Let’s be honest Beetroots are not the prettiest vegetables to look at – but they sure do pack a mighty nutritional punch and have been growing in popularity as a superfood. The humble, common beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is from the same family as the sugar beet. Sugar beets are white and used for sweetening manufactured foods- but the dark red beetroot also has a pleasant sweet taste making it popular in cooking, baking and in smoothies. Here are some little known facts about Beetroot:
- Eating a lot of beetroot turns your pee pink/red (very quickly too), eating more makes your poo pink as well.
- You can use beetroot juice to measure acidity. When added to an acidic solution it turns pink, but when it is added to an alkali it turns yellow.
- Betanins – the natural red colours in beetroot, are used in the food industry to colour a number of things, they help to make the red redder in tomato pastes, various sauces, jams and even ice cream.
- The same red colours used in the food industry are used in organic cosmetic products to add a natural pink tint to make up and cosmetics.
- The same betaine found in beetroot, is used in other forms to help treat depression, and beetroots also contain tryptophan, the feel good chemical that relaxes your mind and creates a sense of well-being similar to chocolate.
- In many cultures the belief persists that if a man and a woman eat from the same beetroot then they will fall in love.
- If you boil beetroots in water, and then massage the water into your scalp each night, it works as an effective cure for dandruff.
So why all the fuss? Apart from the obvious benefits of eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits which reduce your risk of many lifestyle related health conditions- let’s get to the root of beetroots…
Heart Health, and Blood Pressure
Beetroot contains high nitrate levels, which can help to lower blood pressure and the fibre helps reduce cholesterol and triglycerides by increasing the level of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). The fibre helps strip away excess LDL (“bad” cholesterol) from the walls of the arteries to assist your body to eliminate it. When you have a higher level of triglycerides it increases your risk of heart related issues. Beetroots also have a nutrient called betaine known to lower the levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid – the building blocks of proteins. When proteins break down, elevated levels of amino acids like homocysteine may be found in the bloodstream. Having elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia) is associated with atherosclerosis and blood clots.
The humble beetroot is also high in natural potassium. When we have low potassium levels it increases our risk of strokes. Potassium helps relax the blood vessels, which means blood clots are less likely to form and get stuck. Potassium also assists in keeping any plaque that has formed in your blood vessels from accumulating any more.
Adding Beetroot with its levels of high nitrate to the diet of an athlete has been shown to improve the way muscles take up oxygen (up to 16% increase). This oxygen boost, plus the increased nitrates has the potential to enhance tolerance for lengthy endurance sports like marathon running, long distance swimming, long distance cycling and triathlons. Beetroot also contains a significant amount of carbohydrates that fuel the body during sports. Anyone who is suffering from a respiratory (or any other) condition where a lack of oxygen causes discomfort or difficulties may also benefit from increasing their intake of beetroots.
As well as nitrates, beetroots have an antioxidant called alpha- lipoic acid, which has been shown to help lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and may help manage oxidative stress induced changes in diabetic patients
In the same way athletes benefit from increased oxygenation, drinking beetroot juice can also increase blood flow to the brain, which can slow the progression of dementia in adults. The choline in beetroots also assists in maintaining sleep patterns, muscle memory and movement, the ability of our brains to learn new tasks and to remember them.
The choline in beetroot also helps maintain the structure of cellular membranes and keeps the nervous system functioning effectively. Choline is also vital to assist your body to metabolise fat and reduce inflammation.
Beetroots also are a good source of beneficial flavonoids called anthocyanins and plenty of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. Beta carotene is well documented to help prevent age related cataracts and helps to reduce macular degeneration as we age.
Back to the woman and man sharing the beetroot- it would appear this may not be too far from the truth! Beetroots have been considered a potent aphrodisiac for centuries, as they contain a significant amount of a mineral called boron. Boron boosts the production of the sex hormones that can boost your libido and increase fertility for both men and women, and sperm mobility in males.
Beetroot is especially beneficial for pregnant women as they contain plenty of vitamin B and iron that nourish and benefit new cell growth whilst replenishing the increased iron requirements in a pregnant female body.
Beetroots have plenty of fibre which can assist in keeping your bowel habits regular too.
So, with all these amazing benefits – how do you pack them into your weekly diet? You can incorporate beetroot in a number of different ways.
- Peel raw beetroot and juice them with orange, ginger, carrot and mint.
- Grate and add raw beetroot to sandwiches, salads and coleslaw – or add the grated mix into your cake mixes. (It is a great natural red velvet tint for cupcakes and also for icing.
- Roast beetroot with feta or goats cheese is a match made in heaven, especially when drizzled with olive oil, a little bit of honey and some toasted pinenuts or walnuts and rocket leaves. Pieces of roast beetroot also make a great salad ingredient.
- Pickled beetroot is also a healthy way to add them to your diet.
- You can also use beetroot powder added to your baking, to yoghurt, smoothies or even porridge in the morning as a healthy way to sweeten your food. Try adding it to hummus or making your own beetroot hummus.
Your overall dietary plan and eating behaviour is the most important disease prevention tool you have for maintaining good health. Variety is key and ensuring you are sourcing nutrient dense food rather than focusing on one food in particular, but adding more beetroot into your plan is certainly a great step. (They are also one of the easiest vegetables to grow yourself too).
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