Beetroot, a vibrant and nutrient-packed root vegetable, has gained popularity as a superfood in recent years. With its rich color and unique flavor, beetroot adds a delightful touch to various dishes. Beyond its culinary appeal, beetroot is lauded for its numerous health benefits. In this article, we will explore some of the potential health benefits and side effects of beetroot and its byproducts, such as beetroot juice and beetroot powder. We will also provide some tips on how to use beetroot in your diet and what to look out for when consuming it.
What is beetroot?
Beetroot, also known as red beet, table beet, garden beet, or just beet, is a root vegetable that belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family. It has a bright crimson color and a sweet earthy taste. Beetroot is widely consumed in various cuisines around the world, either raw, cooked, pickled, or juiced. It is also used as a natural colorant and a functional ingredient in many food products. Beetroot is not only delicious but also nutritious, packed with essential nutrients, such as fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Phytochemicals and bioactive compounds, present in it, have various health benefits, such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, anti-carcinogens, and nitrates.
Health Benefits of Beetroot
Beetroot has been associated with numerous health benefits, including:
Beetroot benefits for heart health and blood pressure:
Beetroot is a rich source of dietary nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that relaxes and widens the blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. Several studies have shown that drinking beetroot juice can significantly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure in healthy individuals as well as in people with hypertension. The blood pressure-lowering effect of beetroot juice is more pronounced among overweight adults and tends to be more noticeable after acute rather than chronic supplementation.
Beetroot benefits in Enhancing exercise performance:
Another benefit of nitric oxide is that it enhances exercise performance by increasing oxygen delivery and utilization in the muscles. This can improve endurance, speed, and power output during aerobic and anaerobic exercises. A meta-analysis of 23 studies found that beetroot juice supplementation improved time trial performance by 2.8% and reduced oxygen consumption by 3.2% during moderate-intensity exercise. Beetroot juice may also reduce muscle fatigue and soreness after exercise.
Beetroot benefits in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress:
Beetroot contains various antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can protect the cells from damage caused by free radicals and inflammation. These include betalains, phenolics, flavonoids, betaine, and vitamin C. Betalains are the pigments that give beetroot its red color and have been shown to modulate several inflammatory pathways and scavenge reactive oxygen species. Betaine is an amino acid derivative that can lower the levels of homocysteine, a pro-inflammatory molecule that is associated with cardiovascular disease and renal stress. Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant that can boost the immune system and prevent infections.
Beetroot benefits for managing diabetes:
Beetroot offers significant benefits for individuals with diabetes. Despite its natural sweetness, beetroot has a low glycemic index, meaning it causes a slow and gradual increase in blood sugar levels, making it suitable for diabetic diets. Moreover, beetroot is rich in dietary fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose and improving insulin sensitivity. The presence of antioxidants, particularly betalains, may further contribute to diabetes management by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which are linked to diabetes complications.
Beetroot for Improved glycemic control and lipid profile:
Beetroot may also have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and lipid profile. Some studies have suggested that beetroot juice can delay the postprandial glycemic response and reduce the blood glucose peak after a meal. This may be due to the presence of soluble fiber, polyphenols, and nitrates in beetroot juice that can modulate carbohydrate digestion and absorption. In addition to the glycemic controlling properties of beetroot juice, some studies have highlighted the beneficial effect of this beverage on lipid profile and its parameters (TC, TG, HDL, and LDL), which are directly related to the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
Beetroot benefits brain health and cognitive function:
Beetroot has emerged as a brain-boosting superfood, thanks to its impressive array of nutrients and unique compounds. One of the key components contributing to its brain health benefits is the presence of nitrates. When consumed, nitrates convert into nitric oxide, which helps improve blood flow to the brain. Enhanced blood flow delivers a greater supply of oxygen and nutrients, supporting brain function and cognition.
Moreover, beetroot is rich in antioxidants, particularly betalains, which protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inflammation. These powerful antioxidants aid in preserving brain health and may reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Additionally, beetroot contains folate, a B-vitamin essential for brain development and cognitive function.
Beetroot benefits for Prevention of anemia:
Beetroot is a good source of iron, which is an essential mineral for the production of red blood cells. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition characterized by low hemoglobin levels and reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Anemia can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and increased susceptibility to infections. Consuming beetroot or beetroot juice can help prevent or treat iron deficiency anemia by increasing iron intake and absorption.
Beetroot benefits in for cancer prevention:
Beetroot may also have anti-cancer properties due to its high content of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Several studies have shown that beetroot extract or juice can inhibit the growth and proliferation of various types of cancer cells, such as breast, prostate, lung, skin, colon, liver, and leukemia cells. The mechanisms by which beetroot exerts its anti-cancer effects may involve modulating the expression of genes related to apoptosis, cell cycle, angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis.
Side Effects of Beetroot:
Beetroot is generally considered safe and well-tolerated by most people. However, some people may experience some side effects or adverse reactions when consuming beetroot or its byproducts. These include:
Beeturia is the term used to describe the reddish or pinkish coloration of urine or stool after consuming beetroot or beetroot products. This is caused by the excretion of betalains, the pigments that give beetroot its color, in the urine or feces. Beeturia is not harmful and usually disappears within a few days. However, it may indicate a low stomach acid level or an iron deficiency in some cases.
Beetroot contains a high amount of fiber, which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some people, such as bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, or constipation. Also, Beetroot contains fructans, a type of short-chain carbohydrate that belongs to the FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols) group. Some people cannot digest FODMAPs properly, resulting in unpleasant digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, flatulence, and altered bowel habits. People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other gastrointestinal disorders may need to limit their intake of beetroot and other FODMAPs-containing foods.
Although rare, some people may be allergic to beetroot or its components. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include hives, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, or anaphylaxis. People who are allergic to other plants in the same family as beetroot, such as spinach, chard, quinoa, or amaranth, may also be allergic to beetroot. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction after consuming beetroot or its products, seek medical attention immediately.
Beetroot may interact with some medications and affect their efficacy or safety. For example, beetroot may lower blood pressure and enhance the effects of antihypertensive drugs, increasing the risk of hypotension or fainting. It may also increase the bioavailability of nitrate-containing drugs, such as nitroglycerin or isosorbide dinitrate, which are used to treat angina or heart failure. Additionally, beetroot may interfere with the absorption of some drugs that require an acidic environment in the stomach, such as tetracycline antibiotics or iron supplements. If you are taking any medications, consult your doctor before consuming beetroot or its products.
How to Use Beetroot
Beetroot can be consumed in various forms and ways. Some of the most common ones are:
- Raw. You can eat raw beetroot as a snack or add it to salads, sandwiches, wraps, or smoothies. Raw beetroot has a crunchy texture and a sweet earthy flavor. To prepare raw beetroot, wash it thoroughly and peel off the skin. You can then chop it into small pieces or grate it using a food processor or a grater.
- Cooked. You can cook beetroot by boiling, steaming, roasting, baking, or microwaving it. Cooked beetroot has a softer texture and a more intense flavor than raw beetroot. To cook beetroot, wash it well and trim off the stems and roots. You can peel it before or after cooking depending on your preference. Cut it into equal-sized pieces and cook it until tender using your preferred method.
- Pickled. You can pickle beetroot by soaking it in vinegar and sugar solution with spices and herbs. Pickled beetroot has a tangy and sweet flavor and can last for several weeks in the refrigerator. To pickle beetroot, wash it well and peel off the skin. Cut it into thin slices or wedges and place them in a glass jar. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring vinegar, sugar, water, salt, and your choice of spices and herbs to a boil. Pour the hot liquid over the beet slices in the jar and seal it tightly. Let it cool down completely before storing it in the refrigerator.
- Juiced. You can juice beetroot using a juicer or a blender. Beetroot juice has a vibrant color and a refreshing taste. You can drink it plain or mix it with other fruits and vegetables for extra flavor and nutrients. To juice beetroot, wash it well and peel off the skin. Cut it into small pieces and
- place them in a juicer or a blender and process them until smooth. You may need to add some water to adjust the consistency. Strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth to remove any pulp or fiber. You can drink the juice immediately or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Powdered. You can also use beetroot powder as a supplement or a natural colorant. Beetroot powder is made by drying and grinding beetroot into a fine powder. It has a long shelf life and can be easily added to smoothies, soups, sauces, baked goods, or beverages. To use beetroot powder, follow the directions on the package or use about one teaspoon per serving.
Tips for Using Beetroot:
Here are some tips on how to use beetroot in your diet and what to look out for when consuming it:
- Choose fresh and firm beetroots that have smooth skin and bright green leaves. Avoid beetroots that are soft, wrinkled, bruised, or have dark spots.
- Store fresh beetroots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Cut off the leaves before storing, as they can draw moisture from the roots. You can also freeze cooked beetroots for up to six months.
- Wash beetroots thoroughly before peeling or cutting them. Use gloves or a paper towel to avoid staining your hands with the juice. You can also rub some lemon juice on your hands to remove any stains.
- Do not overcook beetroots, as this can destroy some of their nutrients and flavor. Cook them until they are just tender, about 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size and method of cooking.
- Enjoy beetroots in moderation, as too much of anything can be harmful. The recommended daily intake of beetroot is about one cup (136 grams) of raw or cooked beetroot or half a cup (118 ml) of beetroot juice.
- Consult your doctor before consuming beetroot or its products if you have any medical conditions or allergies, or if you are taking any medications.
Beetroot is a root vegetable that has many health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, improving exercise performance, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, improving glycemic control and lipid profile, preventing anemia, and protecting against cancer. However, beetroot also has some possible side effects, such as causing beeturia, gastrointestinal discomfort, allergic reactions, or drug interactions. Therefore, it is important to consume beetroot in moderation and consult your doctor before using it if you have any concerns.
Beetroot can be consumed in various forms and ways, such as raw, cooked, pickled, juiced, or powdered. You can use beetroot in your diet to add color, flavor, and nutrients to your meals and snacks. You can also use beetroot as a natural colorant or a functional ingredient in many food products. Beetroot is a versatile and nutritious vegetable that can offer many health benefits when used properly. Try adding some beetroot to your diet today and see how it can improve your health and well-being.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.
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