Beetroot (Beta vulgaris), also called Swiss chard or beets, is a vegetable gaining enormous popularity in the health-awareness industry due to its long list of nutritional benefits.
Beets’ origin goes as far back as ancient Babylonia, some 4,000 years ago, where they used it for their health benefits. Later, the Romans cultivated and used it for medicinal purposes also.
Some of the benefits of beetroot include regulating blood pressure, enhancing blood flow, as an ergogenic aid (athletic performance enhancer), and much more.
There are different colors of beets, such as yellow, white, and even rainbow-colored, but the deep reddish-purple ones are the most prevalent.
In a nutshell, beetroots are nature’s multi-vitamin, multi-mineral, multi-amino acid, multi-antioxidant, and multi-phytochemical.
There is arguably no other fruit or vegetable in the world that can match its nutritional content.
What Makes Beetroot Essential For Health?
For starters, beetroot is very low in calories per 100 grams. It has only 43 calories.
The health benefits of beetroot are associated with their unique content of particular vitamins, minerals, and phytochemical compounds.
Beetroots are a rich source of the following per 100 grams:
- Dietary Fiber – 2.8 grams (10% of the Daily Value “DV“)
- Manganese – 329 mg (14% of the DV)
- Folate (Vitamin B9) – 109 mcg (about 27% of the DV)
- Betaine – 128.7 mg
- Glutamic acid – 428 grams (Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.8g/kg body weight)
Beetroots also contain a decent amount of the following:
- Vitamin B6 – .067 mg (5 %of the DV)
- Vitamin C – 4.9 mg (5 % of the DV)
- Copper – .075 mg (8 % of the DV)
- Magnesium – 23 mg (6 % of the DV
- Phosphorus – 40 mg (6 % of the DV)
- Potassium – 325 mg (7 % of the DV)
- Tryptophan – 0.019 grams (7 % of the DV)
- Phenylalanine + Tyrosine – .084 g (5 % of the DV)
And this is not all; they are also full of vitamins A, E, K, including almost all the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12). In their arsenal, beetroots have many more amino acids, minerals, and phytochemicals. The list is nonexhaustive.
Although beets have excellent content of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, it is not the sole reason that makes them valuable to health.
There are other substances such as:
- Inorganic nitrates
There is also the existence of a significant amount of antioxidants, such as:
The three substances named above and their particular constituents make beetroots, for the most part, so potent and unique.
Let’s take a look at the incredible health benefits of beetroot.
Beets are a rich source of inorganic nitrates with a content of 250 mg/kg of fresh weight.
Nitrates increase the blood flow to all your muscles, including your brain and heart. They have a vasodilating effect (opening and widening blood vessels throughout your body).
Nitrates are not directly responsible for these health effects. The process works like this:
- When the nitrates (NO3) in beetroot enter the mouth, they are turned into nitrites (NO2).
- When the nitrites (NO2) reach your stomach and are digested, they are turned to nitric oxide (NO).
- NO is then created throughout the body and is responsible for many biological functions in practically all of your body’s systems. They are like the oil to your car engine. For example:
- Help regulate blood flow
- Neurotransmission ( Enhances brain function and its neurotransmitters- AKA, brain cells)
- Boost immunity
- Regulate blood sugar
- Regulate calcium
- For better muscle contraction
Betalains are the natural pigments found in beetroots. These pigments (Source on page B) are either the red-violet betacyanins (makes up about 75 – 95% of beetroot) or the yellow-orange betaxanthins (which makes up about 5 – 25%).
A very recent study published in October 2020 (Source on page I -L) gave an extensive breakdown of the health benefits of beetroots due to their betalain content.
The study listed the following health benefits of beetroot betalains:
- Antiradical -(fights free radicals that damage health)
- Immune-modulatory – (regulates the immune system)
- Hepatoprotective – (protects the liver)
- Prevents cardiovascular diseases
- Lowers blood pressure
- Lowers blood lipids – (cholesterol)
- Analgesic – (pain reliever)
- Prevents DNA damage
- Antidiabetic (1)
- Cognitive Impairment Diseases (Brain Diseases) (1)
Beetroots betalains have an incredible amount of health benefits. And to add further,
- “data confirm the high availability of betalains in the human body…“
This means that when you ingest betalains, they have a high bioavailability status.
The term bioavailability means:
- “For a food component to be considered beneficial for health it must be bioavailable in vivo, that is, following ingestion, the active compounds are absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and made available in the circulation, in sufficient quantities, to be utilized by cells.”
In other words, most of the betalains don’t get destroyed by the digestive system when ingested, and this further strengthens their health benefits.
Phenolics are compounds that consist of antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, tannins, etc.
They are essential for protecting us from major chronic diseases due to their anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and antioxidant properties.
Beetroots are a powerhouse of phenolics. On February 7, 2020, a study was published by Polish scientists showing the full profile of phenolic acids and flavonoids in red beetroots.
(Click the link to review the study, or you may download it)
According to the authors, the study is considered the first to identify all the phenolics in beetroots.
The phenolic acids and flavonoids that were discovered by the researchers are:
- Protocatechuic acid
- m-Hydroxybenzoic acid
- Chlorogenic acid
- Caffeic acid
- Syringic acid
- Sinapic acid
- Ferulic acid
- Isoferulic acid
- p-Coumaric acid
- p-Hydroxybenzoic acid
- 3,4-Dihydroxyphenylacetic acid
- trans-Cinnamic acid
Every one of these substances was found in fresh beetroots. They are all individually potent in their own right.
The incredible phenomenon is that individually, each of these substances is proven by science to be a potent protector of different aspects of human health. Coincidentally, beetroot contains all of them. If this is not a “SUPERFOOD,” then what is?
Beetroots Contain Betaine
Betaine is a compound first discovered in the juice of sugar beets in the 19th century.
This compound helps your body when faced with environmental stress by protecting your cells, proteins, and body’s enzymes.
I diet rich in betaine can protect your organs, enhance your circulatory system (vascular), help you perform better in sports (athletic enhancer), and prevent chronic diseases.
Putting this into perspective, the average dietary intake of betaine is 0.5-2 grams per day. Just 100 grams of beetroot can give you up to 50% of the average daily intake. And even in low doses, it is essential for cardiovascular disease.
The Therapeutic Benefits Of Beetroot
Beetroot Is An Ergogenic (Athletic Performance Enhancer)
There are two compounds found in beetroot that enable it to help the body perform better in sports.
The first is its nitrate content. Many studies have shown that beetroot juice is a potent performance enhancer due to its nitrate content.
There is a “High Level Of Evidence,” showing that beetroot juice improves athletic performance due to its nitrate content. (See Table 1)
The second is the betaine content. One study done on cycling showed that one week of betaine supplementation increased cycling power.
Another study published in July 2020 showed that middle-aged men who consumed betaine for three years lost less muscle mass throughout their bodies.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Although beetroots may be high in sugar, they can still manage to lower blood sugar levels.
In a study done on 30 adults, beetroot juice was given to them daily for six weeks.
The study results showed that their blood glucose(sugar) levels were significantly reduced by 34.5%, from 76.1 mg/dL to 49.8 mg/dL.
Consumed as a juice, beetroot may be beneficial for people with diabetes.
Helps With Osteoarthritis
The betalains compounds found in beetroot may help with pain and joint stiffness. One study showed that red beet extract reduced pain associated with osteoarthritis. This was due to the high betalain content found in beetroot.
Beetroots Are Healthy For The Brain
One of the significant factors for diminished cognitive function, such as brain damage, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, is the reduced capacity to make nitric oxide activity (NO) in the brain.
And since beetroot can make NO through its nitrate content, it is essential to brain function.
One study showed that a diet high in nitrate and beetroot juice given to a group of 75-year-olds stimulated a part of the brain responsible for essential cognitive processes, memory, and task-switching.
Eliminates Hard Stool
Beetroot is an excellent source of dietary fiber. This fiber can inhibit or reduce inflammation created in the colon, thus relieving gas, bloatedness, and abnormal bowel movement. The fiber works by softening the stool and making it easier to pass through.
Great For Digestion
Beetroot, a good source of betaine, has been proven to improve digestive problems, especially in people with low stomach acid levels.
I diet high in betaine can also help with heartburn issues by regulating stomach acid levels.
Helps With Cold Symptom And Asthma
People under psychological stress are more prone to catching a cold because the stress has weakened their immune defenses.
It has been established that Nitric oxide (NO) is associated as a vital line defender against pathogens that invade your airways.
As stated earlier, beetroots’ nitrate content can and does increase the NO levels in your body, making beetroot a perfect protector against cold symptoms and other respiratory infections.
A study was conducted to prove this hypothesis. Seventy-six students were given beetroot juice seven times per day while under stress due to an upcoming final exam. Sixteen of the students also had asthma.
The study’s result showed that the beetroot juice made the students breathe out more NO, which afforded excellent protection against cold symptoms during a stressful time. And it even worked better for the students with asthma.
For Cardiovascular Health
Beetroot is rich in betaine. Studies show that betaine can inhibit the accumulation of the amino acid homocysteine.
A build-up of homocysteine is a danger for blood vessels, leading to strokes, blood clots, heart, and circulatory problems.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Beetroot can lower blood pressure, mostly if consumed in juice form or bread. It can reduce both the systolic and diastolic numbers.
It lowers blood pressure due to the nitrate found in beetroot. As stated earlier, nitrate turns to nitrogen oxide (NO), and it is this NO that causes blood vessels to dilate, making blood flow smoother throughout the body.
Beetroot Is Excellent For Pregnant Women
Beetroot is an excellent source of folic acid (Vitamin B-9). And folic acid is essential in early pregnancy because it helps prevent defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Some birth defects can last an entire lifetime – namely, spina bifida (a spinal cord defect).
The Food And Drugs Administration recommends that pregnant women take 400 micrograms to 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily.
The good news is that one average-sized beetroot contains 100 to 150 mcg of folic acid and is one of the best natural sources of this vitamin worldwide.
It appears that high levels of the amino acid homocysteine play a crucial part in numerous birth defects, such as:
- gestational diabetes
- age at delivery
- preterm birth
- small size for gestational age
- neonatal birth weight
- congenital abnormalities
- pregnancy losses
- hypertensive disorders of pregnancy
- low birth weight
According to this study, “daily folic acid supplementation with 0.5 to 5.0 mg lowers plasma Hcy levels (homocysteine) by about 25%.“
Both folic acid and betaine can lower homocysteine levels, and both are found in significant quantity in beetroots. Due to this combination, beetroots are a potent natural product that can help pregnant women deliver a healthy baby.
Side Effects Of Beetroots
One side effect of beetroots is that they will turn your urine red. The symptom is called beeturia. It is harmless and will not cause you any harm.
If you have a history of kidney stones, you should speak to your doctor before eating beetroots.
Beetroots are rich in oxalic acid, which has been known to cause kidney stones.
If you have a problem with low blood pressure, you need to be careful about eating beetroots because they can lower it even further.
Many people are in the dark about the incredible benefits of beetroot, and more so, many people refuse to eat them and leave them on their plates.
Beetroot is arguably the supreme vegetable of the world. It is like a big supplement capsule full of most vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, flavonoids, phenolic acids, nitrates, betalains, betaine, and healthy fiber.
Buying these nutrients in a health food store would cost you a reasonable sum of money. However, you can get them in one average-sized beetroot.
The benefits of beetroot simply cannot be disputed.