Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Vicki Batts
Beets are extremely distinctive vegetables. Their bright, red color, slight sweetness and soft, buttery texture either makes people fall in love with them, or turn the other way.
Of course, if people knew how incredibly nutrient-rich beets were, perhaps more people would diligently try to include these precious root vegetables in their diet even if they didn’t like them.
The deep, rich pigment of beets is where much of their nutritive value lies. The rough skin of the beets helps the root retain its pigment during the cooking process, so it’s quite important not to remove it before cooking if at all possible. That bright red-purple color is also home to potent antioxidants. Beets are home to some particularly bio-available phytonutrients, meaning that the nutrients are readily absorbed and used by the body.
Betalain, the compound responsible for the wonderful red color of beets, has a nutrient profile that isn’t found in many other vegetables. Betalain contains a unique set of carotenoids that provide benefits to the central nervous system. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components of betalain also offer cancer-fighting and disease-preventing benefits. Some studies have shown that the pigments found in beets can actually inhibit tumor growth by reducing the presence of inflammatory enzymes.
Beetroot fiber has also been found to increase white blood cell and antioxidant circulation, which enhances the human body’s natural cancer-fighting mechanisms.
Antioxidant capacity is not all beets have to brag about, of course. Beets are not just rich in phytonutrients, but also micronutrients. Beets are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin B9 (also known as folate or folic acid), manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C.
Beets are also rich in nitrates. Naturally-occurring nitrates, such as those found in beets, help to normalize blood pressure. Nitrates convert into nitric oxide in the body, which then helps to dilate blood vessels and in turn, eases the passage of blood through the vessels.
In addition to normalizing blood pressure, some of the other health benefits associated with beet consumption include increased exercise capacity, especially cardiovascular performance. Dietary nitrates have been shown to help reduce oxygen needs during exercise, allowing your body to be even more efficient.
By affecting the efficiency of mitochondria, which are organs within cells that are responsible for producing energy, nitrates can help to enhance performance during activities like cycling and running. Nitrate consumption can also help boost stamina and improve oxygen use.
Overall, beets are an excellent source of micronutrients, antioxidants and naturally-occurring nitrates. They have many health benefits and are something you should try including in your diet.