Beetroot - although enjoying a few brief flashes of popularity in recent times such as the revelation of roasted beets and red velvet lattes made with beetroot powder - has by and large remained a relatively unassuming, ‘un-trendy’ and modest vegetable that often gets overlooked, and is most certainly under-rated in health circles.
Sweet Potato tends to be celebrated as one of the healthiest root veg, especially among those looking at reducing their carb intake or GI load, so why doesn’t the humble Beet receive quite the same recognition? Especially considering the myriad of healthy nutrients they contain, including Vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese!
Beets are one root vegetable you want to include more of in your diet, so let’s look at what this versatile ingredient can bring to your life.
Can Help Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure
There aren’t many foods that contain such a high amount of dietary nitrates as beets do. These compounds have the ability to affect the dilation and constriction of blood vessels due to the conversion of nitrates into nitric oxide.
What’s more, nitrate levels remain elevated in the blood for several hours following consumption, meaning the regular intake of beets can have a positive effect on blood pressure from a dietary perspective through improving endothelial function and arterial stiffness.
One of the more incredible constituents of beetroot is its betalain content, a relatively unique pigment found most abundantly in red beets. Not only responsible for its intense red colouring, it also possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties which mediate a number of markers and pathways including C-reactive protein and tumour necrosis factor alpha.
These findings suggest betalain may play a significant role in the treatment of inflammation and its associated conditions, with more human trials needed to ascertain the extent of its therapeutic action in the body.
Great for Brain Health
As a potential health promoting and preventative functional food, Beets may have an added role to play in slowing down the progression of cognitive decline due to its high nitrate content, which provides a natural means of increasing nitric oxide availability – the means by which blood pressure and endothelial function is mediated.
Betalain, and the other naturally occurring phytochemical compounds including vitamin C, carotenoids, phenolic acids and flavonoids also have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities that help maintain vascular integrity and circulation, which will have a flow-on effect to cognitive health.
Digestive Health and Weight Loss
With 3.4 grams of fibre per cup, beets are great for digestive health and can help conditions such as constipation and diverticulitis by adding bulk to stools, reducing inflammation and increasing transit time.
Being a great source of fibre along with a plethora of essential nutrients, they are also wonderful for aiding in weight management through promoting satiety, decreasing calorie absorption and altering the secretion of certain gut hormones affecting appetite and digestion.
A last word…
Beets are incredibly versatile, not to mention tasty… however the experience of tasting one cooked freshly is a far cry from the slightly vinegary sweet slices you find in the tin and traditionally applied to salad sandwiches or an Aussie burger. The earthy, mellow sweet flavours of roasted or boiled beetroot has to be appreciated by taking away the expectation of the popular tinned version - by doing so you can easily acquire a taste for this nutritious root veg and utilize it in a variety of ways.
Here are some ways you can include more beetroot in your life:
- Roast or boil Beets till tender, dress in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add to salads, top with Goats cheese or Fetta.
- Add cooked, cooled Beets to SMOOTHIES… yes you heard right, beets will lend a glorious pink hue and some added sweetness to your smoothie, whilst boosting its nutrient content! Blend together a frozen banana, ½ a beet, a few frozen berries, ½ cup of Greek or Coconut yoghurt, and a dash of milk of choice in a blender or food processor. (You can always add some honey for added sweetness and/or some Cacao powder because… well, Chocolate)
- V. Kapil et al. Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Hypertension 2015 Feb: 65(2): 320-327
- S Asgary et al. Improvement of hypertension, endothelial function, and systemic inflammation following short-term supplementation with red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) juice: a randomized cross-over pilot study. J Hum Hypertension 2016 Oct 30 (10): 627-32
- T Clifford et al. The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease. Nutrients 2015 Apr; 7(4): 2801-2822
- J L Slavin. Dietary fibre and body weight. Nutrition 2005 Mar; 21(3): 411-8