Why Beets Are One of the Healthiest Foods

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Beetroot powder is one of my favorite ways to add beautiful color to homemade beauty products. But beets are amazing for reasons beyond their gorgeous color. Beetroots and beet greens are amazing powerhouses of nutrition and can help the body in multiple ways when included in a healthy diet.

What’s in a Beet?

Beetroots are an incredible food that has a distinct nutritional profile. They contain a little bit of everything!

Take a look at this list:

  • Folate
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamin B6

Additionally, beets contain phytonutrients like betalains. Beets are especially high in betalains which are responsible for giving beets their color and have many health benefits of their own (read on for those benefits!).

You may not believe this if you’re not a beet lover, but beets are sometimes called “nature’s candy” because they are so naturally sweet! Beets do have a high sugar content (compared to other vegetables) but a low glycemic load so most people can eat them without problems. They also contain lots of dietary fiber which helps slow digestion of sugars.

The Bountiful Benefits of Beets!

We all know that vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Most vegetables contain fiber (helps digestion) and lots of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for a healthy body. But beets contain some specific nutrients that set them apart.

Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is an important mechanism that the body uses to fight invaders and heal injuries. But many times inflammation doesn’t go away (due to diet, lifestyle, and underlying disease) and can become chronic. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are implicated as the cause of many age-related diseases and cancers.

Research shows that beets can lower inflammation and oxidative stress. A 2014 study found that beetroot supplements reduced oxidative stress and inflammation in rats.

A 2016 study found that beet juice reduced inflammatory markers in people with high blood pressure. This study found that raw beet juice had better outcomes than cooked.

Support Heart Health

Lower inflammation and oxidative stress are two things that can have a huge effect on heart health. But beets also seem to have direct effects on lower the risk of heart disease. Beetroot juice lowered both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure in a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Beets also reduce LDL cholesterol in people with uncontrolled blood pressure, according to a 2017 study. However, beets didn’t affect cholesterol in those who did not have uncontrolled blood pressure.

May Be Anti-Cancer

Cancer is a growing problem today, with over 38 percent of people getting a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Mark Hyman talks about the way we approach cancer treatment and prevention in our society in a blog article. He writes,

The problem with cancer—one which almost no oncologists think about—is not the tumor, but the garden in which the tumor grows.” In other words, we have to look at the body as a whole and ask, “why is this tumor growing?” The answer, he writes, is usually a combination of diet, lifestyle, thoughts, and environmental toxins.”

Beets can be an amazing tool in creating a healthy “garden,” but beets alone can’t fix a poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. That being said, studies are finding that beets have a beneficial effect on tumor cells. One 2013 study found that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formation in animals. Researchers in another study found that the betanin in beets is likely what causes the destruction of cancer cells, though they say more research is needed.

Helps Detox

Beets are rich in antioxidants, specifically betanin. Betanin helps the transcription and expression of important enzymes like glutathione. Glutathione is one of the most important nutrients in the body. It helps recycle and produce antioxidants to maintain cellular health and is crucial for detoxification in the liver.

Beets are also a good source of pectin. Pectin acts as a chelator and it binds to toxins and removes them from the body.

Improves Cognitive Function

While nitrates have gotten a bad rap (mostly because of cured meats), they’re actually a healthy and important part of the diet. Nitrates from vegetables convert into nitric oxide in the body which helps relax blood vessels and improve circulation. This includes increasing blood flow to certain parts of the brain that are necessary for cognitive function.

Beets are an amazing source of natural nitrates. Studies show that beetroot juice as part of a high nitrate diet can positively affect cognitive function in people of all ages.

Other research published in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused, in part, by folate deficiency. Beets are a rich source of folate. Because it’s in a natural form (folate instead of folic acid) the folate in beets is more bioavailable to most people.

Improves Endurance and Athletic Performance

As mentioned earlier, beets are an amazing source of natural nitrates. These nitrates are converted to nitric oxide, which helps improve oxygen circulation. Nitrates were also found in a 2011 study to increase the efficiency of mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cells).

A 1985 study found that nitrates from beetroot juice extended the time to exhaustion in low-intensity exercise. It also reduces the amount of oxygen muscles need during exercise.

Boosts Eye Health

While the beetroot is responsible for many of their health benefits, beet greens are pretty amazing too. Beet greens are a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin which help improve eye health. According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids reported to be present in the eye lens. These carotenoids act as antioxidants to protect eye health.

How to Eat Beets (More)

Both beetroots and beet green are amazing foods that you can grow easily at home if you have a small garden space. Beets come in a variety of colors from deep purple to light golden, but they all have generally the same nutritional profile. Whether you grow your own delicious beets or get them at the farmers market or grocery store, the important thing is to eat them! Here are some ways to enjoy beets regularly.

  • Beet Kvass – Beet kvass is a fermented beet juice that has all of the nutritional power of beets with the added benefit of natural probiotics. It has been used traditionally to treat illness and cleanse the liver. Learn how to make it here.
  • Pickled Beets – If you are growing your own beets especially, pickling your abundance is a good way to preserve them for the winter and enjoy the health benefits all year. Pickling can mean using vinegar to preserve the beets or using lacto-fermentation to preserve them. Either way is fine, but fermenting adds an additional health benefit of natural probiotics.
  • Salads – There are many ways to use beets in salads. One of the easiest ways is to shred them over a tossed salad the way you would use carrots. This adds nutrition and a pretty color to your salad! Beet greens make a delicious addition to the greens of the salad as well. These are my go-to salad recipes.
  • Smoothies – Add cooked or shredded beets to strawberry smoothies. I promise you won’t be able to taste them! Beet greens are also great in smoothies.
  • Fruit Leather – Add beets to a fruit leather for added nutrition.
  • Roast Them – Roasted beets are a fun treat. The roasting helps bring out the sweetness of the beets. Roasted beets are more similar to roasted potatoes than any other roasted root vegetable. I love this arugula salad with roasted beets..
  • Cooked Beets – Of course, you can simply boil beets to eat as part of your dinner. Some like beets boiled while others hate the texture.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Beets are most nutritious when raw or cooked gently (not too long). However, beets and beet greens contain a high amount of a compound called oxalates. Oxalates can contribute to kidney stones and arthritis in some susceptible people. Leaky gut and MTHFR mutations make you more likely to be sensitive to too many oxalates. But as with anything in life, moderation is key.

Bottom line, adding beets and beet greens to a healthy diet is good. Eating beets at every meal instead of a variety of vegetables is probably not good! If you have a history of arthritis or kidney stones you may want to go easy on the beets. Check with your doctor to figure out what is best for you.

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