Nutrition – The magic of beetroot

Posted on 5 February 2015

… a regular nutrition series for vegans by Anastacia Sampson

Beetroot has become widely acclaimed for its health benefits. It is not the sweetest or yummiest vegetable, yet it is exceptional in its power to support our health. Beetroot is commonly dark red in colour. It has its own unique taste, which is sweet and earthy while being tender in texture. Beetroot has a tendency to cause bright red stains.

Fresh beetroot juice - photo courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.netAlthough we tend to think of beetroot as being red, remember that yellow, white and stripy versions also exist!

Known for sugar popularity since the 19th century

In the 19th century it was discovered that beets were a high source of sugar. When cane became restricted, the production and processing of beets shot upwards. Soon beet became an important valuable crop for its ability to yield sugar for commercial use.

Health benefits of this red root

In bygone days (Roman times) there is record of beetroot being useful for treating fevers, constipation, skin problems and even being used as an aphrodisiac. The aphrodisiac claims may be linked to the powerful effect of beets being able to promote blood vessel dilation. Having healthy blood vessel diameter helps prevent cardiovascular disease and promotes circulation. Often an increase in blood circulation, especially in our smaller blood vessels, can do wonders for our sexual libido and activities. Males with impotence may be benefit especially when they have weak blood vessel circulation.

Beets are magical for their content of assorted antioxidants

Betalains are a group of unique phytonutrients found in significant levels in beetroot. Within this group, scientific research has mainly focused on betanin and vulgaxanthin. It is also these 2 phytonutrients that have been revealed to possess potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification properties.

The anti-inflammatory effects from beetroot are well known. One way they do this is by stopping COX enzymes. COX enzymes (cyclo-oxygenase enzymes) are messaging molecules that initiate inflammation. Of course we need COX enzymes, but in cases of chronic inflammation we need to ease the symptoms of inflammation. Betalains contribute to the pigmented colour of beetroots. The longer we cook beetroots, the greater the loss of these special phytonutrients. Cooking beets until soft is fine but try to avoid over-cooking them.

We are all in need of a boost to our detoxification abilities. Our daily life is bombarded with a range of toxic exposures, whether it is from our diet, air or environment, or even natural toxins produced as by-products from daily metabolism in our body. Beets not only de-activate toxins but also remove toxins from our body. Great news for all of us that desire to live healthy active lives! Go out and get your beets to add them to your regular dietary intake.

These powerful effects of betalains have knock on effects – they support us against the development of cancer; now, that has major need for your applause. Another boom from betalain phytonutrients is enhanced immune function and overall cellular function. This may lead to protecting us against serious viral infections and other infections. Research has shown a direct link of beet extract lessening a type of flu infection. Okay, time for a standing ovation, and the ‘health award’ this season goes to beetroot!

The beet scare!

A small number of people may experience beeturia (reddening of the urine from beetroot intake). Beeturia is not harmful, however it can be quite shocking to see your urine come out red! Or even your stools with redness may cause fear. There is concern that beeturia may reveal problems with iron metabolism. Someone with a deficiency, excess, or problem with iron metabolism may be more likely to experience beeturia. Of course, whenever your urine or stools are red or seem to have blood, always consult with a healthcare provider, even if you suspect it is beeturia.

Let’s get nutritious with a beet

A cup of sliced cooked beetroot will deliver a significant amount of fibre with a really low amount of calories; that is great for a slimmer waist line. As for fat content, it is negligible. That same amount of beetroot will supply almost 40% of you daily requirement of folate. Other essential nutrients that beetroot can supply in higher amounts, include manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and copper.

Tips to get the best out of your beets

We usually eat the root part of the beetroot plant. Studies indicate cutting your beetroot into quarters and steaming for 15 minutes for maximum nutrition and flavour. The colour of your beets can be altered by your cooking preparation. By adding something acidic to the cooking, such as lemon juice or vinegar, you can brighten up your beet colour. On the other hand; if you add an alkaline substance such as baking soda, you can turn your health promoting vegetable into a deeper purple. Be cautious with salt in your cooking as it can dull the colour and add unnecessary sodium. If you truly need salt, rather add it after you have cooked your beets, just before serving.

Take care, Anastacia

Visit Vegan SA for more information on healthy vegan nutrition.


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