Last Updated on March 21, 2021
There are two types of people in the world — people who love beets and people who don’t.
One might pick them up at the grocery store, attracted to its vibrant red color. And then come to regret it later on when it’s served on the dinner table, recoiling from its strong earthy flavor.
Those who are unfazed by its unique flavor may appear to have questionable tastes in the eyes of the majority. But they’re extremely lucky, because beets come with a long list of health benefits.
It pays to have a few chunks of beets in your salad or as an ingredient in your smoothie. If you’re among those who have yet to develop a liking to beets, then perhaps it’s time to reconcile.
What are beets?
Known scientifically as Beta vulgaris, beets are a type of root vegetable with a rough outer skin and a long green stem with leaves. They are very similar to turnips and rutabagas, although they don’t share the same earthy flavor.
Ever since they were discovered, beets were used mainly for food, but historical evidence tells us that it was also used for various purposes.
In the 18th century, beets were used as a natural source of sugar and even today, sugar beets are used to sweeten food.
During this time, beets were also used in cosmetics. Its bright red-purplish color could stain almost anything it comes in contact with; it made sense that it was also used as a pigment in food coloring.
But more importantly, beets played an important role in the history of medicine. Its roots were used as a laxative or as a cure for fever.
Even the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, says that its leaves can be used to treat wounds for faster healing. That being said, it’s undeniable that beets or beetroots have strong effects on the human body.
Nutritional Content of Beets
The vibrant color of beets is more than just an accessory. Beets get their rich red-purplish color from phytonutrients called betalains.
Interestingly, beets contain the two most popular betalains: vulgaxanthin and betanin. Both are said to contain antioxidants that fight off cancer as well as anti-inflammatory properties.
As a whole, beets contain high amounts of manganese, folate, and copper. The body requires manganese for a healthy metabolism, strong bones, and faster healing of wounds.
Folate is used for DNA synthesis and is said to prevent heart disease, cancer, and depression. And lastly, copper helps in creating red blood cells and energy. It also keeps the body’s immune system healthy and functional.
And that’s not all — the green leaves of beets are also filled with vitamins such as vitamin A, C, K, and B2.
10 Health Benefits of Beets or Beetroot
Promotes Weight Loss
There are two main reasons why beets are great for weight loss. First, they contain zero fat and yet they are also full of vitamins and minerals.
The body uses fat to produce energy, but its excess is stored in the body. Meanwhile, beets provide energy for the body without adding any more fat.
Beets also have a low-calorie density, making this the second reason why they’re good for weight loss.
Eating low calorie foods can help you feel full and satisfied longer, without having to consume plenty of calories.
Foods high in calorie requires the body to do more physical activity for it to burn. Otherwise, the body stores the excess of calories as glucose or fat in the body.
Improves Digestive Health
We learned earlier that beets were used as a laxative in the Middle Ages to cure constipation and many other digestive disorders.
Additionally, beets are high in fiber and antioxidants which can help clean the body from toxic substances that may affect one’s overall digestive health.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Beets are rich in dietary nitrates that get converted into nitric oxides in the body. Studies show that nitric oxide can help relax and dilate blood vessels, lowering blood pressure in the process while also preventing hypertension.
Enhances Stamina and Endurance
According to a research paper published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, whole beets can improve athletic performance in healthy adult runners.
In a separate study, medical experts have also found that drinking beet juice increased oxygen uptake by up to 16 percent which is more than the usual amount, especially during intensive training.
Contains Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory Properties
As mentioned earlier, beets get their dark red color from phytonutrients, particularly one called beta-cyanine. Beta-cyanine is an antioxidant that helps the body fight against various diseases which includes cancer, most especially colon cancers.
Another antioxidant phytonutrient present in beets is beta-carotene. Not only does it act as an antioxidant, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties.
May Prevent Risks of Cancer
According to a study conducted by Dr. Govind J. Kapadia of Howard University in the US, beets have the potential to prevent various types of cancers such as skin, lung, and colon cancer.
The secret power of beets can be found in its color. Thanks to the beta-cyanines giving beets their dark red color, the body can then counteract the growth of cancer cells.
Most meat preservatives utilize nitrates that stimulate the cultivation of cancer-causing nitrosamine compounds in the body.
However, research has found that drinking beet juice can help prevent cases of cell mutations caused by these nitrosamine compounds.
Detoxifies the Liver
Thanks to one animal study, medical researchers have discovered that the betaines found in beets ensure the overall health of the liver. Moreover, pectin, a water-soluble fiber commonly found in root vegetables like beets, turnips, and rutabagas, helps detoxify the liver.
Beets are also a popular type of superfood that can reverse the effects of a fatty liver.
Supports Brain Health
The nitrates found in beets don’t just maintain healthy blood pressure, they also help improve brain neuroplasticity and increase oxygenation of the somatomotor cortex. Studies show that the somatomotor cortex is one of the first targets of dementia in its early stages.
Additionally, blood flow to the brain decreases as humans grow older, leading to a decreased cognition. Thankfully, some medical evidence shows that consuming beets can prevent the effects of aging on the brain.
Good for the Heart
Increased levels of homocysteine put the body at risk for various cardiovascular problems such as strokes, inflammation, and heart attacks.
The betaine found in beets lowers homocysteine levels in the body, addressing some of the most common heart-related problems.
Beets are also known for lowering cholesterol thanks to its high fiber content. But the fiber found in beets doesn’t just lower cholesterol, it also reduces triglycerides by increasing good HDL cholesterol.
Moreover, the fiber in beets also helps flush away excess bad LDL cholesterol from the body.
The bad LDL cholesterol causes cholesterol to build up in the arteries, blocking oxygen from entering the heart’s pathways.
When left unattended, this blockage may cause a fatal heart attack.
Contains Aphrodisiac Properties
Interestingly, beets are also well-known for their aphrodisiac properties. It is considered as a sexual booster thanks to the fact that it contains a good amount of boron.
Boron is a mineral best known for enhancing the production of sexual hormones in the body.
The effects of boron on the body may lead to a supercharged libido, better sperm mobility, and increased fertility.
Some people swear by the effects of beets in one’s sexual life; not only are they readily accessible for those who need them, but they show very promising results as well.
Best Ways to Enjoy Beets
Beets are difficult to like; not a lot of people can appreciate its earth-like taste. But even so, it’s a wise idea to add them to one’s diet as it offers plenty of health advantages.
One simple way to enjoy beets is to make a salad — who said salads have to be green? Balance its strong flavor with a tangy dressing or balsamic vinegar.
Another way to soften the strong flavor of beets is by adding them into a smoothie recipe. This may sound like a culinary nightmare for those who aren’t fond of them.
But when mixed together with other fruits or vegetables and yogurt, any hint of beets would be hard to detect.
Incidentally, juicing beets concentrates its nutritional content as well, making beet-infused drinks one of the healthiest smoothie or juice recipes anyone can make at home.
Finally, beet chips make a great healthy snack. Although they are not the best option compared to salads or juices, they’re still better than most snacks filled with excess sugar, sodium, or fat.
If you are someone who likes to enjoy savory snacks while watching a movie, then this is a great healthy alternative to the usual bag of potato chips.
However, it is important to note that its nutritional content may be lower than usual. The chip-making process decreases its natural nutrients. But even so, they are a first step to enjoying the numerous health benefits of beets.