Kingdom | Plantae
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.
Why are beets so good for me?
Beets are a very good source of numerous vitamins and minerals, giving the human body high levels of nutrition.
They are an excellent source of folate, manganese and potassium, and a very good source of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, and iron. They also offer good levels of phosphorus, vitamin B6, and copper.
The wide-ranging effects of these nutrients can be found in most areas of the human body, beets having a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, the exocrine system, the immune system, the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system, the renal system, the reproductive system, and the respiratory system.
What makes beets a superfood?
The range of vitamins in minerals present in beets give them fantastic benefits for the human body, however, the unique betalain phytonutrients found in beets are what elevate this unassuming plant to the lofty heights of a superfood.
The betalains betanin (found in purple beets) and vulgaxanthin (found in yellow beets) are the main components which make beets special, giving anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects throughout the body. Inflammation and oxidative stress are one of the key factors which result in the onset of numerous major diseases and beets are a natural protection against these, including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and various stomach and liver diseases.
Interestingly, the betalain phytonutrients help the liver during phase ii detoxification, helping to release toxins and reduce the probability of infection.
Beets sound great! How do I make sure I benefit from these betalains?
The betalain phytonutrients are stored in the pigment of beets, the effects of which are not reduced when the root is cooked. To ensure optimal health benefits, you shouldn’t boil beets for more than 15 minutes or roast them for longer than an hour.
What else should I know about beets?
The high sugar and carbohydrate content of beets make them an excellent food for athletes or those about to exercise, due to the quick release of energy. Interestingly, beets aid the transportation of oxygen in the blood, giving up to 16% more stamina to their user.
Also, beets are a natural aphrodisiac, boosting testosterone production in men. Who would have thought that a romantic Valentine’s Day meal could include this fleshy root?