for bone health! You lose magnesium through sweat and so it is necessary to replace it through the diet. Add a cup of raw beet greens and a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds to each serving of this salad and you’ll almost double the amount of magnesium. Farro also contains calcium which, like magnesium, is excellent for bone health!

Farro is foolproof

An added bonus is that cooking farro is pretty foolproof. Simply rinse it, then boil it in abundant amount of salted water (as you would pasta) and drain it when it’s ready. You want it to be chewy and a little al dente. The time will vary depending on what type you have. I avoid pearled farro as all the bran has been removed and so it is less nutritious. But it does have the benefit of cooking faster. Instead, I recommend either semi-pearled farro, which cooks in 20-30 minutes or whole farro, which takes 40 minutes or so. You can soak whole farro overnight first, to help speed up the cooking time.

Eat beets to be fleet of foot …

Beets are a rich source of nitrate which the body converts into nitric oxide (NO). Research shows NO can:

  • increase blood flow,
  • improve lung function and
  • strengthen muscle contraction.

It works by opening up your blood vessels (vasodilation), increasing blood flow and providing more oxygen to working muscles. So consuming beets or beet juice may boost your athletic performance (note: much of the research was conducted using beet juice).

Consuming beets may also:

  • improve hypertension,
  • lessen inflammation and
  • possibly even reduce the risk of some cancers.

A final word to those of you who might not have eaten beets before: consuming red beets will often cause stool and urine to develop a red or pink color. If you don’t know to expect it, you might be alarmed as it can look like blood. But it is quite normal, totally benign and nothing to worry about. And you can also make this salad with golden beets!

I hope you enjoy this Farro & Beet Salad as much as I do. Sign up here for the recipe and feel free to share it with your family and friends!

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