This common root vegetable is a superfood. It has a wide range of health benefits because of its nutritional content. Beetroot is packed with health-promoting antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, betaine, folate, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium and iron. It's also an excellent source of soluble fibre and found to be helpful in preventing heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. Beetroot belongs to the same family as spinach and swiss chard, both the leaves and root can be eaten. Its history stretches back to ancient times in the Mediterranean region, approximately 4,000 years ago. Beetroot has long been used for medicinal purposes, primarily for blood, liver and digestive disorders.
The amazing health benefits of the humble beetroot and its greens, have blown me away. I get excited when I see how certain foods can help heal our bodies.
Good for Heart Health: Eating beetroot helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. Its fibre helps increase the HDL (good cholesterol), increased HDL is a good line of defence against heart-related problems. Research has shown beetroot juice lowers 'blood pressure'. Trials were carried out at Queen Mary University of London, funded by the British Heart Foundation. They found that a daily glass of beetroot juice can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension - even those whose high blood pressure wasn't controlled by drug treatment. Beetroot contains inorganic nitrates and when consumed they release nitric oxide in our bodies. Often people who suffer heart conditions have less nitric oxide circulating in their body. Nitric Oxide is a very strong chemical that causes our blood vessels to relax, which improves blood flow to our organs, muscles and most important our heart.
Good for Liver Health: The betaines contained in beetroot juice stimulates the functions of the liver, helping with the detoxification processes.
Reduces Birth Defects: Beetroot is good for pregnant women, as they are a good source of the B vitamin folate, which helps in the development of infant's spinal column.
Helps Prevent Certain Cancers: Studies have shown that beets are good at preventing skin, lung, and colon cancer since they contain the pigment betacyanins, which counteracts cancerous cell growth.
Helps Prevent Respiratory Problems: Beetroot is an excellent source of vitamin C that can help to prevent asthma symptoms. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system and helps fight the effects of free radicals in the body.
Prevents Cataracts: The presence of beta-carotene (vitamin A), helps to prevent cataracts as well as reduce macular degeneration.
Boosts Energy Levels: Beetroot provides fuel for energy without any of the negative side effects that may come with other carbohydrate-heavy foods. Researches have noticed that oxygen uptake is greatly increased by people who drink beet juice due to the high nitrate content. This increases stamina for exercising and playing sports.
Helps Prevent Strokes: A deficiency of potassium in the body increases the risk of having a stroke. Potassium relaxes the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure throughout the whole body. When blood pressure is reduced and the vessels and arteries are no longer contracted, blood clots are less likely to form or get stuck.
It's Good Aphrodisiac: Beetroot contains significant levels of the mineral boron, which has been shown to boost the productions of sexual hormones. This can lead to an increase in fertility and libido.
The roots can be eaten raw, first, remove the thin skin. Grate raw in coleslaw or green garden salads, add to smoothies or juice. Beetroot can be roasted, steamed, gently boiled, pickled, made into soup, added to dips. Due to the red pigment staining your hands when peeling, I've found it helpful to use disposable gloves, otherwise rubbing lemon juice onto your hands works well.
If you boil your beetroot and your body requires dietary nitrate for lowering blood pressure, it's best to boil with the skin on and leave 5cm of the leaf stalks on. This prevents the nitrate dissolving in the water. Scrub to remove all the dirt, boil until fork tender, drain and place in cold water. When beets are just cool enough to handle, place in your hands and use your thumbs to rub and push the thin skin off, then chop into desired size. (There's no need to keep the skin on with other cooking methods).
The greens have exceptional nutritional value, rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. The greens should not be overlooked, they can be cooked up and enjoyed in the same way as spinach. Beet greens have a higher iron content than spinach. Enjoy the beet greens mixed with other leafy greens in salads or saute them in a little olive oil and salt for a side dish.
Beetroot powder is commonly used as a natural colouring agent in food products. The brand I personally like is "Morlife", 100% pure and certified organic. This powder can be added to smoothies, dips or baking mixes for vibrant colour and to boost your nutritional intake (it's very concentrated so only a little is needed). I've added beetroot powder to my Pink Marshmallow recipe for colour and nutrients, see my recipe further down.
Ingredients: 1/2 beetroot, 2 sticks celery, 1 apple, 2-3cm piece ginger, 2 Tbsp almonds, 1 Tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, 1 Tbsp chia seeds, 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch sea salt, 350ml coconut water (unsweetened), 1 cup ice.
Being a cool-season crop, beets grow quickly and can survive almost freezing temperatures. Beetroot and their greens also enjoy a longer than normal growing season. Good quality, fresh beetroot should have their greens intact. The beetroot should be firm, smooth and a vibrant red-purple colour. Fresh beets with the greens attached can be stored for 3 - 4 days in the fridge, but beetroot with the greens removed can be stored wrapped in a slightly damp tea towel in the fridge for 2 - 4 weeks (the green tops draw out goodness from the roots, I remove them and place the stems in a glass of water in the fridge). Raw beetroot can't be frozen but freezing cooked beetroot is fine as it retains its flavour and texture.
Beetroot and their greens offer two great dishes for your table with two different sets of nutritional attributes. Lately, they have enjoyed popularity among modern chefs and Wholefood bloggers but as I mentioned earlier, their history goes back 4,000 years along with their health benefits.
Reference sources: www.organicfacts.net.health-benefits - www.bodyandsoul.com.au - www.everydayheatlth.com
By Susan Joy