“Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets.” – Tom Robbins, American author
When an episode of “Portlandia” featured beets and one of their alarmingly funny side effects (just watch the episode…), I realized that beets had truly made their mark in hipsterdom. But, beets have always been cool! The Romans spread beets throughout the Roman empire for their medicinal and blood purifying benefit and the Greeks offered up beets to the sun god Apollo. Beets are quite literally “rooted” in cultural history and nutrition!
Originally only the beet greens were consumed, but today we enjoy the earthy, sweet taste of beetroot as well. I’ve encountered everyone from body builders to cancer fighters to bouncy college students that tout the benefit of beets and I too can’t get enough! In fact, one of my favorite juices (the Glow juice from RFD here in L.A.) is packed with a beet pick me up that helps me zip through my day.
Beet benefits are boundless, join the cool club and start eating or drinking your beets for the following benefits:
- Lower your blood pressure: In the U.S alone, approximately 9 million adults suffer from hypertension. When you consume beet juice, you will often experience a reduction in blood pressure. This is due to naturally occurring nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide. This helps relax your blood vessels, improving blood flow.
- Reduce inflammation: Inflammation is a regular immune response, but can quickly spiral out-of-control. Consuming raw beets and raw beet juice will allow you to benefit from betaine, a natural inflammatory. You will also find betaine in quinoa and spinach. A study published in the International Journal of Oncology found that betaine inhibited inflammation while reducing tumor growth in mice.
- Anti-cancer properties: Since beets also offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, this root is believed to reduce your risk of developing cancer. Prevention is critical, but the beautiful color of beets could potentially play a role in treatment as well. The rich color of a beet is directly linked to its powerful phytonutrients. Betanin is the main coloring compound in the root itself, which has been shown to lessen cancer cells within the lab.
- Improve mental health: The high betaine content of beets create positive effects regarding symptoms of depression. Betaine helps your brain maintain sufficient dopamine and serotonin levels, which are your feel-good Beets are high in folate as well. When you’re deficient in this nutrient, you’re more prone to depression, insomnia, and mental fatigue. Since beets also offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, this root is believed to reduce your risk of developing cancer. This root also contains tryptophan, which helps relax the mind and promote positive well-being.
- Nutritionally rich: Based on their nutritional value, beets help protect your immune system and prevent chronic disease. High in vitamin C, folate, and iron, beets support overall immune function while preventing anemia (which affects over 3 million Americans). Their high manganese content helps neutralize free radicals, preventing illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Potassium promotes healthy nerve function while dietary fiber supports healthy digestion.
- Aids in detoxification: Pectin, one of the fibers found in beets, prevents the re-absorption of toxins which have been removed from the liver. Based on this specific property, you should eat some beets raw without juicing them, allowing these fibers to stay intact. However, beet juice should not be excluded, as it encourages healthy liver cells based on its betaine content. You can boost the nutritional value of your beet juice even further, by including the stems and greens.
Don’t be shy to experiment with flavors and recipes. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: beet red salad with curried cashews, beet chips, roasted root veggie salad with beet-ginger dressing, and sweet beet juice. Enjoy!