I heart beetroot. Beta vulgaris. From a basic nutrition point of view, it rocks. From a medical point of view, it rocks and rolls! So where better to start for the first of my ‘vaguely scientific’ posts that explore the reasoning behind healthy choices?
100g raw beetroot contains 75% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of folic acid and 11% of your RDI of potassium. Raw beetroot is better than cooked in terms of micronutrients, but cooked beetroot is more palatable for some (myself included!) and still has plenty of benefits.
- Folic acid is essential to new cell growth and is involved in many processes that create and repair your DNA!
- Potassium has a role both in your body’s fluid balance and in nerve, brain and muscle function. I don’t want to write an essay on all the bad things that happen when you don’t get enough potassium, but rest assured it’s not good.
That 100g of raw beetroot also contains vitamin C, iron, zinc & magnesium (though less than 10% of your RDI for each). It also:
- is low in calories and fat. Great if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight, and means you can eat plenty to top up on it’s awesome nutritional properties without worrying!
- has a low glycaemic load. This means it is turned to sugar slowly in the body, keeping blood sugar stable rather than spiking (preventing the inevitable crash).
- is high in fibre. Soluble fibre is the better of the 2 main types of fibre, and beetroot is full of it. This can help lower cholesterol.
- contains betaine. Never heard of it? It’s a compound that is shown to have a protective function on the liver, improve vascular health, play a role in preventing many chronic diseases and enhance athletic performance.
- contains betacyanins. The pigment that makes them (and your pee) pinky-purple is also an antioxidant.
- keeps you strong and sexy! Beetroot contains silica which aids use of calcium within the body, keeping your bones strong. Your sex drive might also benefit from the high levels of boron – a mineral used in the production of sex hormones!
Recent research at my school has shown that drinking 500mL of beetroot juice daily significantly reduces blood pressure – with the effects showing in as little as 3 hrs after drinking! This is thought to be down to the inorganic nitrate compounds beetroot contains. Pretty cool! It gets even more interesting though; some of the nitrates responsible for this phenomenon is also thought to be converted by bacteria in the human mouth… into a carcinogen. But that’s bad, right?
Thankfully, not really. The naturally occurring vitamin C in the beetroot counteracts the cancerous compound rendering is harmless. 🙂 Phew! However, beetroot that also contains a high amount of nitrogen from fertilizers can push up the nitrate levels meaning the amount of vitamin C isn’t matched and can’t cancel out all the carcinogenic compound. The same applies to beetroot that is very acidic, such as pickled beets. Ideally, stick to organic and don’t chose pickled beetroot.
So tell me, are you a fan of beetroot? How do you like it? Share your favourite recipes and we’ll get some beet-lovin’ goin’ on! 😉
LoveBeetroot.co.uk (2010) – http://www.lovebeetroot.co.uk/healthy_info/index.asp
Betaine in human nutrition (2004) S Craig – http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/80/3/539
Inorganic nitrate and the cardiovascular system (2010) V Kapil, A J Webb, A Ahluwalia – http://heart.bmj.com/content/96/21/1703