Beets are no longer just a staple in the Russian beet soup borsht but are popping up on menus and juice bars across the country. Find out why you need to include beets in your diet today.
The wild beet, the ancestor of the beet many of us currently eat, is thought to have originated in prehistoric times in North Africa and grew wild along Asian and European coasts; their greens were used for food, and it was not until the ancient Romans came along that the roots, the part we know as the beet, was cultivated for food. Beets belong to the chenopod family, which includes chard, spinach and quinoa. Attached to the beet's green leaves is a round or oblong root, the part many of us think of at the beet. Although typically deep reddish-purple, beets also come in varieties that feature white, golden, yellow or even rainbow color roots.
Red beets and their juice are an excellent source of nutrition. They are a very good source of fiber, potassium, manganese, and folate, as well as vitamin C, B6, zinc, copper, and iron. All of which contribute to excellent health.
Beets are also a rich source of polyphenols (the antioxidants we’ve been hearing so much about in dark purple vegetables) and betalains a relatively new potent antioxidant on the health scene thought to quench free radicals and reverse their damage.
In addition to providing antioxidant value, betalains, are considered anti-inflammatory, and support detoxification. Betalains support glutathione, one of the body’s most important antioxidants and powerful detoxification substances. Although you can see these betalain pigments in other foods (i.e. stems of chard or rhubarb), the concentration of betalains in the peel and flesh of beets is far greater.
Cancer prevention? The betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth. Although the research is preliminary, it would be wise to include beets, especially red beets in your weekly eating plan.
Cardiovascular benefits. In a recent study from Queen Mary University, London, researchers found that drinking beet juice was shown to lower blood pressure while improving blood vessel function. Researchers even suggest that a daily dose of beetroot juice "can be as effective as medical intervention in reducing blood pressure".
Beets are very impressive and easy to find in every supermarket. Here’s a recent Phil’s Food Review on beets.
As always please consult a medical professional before making any changes to your diet.