Beets are a common vegetable rich in vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants. This article will explore the top health benefits of beets in detail.
What Are Beets?
The beet plant (Beta vulgaris) is a plant with a large taproot that is typically reddish-purple—though there is also a variety of beet that is gold in color. All parts of the beet plant are edible. While the beetroot is the most commonly consumed part of the plant today, beet greens are also incredibly nutritious.
Beets are an ancient food cultivated and consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. People consume this colorful root vegetable in a variety of ways. It can be consumed raw or cooked and is often consumed alone or added with other vegetables as part of a larger meal.
What Are Beets Good For?
Beets have many diverse uses and benefits. They are nutritious root vegetables that can add various meals and can be a great staple to a healthy diet. Beets are commonly steamed and eaten on their own and are great in salads and soups. You can also pickle beets to make a great savory side to almost any dish.
Beets have an earthy taste but are also high in natural sugars that give them a sweet taste. As a result, it is common to use beet sugar as a sugar alternative.
Traditionally, beets are beneficial for improving blood and liver health, and there is some current evidence to back these traditional uses.
What Are the Health Benefits of Beets?
Beets have many great benefits. Below are some of the most notable beets benefits.
1. Beets Are Incredibly Nutritious
Beets contain many important nutrients. Beets' nutrition content provides protein, carbohydrates, fat, and various vitamins and minerals. They are also a great source of antioxidants and dietary fiber. According to information from the USDA, one cup of raw beetroot includes:
- Calories: 58
- Fat: 0.2g
- Sodium: 106mg
- Carbohydrates: 13g
- Fiber: 3.8g
- Sugars: 9.2g
- Protein: 2.2g
- Potassium: 442mg
- Vitamin B9 (Folate): 136 g
- Vitamin C: 6.7 mg
- Manganese: 0.44 grams
- Calcium: 21mg
- Copper: 0.10 mg
- Magnesium: 31mg
- Phosphorus: 54mg
- Potassium 442 mg
Beets' nutrition profile shows a very well-rounded and nutritious vegetable. So, if you have ever wondered, "are beets good for you?" now you know the answer! While beets are full of essential nutrients, they include other beneficial plant compounds.
2. Beets Are Packed with Powerful Antioxidants
Beets are an excellent source of antioxidants that have numerous health benefits. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals contain an uneven number of electrons. This uneven number makes free radicals unstable, allowing them to react with other molecules easily. As a result, free radicals can cause significant chain chemical reactions known as "oxidation," which can harm your health. This process can result in damaged cells and ultimately ill health and disease.
Antioxidants fight free radicals in your body by donating an electron without making themselves unstable.
Since oxidation is a process that is constantly occurring in the body due to the many chemical reactions taking place, antioxidants must also regularly work to keep free radicals in balance. For this reason, we recommend including plenty of antioxidant-rich foods in your diet.
Beets are an exceptional source of antioxidants in the diet. In particular, beets contain an antioxidant pigment called betalain, shown in numerous studies to protect cells from injury caused by oxidative stress. In addition, betalains are the compounds in beets that give them their deep reddish-purple color.
3. Beets May Lower Inflammation in the Body
The betalains in beets may help to lower inflammation levels in the body. Inflammation is a natural response that protects the body from injury and infection. Short-term inflammation can play a critical role in the healing process. Long-term, however, inflammation can interfere with normal body functions and can ultimately lead to ill health and disease. Many health professionals believe that inflammation is at the root of many major diseases.
Research on the anti-inflammatory effects of betalains has found that they work by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In addition, betalains prevent inflammation by lowering oxidative stress in the body.
4. Beets May Improve Circulation
Beets contain nitrates; compounds made up of nitrogen and oxygen. When consumed, the nitrates in beets convert into nitric oxide, which in turn causes blood vessels to relax and dilate, allowing for better circulation. As blood is responsible for delivering nutrients to all of the body's organs and tissues, this can have a very beneficial effect on the body. Beets' circulation-enhancing properties also make them useful for certain conditions affected by circulation, such as blood clots, varicose veins, and erectile dysfunction (ED).
5. Beets May Lower Blood Pressure
Beets may be able to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. This blood pressure benefit is from the nitrates in beets that convert into nitric oxide. As nitric oxide causes blood vessels to relax and dilate, enhancing circulation causes blood pressure to lower. This nitric oxide benefit makes beets a heart-healthy food worthy of consideration by anyone struggling with hypertension.
6. Beets May Enhance Athletic Performance
Beets also may enhance athletic performance. Once again, this is attributed mainly to the nitrates in beets. In addition, enhanced circulation in the body often results in more energy and vitality, which naturally enhances athletic performance. Furthermore, the nutrients in beets can provide many essential vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates that fuel energy.
7. Beets May Improve Liver Health
Your liver processes everything that you consume. For example, your liver filters the blood and neutralizes toxins that would otherwise lead to illness or death. This is an incredible task in itself, but it is just one of the hundreds of functions that the liver performs. Research on the liver has discovered that it serves over 500 individual tasks for the body.
It is easy to feel some extra appreciation for this hard-working organ. However, it is also not hard to understand how the liver might get stressed and overworked from these responsibilities and how that might eventually lead to impaired liver function.
If we wish to be healthy and live long, we need to ensure that our liver is in good shape and take extra steps to keep our liver functioning properly. Eating beets is one simple and powerful way to boost your liver health.
The many essential nutrients in beets, as well as the powerful betalaine pigments, make beets very beneficial for supporting the health of the liver. Beets stimulate the flow of lymph, which is a fluid that removes waste from your blood. Beets also cleanse the blood and enhance circulation of blood to the liver. In addition, the compounds in beets stimulate bile flow that helps to break down toxic wastes in the liver, helping to detox the liver and lighten its toxic load. Beets are also a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that further supports liver cleansing.
Liver detoxification is essential for maintaining liver health long-term, and beets make a great addition to a liver detox protocol.
8. Beets May Improve Cognitive Health
Studies on beets have found that they also positively influence cognitive health. According to research, beets benefit brain health by enhancing circulation of blood to the brain, providing the brain with more oxygen and nutrients. Beets also play a role in lowering inflammation in the brain and protecting brain cells from the damaging effects of oxidative stress.
How to Cook Beets
There are a variety of ways to cook beets. Many people prefer to steam beets, roast them, or make soup. Many recipes are available online that can show you how to prepare a meal with beets. However, if you'd like to try them on their own, steaming them is a simple and easy way to do it.
To make steamed beets, simply:
- Cut the desired number of beets into small diced cubes (2-4 beets is an average serving size for one person)
- Add a small amount of water to the bottom of a pot.
- Place a steamer in the pot and make sure the steamer sits just slightly above the water level.
- Add beets to the pot and cover with a lid.
- Cook on medium heat until beets are soft. How hard or soft you want your beets depends on personal preference, but the longer they cook, the weaker they will be. Twenty minutes is an average time for cooking beets, but you can periodically check the softness of your beets by poking them beets with a knife or fork.
Beets are an incredibly nutritious food that humans have consumed for thousands of years.
Beets are flavorful and colorful vegetables, but they have a variety of health benefits. Beets are rich in antioxidants, can lower inflammation levels, improve circulation, lower blood pressure, enhance athletic performance, improve liver health, and improve brain health.
Many of the benefits of beets are due to this vegetable's dense nutritional content, the nitrates in beets that help dilate blood vessels, and the betalain compound in beets with powerful antioxidant properties.