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The Humble Beetroot

Nutrition

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is a root vegetable (which means it simply grows underground) also branded as a garden beet, or just beet. Used to be commonly found in Uncles hamburgers and responsible for most of the purple stains on white t-shirts, perhaps that is why that seems to have faded as a hamburger option!

The attractive and bright colour tends to put people into one of two camps either you love it, or you hate it and it has a distinctive taste.

If you’re not a fan, you should know that beetroot has been gaining a reputation as the new superfood around the world. It’s low in fat, full of powerful antioxidants, rich in Vitamin C, and helps in the absorption of iron. Both the leaves and the roots can be eaten. While the pink/purple root is sweet, the dark green leaves are bitter but very rich in calcium, iron and Vitamin A

 

Beetroots most effective eaten raw as cooking seems destroy most of its nutrients. You can add them in salads or easier to just juice them up.

Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fibre, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C.

The modest beetroot and as a juice have been associated with numerous health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance.

These benefits are due to their high content of inorganic nitrates.

Vitamins and Minerals

Beetroots are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Folate (vitamin B9). One of the B vitamins, folate is important for normal tissue growth and cell function.
  • An essential trace element, manganese is found in high amounts in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
  • A diet high in potassium can lead to reduced blood pressure levels and positive effects on heart health.
  • Iron has many important functions in your body. It’s necessary for the transport of oxygen in red blood cells.
  • Vitamin C. This well-known vitamin is an antioxidantthat is important for immune function and skin health

Benefits of Beetroots

Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and heart. What’s more, it’s among the strongest risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and premature death worldwide

Eating fruits and vegetables rich in inorganic nitrates may cut your risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and increasing nitric oxide formation

Studies show that beetroots or their juice can reduce blood pressure by up to 3–10 mm Hg over a period of a few hours

Such effects are likely due to increased levels of nitric oxide, which causes your blood vessels to relax and dilate

Increased Exercise Capacity

Numerous studies suggest that nitrates can enhance physical performance, particularly during high-intensity endurance exercise.

Dietary nitrates have been shown to reduce oxygen use during physical exercise by affecting the efficiency of mitochondria, the cell organs responsible for producing energy.

Beets and their juice are often used for this purpose because of their high inorganic nitrate content.

Consumption of beetroots may improve running and cycling performance, increase stamina, boost oxygen use, and lead to better exercise performance overall

Other Plant Compounds

Plant compounds are natural plant substances, some of which may aid health.

The main plant compounds in beetroots are:

  • Betanin. Also called beetroot red, betanin is the most common pigment in beetroots, responsible for their strong red colour. It is believed to have various health benefits.
  • Inorganic nitrate. Found in generous amounts in leafy green vegetables, beetroots, and beetroot juice, inorganic nitrate turns into nitric oxide in your body and has many important functions
  • Vulgaxanthin. A yellow or orange pigment found in beetroots and yellow beets.

Inorganic Nitrates

Inorganic nitrates include nitrates, nitrites, and nitric oxide.

Beetroots and beetroot juice are exceptionally high in nitrates.

However, debate has swirled around these substances for a long time.

Some people believe that they’re harmful and cause cancer, while others believe the risk is mostly associated with nitrites in processed meat

Most dietary nitrate (80–95%) comes from fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, dietary nitrite comes from food additives, baked goods, cereals, and processed or cured meats

Research shows that diets rich in nitrites and nitrates can have positive health effects, including lower blood pressure levels and decreased risk of many diseases

Your body can convert dietary nitrates — such as those from beetroots — into nitric oxide

This substance travels through your artery walls, sending signals to the tiny muscle cells around your arteries and telling them to relax

When these muscle cells relax, your blood vessels dilate, and blood pressure goes down

So to surmise the humble beet: Beetroots are a good source of nutrients, fibre, and many plant compounds. Their health benefits include improved heart health and enhanced exercise capacity, both of which are attributed to their inorganic nitrate content and best eaten raw!

 

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