Beetroot should form part of your diet, whether you like it or not. This superfood is simply too healthy to ignore!
You've seen it in supermarkets, on restaurant menus and in the cookbooks of celebrity chefs. Cooked into soups, roasted with other veggies, fried as chips, tossed into salads or blended into smoothies, beetroot packs a nutritional punch every time. So it’s little wonder that it has such a long history of being a superfood...
Interestingly, the beetroot was first recognised for its leaves, which were traditionally used for their medicinal properties. The leaves were also used in a variety of dishes from ancient times. It was only until much later that the root became the focal point of this very nutritional tuber.
Background and history
Although the wild beet, of which the modern beet is a descendant, is thought to have grown wild along the prehistoric shores of Asia, North Africa and Europe, the website Lovebeetroot.co.uk says the beetroot was first cultivated by the Romans, who made use of both the leaves and roots.
It spread throughout the Romans’ European Empire, so it’s no surprise that the modern-day production of beetroot is still a European enterprise. Many beetroot recipes are influenced by central and eastern European cooking techniques.
The health benefits of beetroot
Beetroot has a pleasant taste and is a very versatile food, which makes it easy to include in the diet.
It’s been shown to contain powerful antioxidants, along with a range of vitamins and minerals, which may help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers.
Of great interest to researchers are beetroot’s high levels of dietary nitrate, which seem to have a range of beneficial effects, including:
- Reducing blood pressure
- Improving blood flow
- Keeping the layer of cells that lines the heart and blood vessels healthy
- Enhancing exercise performance (stamina) in healthy people
In a 2013 edition of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology , Satnam Lidder and co-workers noted that nitrate also has the potential to protect against ischaemia-reperfusion injury (the damage caused when the blood supply returns to tissues after a period of lack of oxygen). Nitrate also seems to reduce arterial stiffness and inflammation. Great benefits indeed!
A 2010 University of London study also supported existing studies showing that the nitrates in beetroot help to lower blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In study participants who consumed beetroot juice, a marked decrease in blood pressure was seen within 24 hours.
Get your daily fill
If you aren't already including beetroot in your diet, then you’re probably wondering how to get your weekly dose.
Here are a few great ways to enjoy this remarkable root vegetable:
- Drizzle raw, sliced beets with lemon juice and sprinkle with paprika or chilli powder.
- Blend beetroot into a juice with a mix of fresh orange segments, pineapple, mint leaves and strawberries.
- Grate raw beetroot into salads or soups.
- Enjoy pickled beetroot discs on a bed of lettuce or spinach, sprinkled with feta. Butternut makes a great companion.
Take note: Although there are no known side effects to eating beetroot, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or a dietitian before making any changes to your diet. And don’t worry if your urine turns pink – this is completely natural!
- History of Beetroot, http://www.lovebeetroot.co.uk/history/#.VCGBFhbNlvg
- Kapil et. al. (28 June 2010) Inorganic Nitrate Supplementation Lowers Blood Pressure in Humans. Hypertension journal (http://hyper.ahajournals.org/). Additional source: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/items/smd/31048.html
- Lidder S., Webb A.J. et al. (2013) Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. Br J Clin Pharmacol. Mar 2013; 75(3): 677–696. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575935/
Image via Thinkstock.
This post is sponsored by Bioglan Superfoods.
Bioglan Superfoods Organic Beetroot Powder is a naturally sweet freeze-dried extract, preserving beetroot's rich nutrient profile. Add a superfoods boost to you juices or smoothies, or try one these Bioglan Superfood Recipes: