Most people have pretty strong feelings about beets. Some love their naturally sweet and earthy flavor, while others hate them in any form, even beet juice. However, regardless of your opinion, there’s no denying that this vibrant vegetable has some amazing benefits.
Along with being loaded with vitamins and minerals, they contain other health-promoting compounds like antioxidants, carotenoids, and nitrates, which help amp up the number of benefits of beets even further. Plus, they’re super versatile and can easily be incorporated into a wide variety of delicious dishes. Why are beets good for your health and can you eat them every day? Keep reading to learn more about the benefits as well as ways to easily incorporate this nutritious vegetable into your diet.
Benefits of beets
1. High in antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals, thereby preventing oxidative stress and cell damage. Some studies have shown that antioxidants can protect against many types of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Beets are naturally high in disease-fighting phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals. In fact, they are an excellent source of a certain type of phytonutrient called betalains, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and provide many of the health benefits of beets.
Betalains also act as natural plant pigments and are responsible for the vibrant color of beets. In vitro studies have revealed that these powerful pigments may help protect against the development of certain types of cancer and diseases. Additionally, beet greens also contain a good amount of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that play a central role in eye health and may reduce the risk of conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts.
2. Helps Relieve Inflammation
In an animal model, beetroot supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in rats. A human study also confirmed the anti-inflammatory properties of beets, showing that cooked beets and beet juice were able to reduce levels of inflammatory markers in people with high blood pressure.
3. Promote Heart Health
One of the biggest benefits of beet juice is its ability to promote heart health. Beets are a rich source of dietary nitrates, which act as vasodilators to help improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. A human study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that beetroot juice helped significantly reduce participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure after just 24 hours. Another small human study in 2017 found that beet juice helped lower bad LDL cholesterol levels in people with uncontrolled blood pressure.
4. Aids in detoxification
Beet juice benefits liver function, helping to keep it working efficiently so it can continue to keep your body free of toxins. A Polish animal model showed that treating rats with beetroot helped prevent oxidative stress and reduced lipid peroxidation, a common marker of cell damage, by 38%.
Likewise, an animal model published in the journal Phytotherapy Research showed that this juice helped increase levels of specific enzymes involved in detoxification.
5. Boost Brain Function
As we age, it is natural to see a decline in mental and cognitive function, as conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease become more prevalent.
However, due to their high dietary nitrate content, there is some evidence that beetroot powder benefits brain health and may help protect against age-related cognitive decline. In fact, one human study published in Nitric Oxide even found that feeding older adults a diet high in nitrates helped increase blood flow to certain areas of the brain involved in executive functioning.
6. Promote Digestive Health
Beets are high in fiber, with 3.8 grams per cup. Fiber moves through the intestines undigested, adding bulk to stool to promote regularity and better digestive health. An analysis of five studies showed that increasing fiber intake led to increased bowel movement frequency in people with constipation. Additionally, other research suggests that increasing fiber intake through foods like beets benefits digestive health in other ways and may protect against diseases like diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and GERD.
7. May Improve Athletic Performance
Whether you’re a competitive athlete or a casual gym-goer, beets have been shown to have a powerful performance-enhancing effect and are one of the best foods for athletes. In fact, nitrates have been shown to improve the efficiency of the mitochondria, the organelle responsible for producing energy for your body’s cells.
A 2011 human study found that consuming beetroot juice significantly improved power output during a cycling time trial and increased performance by 2.8%. Another human study showed that supplementing with dietary nitrates prolonged time to exhaustion and increased tolerance to high-intensity exercise.
8. May Help Increase Weight Loss
Beets are high in fiber but low in calories, making them a great addition to the diet if you’re looking to shed a few extra pounds. In fact, each cup contains only 59 calories, plus fiber. When you eat fiber, it moves very slowly through the digestive tract to help you feel full, which can promote satiety and weight loss. According to a human study in Boston, increasing fiber intake by 14 grams per day led to a 10% decrease in daily calorie intake and a 2 kg weight loss in four months.
Ancient medicinal uses
Beets have long been revered for their health-promoting properties and are used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. Beets are used to cleanse the liver, improve blood circulation and calm the mind, among other things.
They are also used as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments and have traditionally been used to treat conditions such as:
It is especially recommended to consume them during the Vata season, which runs from October to March, as their bright and vibrant colors can help balance the dryness and coldness of the season.
The nutritional profile of beetroot is quite impressive, with each serving containing a good amount of folate, fiber and manganese for a low amount of calories, which helps provide all of those wonderful beetroot benefits.
One cup of raw beets (about 136 grams) contains approximately:
13 grams of carbs
2.2 grams of protein
0.2 grams of fat
3.8 grams of dietary fiber
148 micrograms folic acid (37% Daily Value)
0.4 milligram manganese (22% of daily intake)
442 milligrams of potassium (13 percent DV)
6.7 milligrams of vitamin C (11% DV)
31.3 milligrams of magnesium (8% DV)
1.1 milligrams of iron (6% DV)
0.1 milligram copper (5% DV)
54.4 milligrams of phosphorus (5% DV)
0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (5% DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, they also contain thiamin, riboflavin and zinc.
Beets can be found in the produce aisle of most major grocery stores. They are widely available throughout the year, but their peak season runs from June to October, which is the best time to scour farmers’ markets and health food stores for fresh organic beets. and tender. You can also find beetroot juice and powder at health food stores.
When buying them, look for small to medium sized roots with even, smooth skin and deep color (most often purple, red, striped pink or gold). Avoid fresh beets that have significant spots or bruises where the beet juice “bleeds” from the root.
Besides the root, beet greens are quite edible and rich in nutrients, such as beta-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin carotenoids. They’re most commonly found when you buy whole, fresh beets at farmers’ markets, and they can be used in recipes interchangeably with chard.
Although we most often see purple-colored beets in grocery stores, they actually come in a variety of colors, most of which have very similar tastes, health benefits, and uses.
Beets make a great addition to smoothies or salads.
There are many options for cooking beets. In fact, you can eat them raw, cooked or roasted.
When eaten raw, they are firm, crunchy and have a slightly sweet taste. They can be used to make beet juice or added to smoothies and salads. Eating them raw retains their nutrients and preserves their natural flavor. When you cook the beets, they become more tender and slightly sweeter. They’re often paired with goat cheese or balsamic vinegar to balance out their sweetness, as well as arugula, which adds a nice peppery flavor to the earthy, sweet taste of beets.
Roasting them also gives their natural sugars a chance to caramelize and gives them a richer, smoother flavor. Beets can also be boiled, steamed or sautéed.
It is important to note that although beets seem very tough and tough, they are actually a very delicate vegetable. They tend to oxidize and lose some of their nutritional value when overheated and overcooked. Be sure to cook the beets lightly to avoid oxidation and maximize the nutritional value of your beets. Also, prefer fresh beets over canned or pickled beets when possible, to ensure you get the most nutrients.
The healthiest way to cook beets to keep their nutrients intact is to steam them for about 20 minutes or less or roast them for less than an hour, which cooks them slowly and softens them. You’ll know your beets are cooked through and ready when you can pierce them fairly easily with a fork.
Always be careful when cooking beets, as their juices tend to stain!