Like many modern vegetables, beetroot was first cultivated by the Romans. By the 19th century it held great commercial value when it was discovered that beets could be converted into sugar. Today, the leading commercial producers include the USA, Russia, France, Poland and Germany. Many classic beetroot recipes are associated with central and Eastern Europe including the famous beetroot soup known as borscht. Beetroot’s earthy charm has resulted in its ubiquitous influence on fashionable menus and recipes. Its delicious but distinctive flavour and nutritional status have escalated it to the root you can’t beat!
Belonging to the same family as chard and spinach , both the leaves and root can be eaten – the leaves have a bitter taste whereas the round root is sweet. Typically a rich purple colour, beetroot can also be white or golden. Due to its high sugar content, beetroot is delicious eaten raw but is more typically cooked or pickled. As always, in this article, we’re going to make a case on why we’re rooting for the beetroot (I’m sorry, couldn’t resist) and why it should have an indefinite space in your menu.
Beets are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases. As reported by the World’s Healthiest Foods:
“[Betaine’s]… presence in our diet has been associated with lower levels of several inflammatory markers, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha. As a group, the anti-inflammatory molecules found in beets may eventually be shown to provide cardiovascular benefits in large-scale human studies, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits for other body system.
— The betalin pigments in beets support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, which is when broken down toxins are bound to other molecules so they can be excreted from your body. Traditionally, beets are valued for their support in detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver.
Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water, for instance, while beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.
Supports your liver
Ever heard those stories of ‘washing your blood’? Beetroot juice has proven good enough to help your liver incase it becomes overloaded due to either, a poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to toxic substances or sedentary lifestyle. It helps in the detoxification process because it contains betaine, a substance that helps prevent or reduce fatty deposits in the liver. Betaine may also help protect your liver from toxins.
Helps lower blood pressure
Researchers found that people who drank 8 ounces of beetroot juice daily lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure . Nitrates, compounds in beetroot juice that convert into nitric acid in the blood and help widen and relax blood vessels, are thought to be the cause.
Boost Your Stamina
Drinking beetroot juice has proven valuable enough in boosting your energy levels. Research findings show drinking beetroot juice increases plasma nitrate levels and boosts physical performance.
Boosts Energy Levels
Studies have found that beetroot makes the muscles more fuel-efficient, thereby enhancing stamina.
And once again, the nitrates deserve the credit. Scientists believe that the nitrates in beetroot also help improve blood flow, cell signaling, and hormones – all of which play a role in increasing the energy levels.
Beetroot was also found to reduce the muscle usage of adenosine triphosphate, which is the body’s chief energy source. This conserves energy and helps one stay active for longer.
As per another study, eating beetroot gave runners a modest edge over others who didn’t – which amounted to an average of 41 seconds in a 5k run. The reason being beetroot’s ability to enhance the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. It also reduces the amount of oxygen the muscles need to perform optimally.
Another study showed how beetroot enhanced the performances of international-level female kayak athletes.
Beetroot has also been found to reduce the oxygen cost of exercise. The vegetable can also improve exercise performance in individuals suffering from peripheral artery disease.
Good For The Heart
What we saw in the above point. The nitrates in beets lower the blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Further researches carried out showed that one week of regular beetroot juice dosing can improve endurance and blood pressure in older individuals at a risk of heart failure.
Ingestion of beet juice prevents myocardial infarction (obstruction of blood supply to a tissue in the heart). Beetroot improves the delivery of oxygen to the working skeletal muscles. When the working skeletal muscles don’t get enough oxygen, they are impaired and decrease one’s capacity to move their arms or legs. This results in decreased physical activity, ultimately leading to heart disease.
Promotes Brain Health
Beets are known to improve brain neuroplasticity by improving the oxygenation of the somatomotor cortex – the brain area that is usually affected in the early stages of dementia.
In another study, when older hypertensive adults were given a beet juice supplement (in addition to exercise), their brain connectivity began to closely resemble that of younger adults.
The nitrates in beets, as we have seen, are converted into nitric oxide within our body. This nitric oxide allows the brain cells to communicate with each other, thereby
Enhancing brain health. Nitrates also improve blood flow to the brain.
Beetroot juice has also been found to prevent Alzheimer’s. As per certain studies, those who drank beetroot juice had healthier brains and improved cognitive functioning.
Dietary nitrate can improve cerebral blood flow, thereby enhancing brain functioning.
Controls Blood Sugar
This has more to do with sugar beets. According to an Iceland study, the fiber from sugar beets can reduce hyperglycemia.
And as per another UK study, consumption of beetroot juice was found to suppress postprandial (during or after lunch or dinner) glycemia.