Beets, (Beta vulgaris L) also called beetroot, have been consumed since the days of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. It has always been believed to be a nutritious vegetable and recent scientific studies have confirmed this. Beetroot contains numerous vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall good health.
Beetroot is a root vegetable that grows primarily in the ground with a leafy top that grows aboveground. It can be found in both temperate and tropical areas of the world. It takes approximately 60 days from seed to harvest. Beets have been cultivated for thousands of years for their dietary value. Recent studies have indicated that consuming beetroot juice can improve certain health conditions and can also improve oxygenation during athletic activities. Though the full health effects of beetroot are not yet known, many health experts recommend consuming beetroot or beetroot herbal for a nutritional boost.
Beetroot also improves blood flow to the brain and can slow the progress of dementia. Beetroot has a number of nutrients that are important for general health. Beetroot also contains potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium and dietary nitrate. Potassium lowers heart rate and regulates metabolism. Sodium and magnesium help with proper fluid levels within the body. The dietary nitrate in beetroot is linked to lower blood pressure and a reduced incidence of heart disease. Beetroot is also rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron. Vitamin A is important for mucous membrane, healthy skin and good vision. Vitamin C boosts the immune system. Iron is an important mineral for red blood cell production in the body. Beetroot also contains folates that aid DNA synthesis within the cells. The fiber in beetroot helps to slow down its conversion into glucose, which makes it a good food for those with Type-2 diabetes. The fiber can also help to reduce cholesterol. The nitrates in beetroot also widen blood vessels for better exercise and athletic performance. Beetroot also contains silica, which helps to strengthen bones and hair, as well as to maintain good skin condition.
Beetroot contains phytonutrient pigments called betalains. Two types of betalain compounds, betalin and vulgaxanthin, are high in anti-oxidants and also have anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds also help with detoxification of the body. These betalain compounds can suppress cyclooxygenase enzymes, which can contribute to tumor growth. The beet greens also contain high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to keep eyes healthy. The epoxy xanthophyll carotenoids in beetroot help support the body’s nervous system, as well. Beetroot also contains trace amounts of amino acids, which help to build proteins in the body.
All parts of the beetroot can be consumed. The leaf tops can be put into salads or sautéed in olive oil. The leaves should be fresh and crisp for best taste and nutrient value. The root can be eaten raw or cooked. Beetroot can be processed into a flavorful juice. Adding a little lemon juice to the beet juice will improve flavor and coloring of the juice.
Beetroot extract supplements are also available in pill form for those who don't like the taste of beets or don’t have the time to prepare beet juice or cooked beets. These supplements provide all the benefits of the vegetable in an easy-to-use form. The pills are taken three times each day and provide all the nutrients of dietary beetroot.
Those people who have a problem with oxalate kidney stones should use caution when using beetroot as an herbal supplement for their diets. Beetroot breaks down into oxalates that can exacerbate the formation of this type of kidney stone. Consumption of beetroot can cause the red and yellow vegetable pigment can be released into the urine or stool. This is harmless, however, and should not be a cause for concern.
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