While they may not have the best reputation in the vegetable line-up, beets are a health powerhouse. The vibrantly colored root vegetable provide antioxidants, help to detoxify our bodies and have anti-inflammatory benefits, all of which are important to keeping our bodies healthy and strong. Beets can be prepared and enjoyed in a variety of ways and whether they are roasted, served raw, steamed, or enjoyed in a juice their health benefits cannot be denied.
1. Health Benefits of Beets
1. Beets are a natural anti-inflammatory
Why does my body need anti-inflammatories?
Inflammation is the sign of the body’s natural response to resolving a problem and beginning the healing process. Infections, wounds and damage to the tissue would not heal without inflammation, however, if inflammation does not abate then it can rapidly become acute and lead to chronic inflammation, which can cause a number of major problems, including heart disease and cancer.
What elements in beets have anti-inflammatory properties?
Beets have unique phytonutrients in their pigment called betalains. There are three in particular which are present in beets and have shown anti-inflammatory properties; namely betanin, isobetanin, and vulgaxanthin.
How do these elements affect inflammation?
Cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX enzymes) are used by cells to produce messaging molecules which tell the body that inflammation is necessary. Betanin, isobetanin, and vulgaxanthin act to inhibit the activity of COX enzymes, which results in the body calling for inflammation.
How do beets reduce inflammation specifically in the cardiovascular system?
Beets are a good source of the B-complex vitamin choline, which creates a key body nutrient called betaine. Choline helps to prevent unwanted build-up of the amino acid homocysteine, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Also, studies have shown that betaine lowers the levels of several mechanisms which promote inflammation.
EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Beets anti-inflammatory properties directly help the cardiovascular system, whilst reducing the probability of inflammatory problems throughout the entire human body.
2. Disadvantages of Beets
1. Not everyone can metabolize dietary betalains
What percentage of people can absorb betalains?
Scientists estimate that 10 to 15% of adults in the United States are “betalain responders”, meaning they can absorb and metabolize betalains to gain the health benefits from them.
What properties of beets are these people missing out on?
Those who cannot synthesize betalains in their body will miss out on the incredible and varied effects which these phytonutrients offer. Betalains have proven to be effective anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, they supporting phase ii liver detoxification, and have shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells in a number of organs.
Those who are not betalain responders will still benefit from the great array of nutrients in beets, however, the unique powers of these special phytonutrients will not have an effect.
Why can some people metabolize betalains and others can’t?
Scientist are unclear as to the reasons why some people can synthesize betalains and some cannot. Further research in this field is required for conclusive evidence.
EAT SMARTER TAKE AWAY: Not everyone can absorb and metabolize betalains, making them miss out on some of the health benefits of beets.
3. Top 100 Beet Recipes
4. Beet Recipes in Video
Roasted, raw, or juiced, beets are a versatile and delicious vegetable. The impressive versatility of the vegetable makes it even easier to enjoy all of the health benefits, from detoxification to antioxidants, that these vibrant roots provide.
5. About Beets
Order | Caryophyllales
Family | Amaranthaceae
Genus | Beta
Species | Beta vulgaris
What are beets?
Beets are the fleshy taproot section of the beet plant, which is typically reddish-purple in color and most commonly boiled or roasted. It is widely used as an ingredient in soups and salads, including the hearty borscht soup, which originated in Eastern Europe and was adopted in many cultures throughout the world, including the United States.
Beets’ main purpose has always been as a source of food, however, it has been used as a medicine, particularly as a laxative (due to its high fiber content). Historically, it was the green leaves of the plant which were used to make soups and broths, however, since the times of ancient Rome, the root of beets has widely been regarded for its healthy and nutritious content.
6. Beets vs. Carrots
When it comes to “eating the rainbow,” beets and carrots are both excellent options. Both come in the same range of colors--beets can be orange, carrots purple--and pack a potent quotient of nutrients in their starchy flesh (and leafy green tops, which should be saved and cooked whenever possible). Both are good when raw (shaved into slaws and salads) or cooked (steamed, roasted, glazed, even grilled), and lend earthy sweetness to a variety of dishes, from juices and dips to soups and savory tarts; they can both be used in baking, too. Whereas beets and carrots are among the best sources of carotenoids and other phytochemicals, each root has its own bragging rights. Beets are especially rich in vitamin C, folate, manganese and potassium, and are credited with boosting endurance and mental functioning (thanks to nitrates), improving blood pressure, aiding in digestion and detoxing your body (thanks to an amino acid called betaine), as well as fighting off chronic diseases (thanks to a class of phytonutrients called betalains). Carrots, of course, are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, which helps boost eye health and is believed to reduce the rates of leukemia and other types of cancer.
7. History of Beets
The hardy plant which spread through Europe and the World
A great source of food and one-time savior of the sugar industry
The origin of beets dates back way before the civilized world first discovered this wondrous plant. Beets are thought to have originally grown wild in part of North Africa, Asia, and along the Mediterranean coastline.
800 B.C. - The First Signs of Beets
The beet was first mentioned in ancient Assyria, one of the main kingdoms which made up the cradle of civilization known as Mesopotamia. Although we are not clear about its usage at this time, there is mention of beets being grown in the hanging Gardens of Babylon and used as an offering to the sun god Apollo.
The Dawnings of a Superfood
Whilst the modern world is primarily concerned with the taproot of beets, historically this part of the plant remained unused, with people exclusively using the beet greens as a source of food.
Beets greens were primarily used as an ingredient in soups and broths, where it was boiled in salted water with chicken or other vegetables.
8. Q&A About Beets
What are beets?
Beets, or beetroot, is the fleshy taproot portion of the beet plant. Native to the Mediterranean, beets are now grown all over the world.
What types of beets are available?
Most of us will be aware of the reddish-purple beets, however, there are other varieties of beets, including pink, golden, white, and even striped.
What part do we eat?
Most commonly we eat the root of the plant, however, it is increasingly common to eat the green leaves of the plant too, which themselves have an incredibly high nutritional content.
Can I grow beets?
Yes. Beets are a cool season vegetable crop which can survive colder temperatures, making them ideal for northern climates. They require around an inch of water a week and a high phosphorus level to germinate. They take approximately 50 to 70 days to achieve full maturity.
9. Nutritional Information
|Calories 37||cup, slices (3 oz)|
|Calories from fat 1|
|% Daily Value|
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