Beets are one root you can’t beat! While genetically modified sugar beets are common raw materials used to make sugar, the beet variety typically eaten as a vegetable is lower in natural sugar and contains many unique, healthy nutrients.
What’s remarkable about beets is their amazing phytonutrient content. The red pigment (betacyanin) found in beets appears to protect against the development of cancerous cells, reduce inflammation, and detoxify the body. Also, there is a growing body of evidence showing that betaine is an important nutrient for the prevention of chronic disease. The betalain pigments found in beets help toxins bind to other molecules so they can be excreted from the body. This detoxifies and purifies the blood and liver. In fact, beetroot extract is used in conjunction with medicine to treat liver disease and fatty liver conditions.
Betaine is sometimes used as part of depression treatment to boost the natural production of hormones in the body that promote the feelings of happiness and relaxation. Similar to chocolate, beets contains trytophan, which relaxes the mind and creates a sense of well-being.
Beets are high in natural nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide expands the walls of blood vessels to provide more oxygen, energy, and nutrients, and also to lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that nitric oxide increases efficiency in the body’s energy powerhouses: the mitochondria. The high nitrate content of beets may also help improve the performance of runners, as reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in April 2012.
Nitric oxide helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. Low blood pressure helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Inorganic nitrate dilates blood vessels and limits inflammation in the body, which may also help lower the risk of vascular problems.
Beets are an excellent source of folate, as well as a great source of manganese, potassium, and copper. They also are a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and iron.
Beets can be steamed, boiled, pickled, or eaten raw, but they are particularly delicious when oven-roasted, which brings out their natural sugar. Wrap each beet in foil, then roast for about an hour, depending on the size of the beets, at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or until they can be pierced easily with a knife. Their skins easily rub off with paper towels after cooling slightly. The finished beets can be eaten immediately or be kept on hand in the refrigerator to add to salads. Beets pair well with bitter greens, cheeses, most fruits and nuts.
Don’t miss a beat and take August’s Healthy Challenge to eat beets. In addition to protecting against chronic disease and boosting your energy level, they are delicious!