What is beetroot?
Beetroot is a tasty vegetable very closely related to spinach. In fact you can pick the leaves when they are young and eat them as tender greens in salads. Let them grow into the large tuberous root vegetable pictured to the right and you get a sweet vegetable that can be boiled until tender enough to put a knife through it. Some people slice and pickle their beetroot, although I personally think it is best eaten as it is, as part of a salad. Raw beetroot is a bit bitter so I would always recommend that you cook it. It is possible to slice it thinly and stir fry it in olive oil. This could form the basis for a snack or side vegatble alternative to crisps. It would also be far more healthy.
The health benefits.
There are a number of minerals and other compunds that make beetroot a pretty healthy food choice. For instance it contains a lot of betaine and also nitrates. There is also plenty of magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.
Betaine is a pretty special substance. It works by adding chemical groups called methyl groups to molecules. This generally has the effect of detoxifying them. There are a number of health conditions that it is very good for:
- It is good for the heart as it reduces the amount of homocysteine in the blood, which reduces the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
- It also helps the liver regenerate, and as such is probably the best substance that can be included in the diet of a heavy drinker.
- It also seems effective at treating depression as it helps us create mood stabilizing neurotransmitters.
Nitrates in beetroot are converted by our body into nitric oxide which helps loosen up our blood vessels, which reduces our blood pressure. This helps reduce risk of heart disease for most people. It also reduces the likelihood of blood clots. The best way of getting the benefits of the nitrates in beetroot is to eat it slowly, as nitrate is converted into nitrite by bacteria in our saliva. Nitrite is more easily converted into nitic oxide thyan nitrate when absorbed into our body. There is strong evidence behind the blood pressure lowering effects of beetroot.
Where should I get my beetroot from?
You can either grow your own as I do or buy it from your local greengrocer. Failing this you will find it in your local supermarket. It is not expensive and even beetrrot juice is only about £3 per litre, which is on a par with freshly queezed fruit juices. If you grow your own they can be rooted up and stored over the winter in damp earth or sand. this keeps them from going soft. Their flavour is preserved well under these conditions.
Beetroot contains a strong red dye and after eating it or drinking beetroot juice you may find that your pee goes red. You will also see more red hues after doing a poo. This is not a cause for concern, it is perfectly normal.
From a health perspective beetroot is a very impressive. Last week I questioned the ability of an apple a day to keep the doctor away. When it comes to beetroot I would say that it is far more likely to keep the doctor away. Truly one of the healthiest vegetables you could hope to add to your diet.