Beets get a bad rap. Nature’s sweetest vegetable (by sugar content) is not everyone’s favorite side dish, that’s for sure. But you can’t beat beets for nutrition and “deliciousness.” And actually, you can – literally – beat beets and make a colorful veggie purée!
Purplish-red whole beets are one of nature’s true delights. They can be cooked or juiced fresh from the grocery or garden or reheated a can or the freezer. The green leaves are especially beneficial for overall health – and contain very few calories. Both the beet’s leaf and cooked root add color and interest to salads.
Beet eaters have been around for ages – again, literally. Did you know that this vegetable is ancient, served as prehistoric food native to the coastlines of Europe, North Africa, and Asia? Vegetable Facts reveals:
“Oldest archeological proofs that we used beetroot in ancient times were found on the Neolithic site of Aartswoud in the Netherlands and in Saqqara pyramid at Thebes, Egypt, which dates from the time of the Third Dynasty (third millennium BC).”
Beets are incredibly good for you. Let’s break it down:
The natural nitrates in beet juice turn it into nitric oxide in the body which helps relax and dilate the blood vessels.
As a result, blood flow improves and blood pressure drops.
Increased blood flow to the brain may bring on better brain function, which is important for older folks as the body slows down its natural production with age. Nitrates also pack a punch before exercise, increasing stamina for either low- or high-impact workouts.
Beets also deliver a stress-fighting plant amino acid called betaine. Betaine improves digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties which improve cardiovascular risk factors. But that’s not all: betaine pigments from beets, especially the skin, detoxify and purify the blood and liver, supporting the body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, where broken-down toxins bind to other molecules before bodily excretion.
In terms of nutrition, beets have high levels of vitamin C (boosts the immune system), fiber (good elimination), and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerves and muscles) and manganese (good for pancreas, liver, kidneys, and bones.
WHFoods has an excellent chart of the nutritional breakdown for one cup of boiled beet greens (leaves) which, as you can see, are loaded with the building blocks of good health:
Beets ease constipation and keep you regular. One cup (8 ounces) of beets has only 58 calories but delivers about 4 grams of dietary fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, which helps reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
Beets are a great liver tonic since they reduce the accumulation of fat in this vital digestive organ, and reduces its size.
Additional benefits come from betalains in beets. These powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories eliminate free radicals and reduce dangerous inflammation related to heart disease, obesity, and possibly even cancer.
The pigment that makes beets that distinctive reddish-purple color, betacyanin, may help protect against common carcinogens, and is being tested for treating breast cancer cells.
Beet greens (leaves) are even more incredibly good for you! They are chock-a-block full of protein (you wouldn’t expect that from a green leaf, would you?), phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6, folate (B9), magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, vitamins A, B, C, and K, calcium, and iron.
With more iron content than spinach (sorry about that, Popeye), it turns out that the beet leaf is actually better for you than the bulbous, subterranean root.
Beet greens also contain flavonoids like lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. These flavonoids act as powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant agents.
Like the root, beet greens provide the betaine and plenty of dietary fiber. However, the greens contain no cholesterol and are fat-free, with only 8 calories per cup!
1800 Remedies claims you can protect the health of your eyes, treat hair falling out, white hair and improve your facial complexion.
There are so many awesome recipes online to incorporate beetroot and greens into your regular diet, you could try everything from borsch (Russian cold beet soup) to blender smoothies. To get started, the Food Network has lots of culinary ideas to share.
One final caution: those pretty purple beets can be used to stain wood. No kidding. No matter how careful you are, it is almost certain that you will have to deal with removing beet stains from clothing, furniture – even the dog? WikiHow has the lowdown on how to minimize the damage.
Now, armed with knowledge, inspired by the gargantuan gains, why not add beets to your shopping list?
Eating beets is the best. Enjoy!