Reasons to brighten your meals with beets

Reasons to brighten your meals with beets

10 healthy reasons and more

Think beets are good for your heart? You’re right! But there’s more to love about these root veggies than you might think.

These sweet and earthy treats are loved (and not-so-loved) by many. But even if you haven’t eaten them except sliced and diced from a can, you just might decide to give them another go.

Why exactly are beets so great?

For one thing, the betanin, a natural pigment in beets, is being studied for its ability to protect against cancer. Some researchers even see the potential to use it in chemotherapy.

Another natural pigment in beets, betalain, can help reduce inflammation. Some researchers think beetroot extract supplements could rival some synthetic drugs for their anti-inflammatory effects. And a Polish study found that concentrated betalain reduced pain and improved function in people with osteoarthritis.

Check out everything great about beets and potential downsides you should know about too is this article from the Food Revolution Network.

Beets may be messy to cut and sometimes have dull, dirty
exteriors. And you may not have eaten them since you were a kid, and they came
sliced or diced from a can. But there’s more to beets than meets the eye. So
what’s so great about these root vegetables? What are the health benefits of
beets? And how do you use them?

When it comes to beets, opinions are fiercely divided. Some
people love them, and others loathe them. Depending on who you ask, beets taste
like dirt or like candy.

Beet-o-phobia isn’t as common as negative reactions to foods
like cilantro or black licorice (a Google search for “hate the taste of b-”
returns beer, bone
, baking soda, butter, and blood but not beets). But it’s still pretty
widespread. And so is passion for this extraordinary, sweet root.

I want to share with you some amazing properties of beets.
If you’ve ruled them out, perhaps you’ll even give them a second chance.

What are the benefits of beets? And what are the best ways
to prepare them?
 And can I write an entire article about them without
resorting to at least one terrible pun? (Spoiler alert: Nope.)

Meet the Beet — A Beautifully Colored Root Vegetable

Known scientifically as Beta vulgarisbeets
are a root vegetable that slightly resemble turnips or rutabagas
. They
typically have a rough outer skin that covers their root, which is attached to
their long green stem and leaves.

Early evidence shows that beet greens were used for food, while the
roots had medicinal uses. However, Hippocrates recommended using
the greens to heal wounds.

Using beets for sugar — now done using sugar beets — began in
18th century Germany with a chemist named Andreas Margraff.

If you’ve ever handled beets, you’re familiar with their
ability to stain everything they touch (here’s how to clean that). This made them perfect for cosmetic uses during the 1800s. And it’s how the saying “red as
a beet” originated.

Today, beet pigment is a natural alternative to
commercial food colorings
 for use in things like plant-based burgers,
tomato paste, wine, candy, and jams.

Beet the Rainbow

Best known for their deep red (almost purple) color, beets
actually come in several shades

Most stores stock red beets, so you may have to go to the
farmer’s market or specialty foods store to find these less common types.

  • Chioggia: Also called Candy Cane beets,
    Chioggia beets are red on the outside and red and white striped on the
    inside. These are heirloom beets with a distinct sweetness.

  • Golden: Golden beets are yellow-orange and
    have a more neutral taste. They also have the advantage of not bleeding
    when cooked.

  • White: They may have a very mild taste and
    look like turnips from the outside, but white beets are still in the

  • Formanova: These beets stand out from the
    others at almost eight inches long! They’re cylindrical in shape,
    resemblant of a sweet potato in size.

  • Lutz Green Leaf: This variety can be up to
    four times the size of other round beets — about six inches in diameter.
    Also called “winter keeper” beets, these are known for their long shelf
    life. Note that they become less sweet the larger they grow — a common
    tradeoff in root vegetables.

GMO Sugar Beets Are a Whole Different Beast

Conventional beets grown to eat are not genetically

But “sugar beets” are a specific variety that contain a high
concentration of sucrose and are used specifically for refined sugar
production. In fact, more than half of all sugar used in the United
States comes from sugar beets.

Nearly all the commercially cultivated sugar beets are
“Roundup Ready.”
 This means they have been genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, the main
active ingredient in the highly controversial pesticide, Roundup.

Roundup is an endocrine disruptor, an antibiotic, and a
probable carcinogen. It’s sprayed heavily on Roundup Ready sugar beets. If
you want to avoid GMOs and glyphosate, that’s a good reason to choose only cane
sugar — or better yet, avoid added sugar altogether

But this is only an issue with beet sugar — not with “table
beets” that you or I might buy in a store or grow in the backyard.

Beets Nutrition Facts

Beetroots are especially high in folate, manganese,
and copper

  • Folate is essential for DNA synthesis and preventing
    neural tube defects in babies. It’s also been shown to
    reduce risk for heart disease, cancer, and depression.

  • Manganese is needed for
    enzymatic processes in your body, as well as for metabolism, wound
    healing, and healthy bones.

  • Copper keeps your immune system healthy, helps create red blood
    cells, and supports energy production.

Beet greens are full of
vitamins A, C, K, and B2.

Red beets get their rich pigment from phytonutrients called
betalains. The two most well-known betalains are vulgaxanthin and betanin,
which have antioxidant, cancer-fighting, and
anti-inflammatory properties

10 Health Benefits of Beets

Beets have some amazing benefits for you:

Benefits of Beets #1 — They Are Good for Your Heart

Did you hear about the guy who stopped eating his veggies?
His heart missed a beet. (OK, there’s that pun I promised. Now I can relax and
get back to work.)

Beetsalong with spinach, carrots, and cabbage, are
a great 
source of nitrates.

Nitrates are compounds that convert to nitric oxide in the
body. Nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels, which helps lower blood
pressure and heart rate

Think nitrates aren’t good for you? Don’t confuse the
nitrates in beets with the nitrates and nitrites added to processed foods, like deli meat, which can
form cancer-causing nitrosamines. Plants that naturally contain
nitrates, like beets, also contain vitamin C and other compounds that 
preventthem from becoming nitrosamines.

In a 2014 study published in Hypertension, researchers
found that drinking one cup of beetroot juice daily for four weeks was
able to 
reduce blood pressure.

Some participants were even able to reduce some types of
blood pressure medication as a result. The overall function of blood vessels
was also improved.

Benefits of Beets #2 — They Can Make You a Better Athlete

The nitrates in beets improve blood flow, which helps move oxygen throughout
your body.

Endurance athletes often drink beetroot juice to improve
, which has got to be one of the healthiest and most delicious
forms of doping ever invented. Better oxygen flow means that the athlete’s heart
and lungs don’t have to work so hard during exercise, allowing them to perform
vigorous activity for longer.

Beets can also increase time-to-exhaustion
in athletes. In other words, drinking beet juice before exercise seems
to prevent fatigue
. Beet juice also prevents muscles from exhausting. It’s
not clear whether this is because muscle damage lessens or
because repair is enhanced, but either way, the results are positive.

Studies suggest that beetroot juice should be
consumed within 90 minutes of starting athletics for the best outcomes

Benefits of Beets #3 — They Can Reduce Inflammation in
Your Body

The betalain in beets can reduce inflammation,
which researchers theorize is partially due to
its ability to interfere with the inflammatory signaling process.

The anti-inflammatory effects are so promising that some
researchers believe beetroot extract supplements could 
rival the
benefits of certain synthetic drugs

Inflammation is a factor in many health problems, including
heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

One study of individuals with knee pain found that a twice-daily dose of concentrated
betalain reduced pain and improved joint function in people suffering
from osteoarthritis
 in their knee joints.

Is it possible the improvement was just a case of the
placebo effect? Not likely, because another randomized group was given oat bran
powder as a placebo, and the group who ate the oat bran powder saw much less

Benefits of Beets #4 — They Can Improve Your Digestive

Beets are high in fiber, which is good for
your gut.

The fiber in beets resists digestion in the stomach and
small intestine and travels more or less intact into the colon, where your
health-promoting gut bacteria ferment it and use it for food.

The fiber also provides roughage that moves food through
your intestines. Eating enough fiberprotects against
constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, acid reflux, ulcers, diverticulitis,
and obesity

Benefits of Beets #5 — They Are Good for Your Brain

Many cognitive diseases appear to be triggered by
an interruption in nitric oxide pathways. It makes sense then that nitrates
in beets can help improve brain function by increasing oxygen flow

A 2017 study published in the Journal of Gerontology demonstrated
the ability of beet juice to improve blood flow to the brain during exercise.
None of the participants regularly exercised, and all were on blood pressure

They were asked to exercise for 50 minutes, three times per
week for six weeks, on a treadmill. Half drank high-nitrate beet juice
concentrate before exercise, and half drank an identically flavored and colored
placebo drink with almost zero nitrates. Those who consumed the beet
juice drink showed improved function in the areas of the brain related to motor
control, emotion, and cognition
, compared to those in the placebo group.

Benefits of Beets #6 — They Have Cancer-Fighting

Beets are known to have antioxidant properties, which protect cells from free radicals.

Most specifically, the betanin in beets has been studied for its ability to protect against
cancer. Some researchers even see the potential for beet extracts
use in chemotherapy.

Of course, we don’t have to wait until cancer strikes to
start taking advantage of the cancer-fighting properties of beets. And we don’t
need a prescription from an oncologist either!

Benefits of Beets #7 — They Boost Your Immunity

Beets are high in zinccopper,
and vitamins A and C
 — all nutrients known to boost immunity.

Vitamin A increases antibody production and stimulates your
white blood cells, which help ward
off infections.

Beets also contain iron,
which is needed to carry oxygen throughout your body, keep your cells strong,
and enhance immune defense.

Benefits of Beets #8 — They Can Boost Your Libido

The use of beets as an aphrodisiac dates back to the time of the Romans,
who attributed the beauty and allure of Aphrodite (goddess of love) to her
insatiable appetite for beets.

A European folk belief holds that if a man and woman eat of
the same beetroot, they are destined to fall in love. (Kind of an ancient
version of sipping a root beer float through two straws. In fact, some old
recipes for making authentic root beer include beets among the roots used.)

Beets are rich in the mineral boron, which plays a
role in sex hormone production

The effectiveness of dietary nitrates in beets to enhance
blood flow can benefit sexual health as well. And some studies suggest beet
juice can be effective in treating erectile dysfunction.

Benefits of Beets #9 — They Are Good for Your Eyes

It’s no surprise that eating fruits and vegetables is good for your eyes — especially those with richpigments.

Beets contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are
well-studied for their positive impact on vision
. Consuming these
carotenoids can prevent and slow the progression of age-related
macular degeneration, the leading cause of adult vision loss in America.

Benefits of Beets #10 — They Are Good for Your Liver

Beets have an abundance of nutrients that keep your liver
healthy — such as iron, antioxidants, betaine, and vitamin B.

Beetroot helps protect the
liver from oxidative damage and inflammation
. The betaines in beets help the
liver eliminate toxins. And betalains encourage the
detoxification process. Also, pectin, a water-soluble fiber in these root
vegetables, helps flush out toxins from the liver.

Potential Downsides of Beets

Beets have many benefits. But they may have a few negatives
to consider:

  • They’re very high in oxalates. Foods high
    in oxalates can reduce the absorption of some nutrients, such as
    calcium. Iron is often thought to be influenced by oxalates, but not all
    studies support this. This doesn’t mean you should avoid beets — it just
    means you should be sure to get calcium and
    iron from other sources. Too many oxalates can also increase the risk of
    kidney stones, especially in people with
    a predisposition.

  • They’re relatively high in natural sugar. Beets
    have a moderately high glycemic load. But a single serving of 1/2 cup of
    beets has a negligible effect on blood sugar.

  • They can surprise you the next day. Don’t
    panic, but I feel it necessary to tell you to rememberwhen you
    eat beets. Beets don’t just stain countertops and clothing; they also pass
    through your digestive tract over the next day or two. This is such a
    common occurrence that is actually has a name: beeturia.

How red your stool or urine will become depends on a few
factors. For instance, how long beets are in your system, how many and what
kind you ate, your stomach acidity at the time, and the presence of oxalic acid
in your body from other foods.

But if things look red the next day, don’t worry: You’re
probably not bleeding to death. You may simply have eaten beets with dinner.

How to Store Beets

Proper storage is key to keeping beets fresh.

Avoid beets with wilted greens as this reduces shelf life.
Cut off all but one to two inches of the leaf stems so they won’t remove
moisture from the root.

Scrub beets and dry them well before placing in a plastic
bag with a few holes, or in a paper bag. Store them in the crisper drawer of
your refrigerator or in a root cellar. They can stay firm for up to a few

And the greens are good, too! They are both
tasty and nutritious and can be used in much the same way you might use chard
or spinach (which are in the same family).

To store beet greens, wash, dry, and wrap them in a paper
towel and store them in the fridge in a plastic bag or glass container with a
lid. They should keep for up to a week or two.

How to Use Beets

I love roasted beets seasoned with thyme. I’ll also cut
cooked beets into chunks and freeze them for later use in smoothies.

You can steam, boil, or pickle beets, blend them into soups
and sauces or juice them with ginger and turmeric. And adding cooked beets to
baked goods like chocolate cake increases moisture and adds nutrients.

Some beet nutrients are heat sensitive, so you can preserve them with either
gentle cooking or eating them raw
. Try grating raw beets onto a cold salad
or pizza. Some people also like to ferment them as a kind of pickle.

3 Healthy Beet Recipes

Colorful Beet Salad with Carrot, Quinoa, & Spinach by
Cookie and Kate

This vibrant salad uses grated, raw beets mixed with quinoa
and other nutritious vegetables. Note: You could leave out the oil
and sweeteners in the dressing.

Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Milk Soup by Epicurious

Beets and ginger are a delicious pairing, especially with
the creaminess of the coconut milk to make this soup. You can omit the oil or
use vegetable broth in its place.

Easy Beet Wonder Dip by Forks Over Knives

Wow your friends with this simple and colorful dip, perfect
for crackers or raw veggies.

Just Beet It

Beets are a vibrant, underappreciated member of the produce
family. You might not expect the bright coloring, strong flavoring, and
benefits of beets waiting underneath their unassuming outer skin.

And despite the great divide when it comes to taste
preferences, beets offer many benefits — from your heart to your brain
to your overall disease-fighting immunity

So if you’re looking for a new addition to your diet, it
doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right: just beet it! (Couldn’t resist!)

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Also check out our site where we have great recipes.


Rod Stone
Publisher and Supplier of Healthy Living information and products to improve
your life.

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