Top 10 health benefits of beetroot
Roast it whole, blend it into a soup or drink it as juice – beetroot is a versatile root and packed with essential vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants.
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What is beetroot?
Belonging to the same family as chard and spinach, both the leaves and root of beetroot may be eaten – the leaves having a bitter taste whereas the root is sweet. Although they are available all year round, beets are sweetest and most tender during their peak season, which in the UK is from June to October. While heirloom varieties such as white and yellow beets make for pretty dishes, only red beets have the cancer-fighting compound betacyanin.
Beetroot benefits include...
- Rich in protective antioxidants
- May have anti-cancer properties
- May have anti-inflammatory properties
- May lower blood pressure and heart disease risk
- May improve exercise performance and support energy levels
- May improve digestive health
- May protect the gut
- May support brain health and reaction time
- May be a useful addition to a post-menopause diet
- May relieve symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon.
Learn more about beetroot and check out these brilliant beetroot recipes including salads, soups and roasted beetroot. Want to try planting your own? Discover the best way to grow beetroot, at GardenersWorld.com.
Nutritional benefits of beetroot
A 80g serving of raw beets provides:
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- 29 kcals/123KJ
- 1.4g protein
- 0.1g fat
- 6.1g carbs
- 2.0g fibre
- 304mg potassium
- 120mcg folate
What are the top 10 health benefits of beetroot?
1. Rich in protective antioxidants
Red beetroots have been ranked as one of the 10 most potent antioxidant vegetables. This means they help the body combat the damaging effects of a process called oxidation.
The plant compounds responsible for the root's purple-crimson colour, anthocyanins, have been shown to have high anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities.
2. May have anti-cancer properties
Betacyanin, the powerful plant pigment that gives beetroot its rich colour, is also thought to help suppress the development of some types of cancer, including bladder cancer. Beetroot contains other potential cancer-fighting compounds including ferric acid, ruin and kaempferol.
3. May have anti-inflammatory properties
Some research suggests that betalains, the family of natural colour pigments that betacyanin belongs to, may help reduce the symptoms and markers of inflammation. This includes potentially relieving discomfort of inflamed joints, such as knees.
4. May lower blood pressure
Beetroot is naturally rich in compounds called nitrates, and it's these that make beetroot so heart-friendly. This is because nitrates help to improve blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels, which potentially lowers blood pressure. Reduced blood pressure makes it more likely you'll avoid heart disease and stroke.
Studies suggest that nitrate-rich foods, like beetroot, may also help in heart attack survival.
5. May improve exercise performance and support energy levels
After the Paralympic gold medallist David weir revealed it was a shot of beetroot juice that was his secret to success, the exercise community has embraced this root vegetable.
Studies support Weir's findings and suggest that when athletes add beetroot juice to their regime, it may support exercise endurance and improve performance. That's not all: when muscles are in a resting state after exercise, the nitrates in beetroot help to bring more oxygen to the muscle cells promoting an efficient recovery.
For the rest of us, including beetroot in our diets might be the energy boost we need.
6. May improve digestive health
Beetroots are rich in fibre which, as well as supporting bowel function, helps promote a healthy environment in the gut. Alongside the fibre, betawains help increase the production of short chain fatty acids by the beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut. These SCFAs are linked with a number of positive effects on health.
7. May protect the gut
Beetroots are one of the richest vegetable sources of glutamine, an amino acid essential to the maintenance of our gut lining. It is thought that glutamine may play a role in protecting the gut lining from injury and stress.
8. May support brain health and reaction time
Any improvement in blood flow will also benefit the brain. Studies suggest that the inclusion of beetroot in the diet, combined with exercise, may improve blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain - an area involved in decision making and memory. Further studies also suggest that a higher nitrate intake appears to lead to a significant improvement in motor functions, including reaction time.
9. May be a useful addition to a post-menopause diet
After the menopause, blood pressure and heart disease risk increase. Dietary changes such as the inclusion of nitrate-rich vegetables appear to be a useful strategy to help keep arteries flexible and in turn manage blood pressure.
Drinking beetroot juice before exercise may also help improve mobility and cardio-metabolic outcomes in this age group. All of which suggests beetroot may have be a useful inclusion as part of a varied, balanced diet for post-menopausal women.
10. May relieve symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon
Raynaud's phenomenon refers to an uncomfortable condition where the blood to the fingers and feet doesn't flow properly. Symptoms include pain, numbness and pins and needles. An initial study examining the effects of beetroot juice demonstrated improvements in blood flow to the thumb and forearm as well as a reduction in blood pressure and inflammation. Although these findings look promising, more trials are needed to validate them.
Is beetroot safe for everyone?
For some people, eating beetroot may induce beeturia, a red or pink colour in the urine or stool - it's a harmless condition though!
Beet greens and, to a lesser extent, the beetroot itself contain high levels of a natural compound called oxalate. Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid over-consuming high oxalate foods, like beetroot.
Including beetroot in the diet in small and divided doses is safe and a potentially helpful approach for those looking to improve their heart health; however, nitric oxide supplements (including some beetroot power shots), may worsen certain health conditions and interfere with prescribed medication and should only be done under medical supervision.
Overall, is beetroot good for you?
Beetroot is thought to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which may help reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as support gut health, lower blood pressure and potentially having anti-cancer effects.
In addition, this nutrient-rich vegetable is often used to boost athletic endurance and support muscle recovery after exercise. All of which makes beetroot a useful addition to your diet.
If you're considering any major dietary changes or are thinking about taking supplements, please consult your GP or registered dietitian to ensure you may do so without risk to your health.
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This article was reviewed on 25th September 2023 by Registered Nutritionist, Kerry Torrens.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.