Beets are one of the newest ‘super foods’ to hit the headlines. Packed full of nutrients, it has long been used in folk medicine to treat a variety of ailments including fevers and illnesses relating to digestion and the blood. It turns out the Ancient Romans got a few things right as the benefits of a beet-filled diet are immense!
What are the claimed health benefits?
Great for expectant moms
|Raw beets (100g) provides:|
Folic acid is crucial to the development of a baby's spinal cord during the first three months of pregnancy and can help prevent spinal cord defects such as spina bifida. Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive can get 75% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of folate from three raw baby beets. Expectant mums must remember though that cooked beets have lower levels of folic acid than raw beets.
Lowers blood pressure
Research has shown that beets can help lower blood pressure. In healthy volunteers, approximately 3 hours after ingestion of 500 ml of beet juice, blood pressure was substantially reduced, an effect that correlated with peak increases in plasma nitrite concentration, nitrite being the blood pressure reducing ingredient. However drinking this much raw beet juice every day may be a little extreme even for beet enthusiasts!
High in powerful antioxidant properties
Betacyanin is the pigment that gives beets their colour, and is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are believed to help reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, protecting artery walls and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Prevents some cancers
Preliminary tests suggest that beet ingestion can prevent lung and skin cancer. Other studies have shown that beet juice slows the development of tumours due to the high content of betanin in the vegetable.
Beets contain soluble fibre, which has also been shown to have cholesterol lowering capabilities. It contains 'carotenoids' and 'flavonoids', which help prevent LDL or 'bad' cholesterol from being oxidised and deposited in the arteries.
Treats anaemia and fatigue
In the 16th century, it was given as a "blood builder" to people who were pale and run down. At the time, doctors and patients may not have known why it was so efficacious, but health experts now know that its high iron content can help to treat anaemia and fatigue.
Supports healthy liver function
Beets contain the bioactive agent betaine which stimulates the function of liver cells and protects the liver and bile ducts. When the liver is functioning properly, fats are broken down efficiently, aiding weight loss, and preventing fatigue and nausea. Recent studies also point to betaine as contributing to the prevention of coronary and cerebral artery diseases. Betaine is also important for cardiovascular health.
Aids tissue growth
Beets are one of the richest sources of folic acid, something that is essential for normal tissue growth. It can protect against high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Increases sex drive
Since Roman times, beets have been viewed as an aphrodisiac. It contains high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.
Stabilises blood sugar
Beets are virtually fat free and low in calories. Although it has a 'medium' GI (Glycaemic Index) of 64, it has an extremely low GL (Glycaemic Load) of 2.9 which means it's converted into sugars very slowly and therefore helps to keep blood sugar levels stable – which is good for the blood.
Reduces risk of osteoporosis
Beets contain the mineral silica, which helps the body to utilise calcium, so is therefore important for musculo-skeletal health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.