If you’re lucky, you’re already an avid beet lover who already knows everything there is to know about this awesome vegetable!
But if you’re like me, until recently you may have only seen a beet in your grocery store (or maybe your grandmother’s kitchen). You probably didn’t give it the proper chance when you should have.
Beets, also known as blood turnips, are an excellent source of nutrition, and can be incorporated into a variety of your favorite foods. However, you may still be unsure or unconvinced of how great they can be.
As always, that’s what I’m here for.
Today, I’m going to share with you all the fantastic health benefits of beets. And maybe after you learn them, you’ll rush out and buy some – just like I did.
Antioxidants are substances that help your body prevent or delay cell damage that can lead to a wide range of chronic diseases.
And you guessed right – beets are an excellent source of phytonutrients called betalains which function as cancer-fighting antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties.
The deep crimson, purple, and orange hues of beets reveal their high antioxidant content the same way as berries and other fruits provide similar disease-fighting molecules.
Studies show that betalains are great at protecting the body against developing cancers like lung, stomach, colon, and breast cancer. Betalains also provide protection against heart disease and other illnesses.
These properties make beets excellent for eye health. The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoid phytonutrients found in other vegetables like carrots and squash, protect against conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts.
The greens of the beets are where the majority of these antioxidants are actually found. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found throughout the beet, though, especially in golden beets.
So, for the great benefits of an antioxidant-rich diet, give beets a chance!
The inflammatory processes of the body are often completely necessary. They keep us free from foreign bacterial or virus invaders and stop us from being sick all the time.
But too much inflammation can be a very serious problem. Inflammation has been linked to a number of symptoms and diseases including:
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
The average person’s diet is high in inflammatory properties thanks to processed foods with high levels of sugar and low amounts of nutrients. That’s what makes consuming whole foods like beets such a great alternative to help the immune system not trigger more harmful inflammation than it needs to.
Beets contain anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to inhibit the activity of cyclo-oxygenase enzymes thanks to their betaine compounds. Betaine is a nutrient that helps protect cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It’s activated in the body by the nutrient choline, which is derived from B vitamins.
According to World’s Healthiest Foods, betaine can also protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and even help prevent chronic disease.
So, if you have a health issue related to excess inflammation, try to add beets into your diet as much as possible.
Better Brain and Mental Health
If you’re dealing with memory issues, or maybe you’re just feeling a little down, beets can help you tremendously.
Beets produce nitric oxide, which helps increase blood flow throughout your body – and obviously to your brain. When you eat a high-nitrate diet, you can benefit from more blood flow to the white matter of your frontal lobes.
Betaine in beets is also used in certain treatments of depression, which makes beets a great food to help improve your mental well-being.
A 1/2-cup serving of cooked beets provides you with a significant amount of manganese, which your body needs to make blood-clotting factors, sex hormones, bones, and connective tissues. Manganese also plays a pivotal role in calcium absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and blood sugar regulation.
When you eat manganese-rich foods like beets, your brain and nerves are able to function at their optimal levels. Manganese is part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, a powerful tool in the fight against dangerous free radicals.
Great for Your Heart
The anti-inflammatory properties of beets make them especially powerful for regulating blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy.
Both betaine and choline have been shown to control inflammation in the cardiovascular system by turning off homocysteines, which are inflammatory reactions in the body that increase your risk of certain cardiovascular problems.
Beets contain nitrate compounds that are shown to benefit your cholesterol levels. Doctors recommend regularly consuming nitrate-rich vegetables like beets to protect your heart.
Beets are also a great source of potassium, which helps offset some of the effects of high sodium intake. If you lower these effects, you’ll decrease both your risk of heart disease and stroke.
For decades now, health-conscious people have tried to find ways to wash their bodies of toxins. This is usually called a “detox” phase.
While the body itself takes care of much of this process on its own, many people believe they need to provide the body with a helping hand in completing its detoxification.
Here’s where beets come in. Betalain pigments present in beets are shown to support our body’s natural detoxification processes.
During Phase 2 of the body’s detoxification process, our cells “hook” unwanted and toxic substances up to small nutrient groups. This effectively neutralizes toxins and makes them water-soluble so they can be excreted in the urine.
In Phase 2, an enzyme family called the glutathione-S-transferase family (GSTs) hook toxins up to glutathione. The betalains in beets have been shown to trigger this GST activity, which helps aid in the elimination of toxins that require glutathione for excretion.
So, if you think you need to help your body get rid of a build-up of toxins in your blood and liver, beets belong in your diet.
Everybody wants to live longer – and look younger while they do it. Fortunately, beets are a solid contribution to the pursuit of both of these parts of a healthy life.
The detoxification and anti-inflammatory properties of beets we’ve already mentioned contribute greatly to keeping you younger. The betalains in beets have been shown to exhibit antiviral and antimicrobial effects that can lessen tumor cell growth and protect against age-related diseases.
Oxidative damage and inflammation can do a lot of wear and tear to the body and skin, which contribute heavily to a more aged appearance. So, consuming beets regularly can help provide you with a natural defense against looking older than you actually are.
Beets are also a great source of fiber, which allows the digestive system to function more properly and supports weight loss. And when you’re thinner and more regular, you’ll suffer from far fewer negative health issues associated with weight and digestion.
Beets help to naturally balance your pH levels as well as alkalize your body. People who put themselves on an alkaline diet to try to help their bodies maintain a more alkaline state often use beets for this reason.
So, include beets in your well-balanced diet and exercise routine to live as long as possible.
Better Physical Performance
You’re having a tough time at the gym lately. Maybe you’re feeling a little sluggish or lethargic.
Beets can help.
Because beets are a healthy carbohydrate, beets can energize you and enhance your overall physical performance.
The nitrates in beets help your body by improving the way it uses oxygen, and the naturally high water content of the vegetable can help you stay hydrated. Maybe the idea of snacking on a beet during your workout sounds a little strange, but it would be a fantastic conversation starter at the gym!
Also, beets are very low-calorie foods, so you won’t have to feel guilty about adding them to your meals. A cup of cooked beet contains only 60 calories, and its carbs come with a lot of the nutrients and phytochemicals we’ve already discussed.
How to Eat Beets
There are quite a few great ways to prepare and consume beets.
First of all, you can eat beets raw. They have a crunchy texture and an interesting flavor, and when you eat them raw you guarantee you aren’t losing any of their health benefits from cooking. You might try adding beets to smoothies, juices, or salads for best results.
Cooked beets are found in many traditional eastern European meals, like borscht and various soups. But be warned, cooking, canning, or pickling beets can destroy some of their nutrient content and change the taste dramatically.
You can also roast beets for under an hour by slowly cooking and softening them. But be careful any time you prepare beets, because their juices can stain skin and clothing!
Remember that you should eat every part of the beet itself, including its leafy green top, which contains:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
For a variety of ways to get all the health benefits of beets, check out this Food Network list of recipes and techniques for cooking with beets!
And one more thing – beets can actually make your urine pink or even red in color! This condition is called “beeturia” and is nothing to worry about. About 5 to 15 percent of adults in the United States are thought to experience beeturia after eating beets.
Beets really do come as a bit of a surprise, but so do all of the most amazing vegetables. These little colorful veggies pack quite the powerful punch.
Next time you go to the grocery store, are you going to stock up on beets? Let me know in the comments below!