Botanical family: Beta vulgaris
Parts used: Root and leaves
Main active constituents: Flavonoids, betanin, inorganic nitrate
Actions: Reduces blood pressure, enhances exercise performance, detoxifier, antioxidant
Good for: Essential nutrients, fibre, digestion, anti-inflammatory
Available forms: Food, juice, capsules
Beetroot is often referred to as a super food because of the wealth of health benefits it delivers. It belongs to the same family as spinach and chard and both the leaves and root can be eaten, although we tend to use the root more in daily life. The leaves can be cooked in exactly the same way as spinach. Whilst beetroot is obviously a food, it can be taken in supplement form too.
History of Beetroot
Beetroot has been widely planted around the world particularly in Mediterranean countries, especially Greece and Italy, and in the US too. There are various types of beetroot, including white, but the rich colour of red beetroot seems to deliver the most health benefits. In ancient times only the leaves were cooked and eaten with the roots being used medicinally for headaches and toothaches. This may be because beetroot exerts strong anti-inflammatory effects, hence can help to manage pain. Apparently, the ancient Greeks and Romans even turned to beets for their potential aphrodisiac qualities.
Current uses of Beetroot
As an antioxidant
All brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, and beetroot is no exception. Its dark red pigment ensures you’ll be eating a wealth of these powerful plant compounds which help protect the body against free radical damage. Whilst the body does have its own antioxidant enzyme systems, we need a daily supply of antioxidant foods for greater protection. This can also help reduce risks for chronic diseases.
Reducing blood pressure
Beetroots are rich in nitrates, which produce nitric oxide having the effect of widening blood vessels to improve blood flow. A reduction in blood pressure is beneficial for avoiding heart disease and stroke.
Improving exercise performance
The vasodilatory effect of the nitrates in beetroot, increases oxygen delivery to the body organs, thereby improving exercise endurance, muscle efficiency and recovery. The positive effects have been particularly noted in runners and cyclists.
As an anti-inflammatory
Beetroot’s positive effects on endothelial functions and blood vessels, means it can act as a potent anti-inflammatory food or supplement. Chronic inflammation is a factor in all our degenerative diseases so can potentially offer long-term protective effects.
The betalain compounds in beetroot are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, ensuring their powerful and positive effects.
As a liver cleanser
Whilst the body has its own very effective detoxification mechanisms, betaine, an amino acid found in beetroot, has a liver protective effect, and may help people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
For nutrient intake
Essentially, beetroots are nutrient dense and are especially rich in folate, needed for energy and DNA repair, vitamin C as a powerful antioxidant, calcium and magnesium for healthy bones and potassium for the heart. It also provides a useful form of vegetarian iron.
How to take beetrootEnjoy it in a wide variety of recipes or as a delicious vegetable.
In supplement form, a typical daily dosage is around 1 gram.
Beetroot can be taken with other supplements and there is no evidence of contraindications at the recommended dosage.
Benefits can be felt in a relatively short time.
WatchpointsSome people notice their urine turning pink after eating or taking beetroot, which is normal and completely harmless. It doesn’t happen to everyone.
It is not advisable to take in supplement form during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but there are no issues with eating beetroot during this time.