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 like white and yellow beets make for pretty dishes, only red beets have the cancer-fighting compound betacyanin.
Discover our full range of health benefit guides and read our beetroot glossary page for more information. Also check out these brilliant beetroot recipes including salads, soups and roasted beetroot.
Nutritional benefits of beetroot
A 100g serving of raw beets provides:
- 36 kcals/154KJ
- 7g protein
- 1g fat
- 6g carbs
- 5g fibre
- 380mg potassium
- 150mcg folate
What are the top 5 health benefits of beetroot?
1. May have anti-cancer properties
The plant pigment that gives beetroot its rich, purple-crimson colour is betacyanin; a powerful agent, thought to help suppress the development of some types of cancer including bladder cancer.
2. May lower blood pressure
Beetroot is naturally rich in compounds called nitrates, making them heart-friendly. Nitrates help to improve blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels, reducing arterial stiffness and promoting dilation which potentially lowers blood pressure. A reduction in blood pressure is beneficial for the avoidance of heart disease and stroke. Studies suggest that nitrate-rich foods, like beetroot, may also help in heart attack survival.
3. May improve exercise performance and support energy levels
Beetroot juice has also gained popularity since Paralympic gold medallist, David Weir, announced that a shot of the juice was his secret to success.
Studies support this with findings reporting that when athletes add beetroot juice to their regime it may support exercise endurance and improve performance. It also aids recovery because when muscles are in a resting state, the nitrates in beetroot helps to bring more oxygen to the muscle cells helping muscles recover more efficiently. For the rest of us, including beetroot in our diets might be the energy boost we need.
4. May improve digestive health
Beetroots are one of the richest sources of glutamine, an amino acid essential to the health and maintenance of our gut. They’re also rich in fibre, which as well as supporting bowel function helps support the environment of the gut and the beneficial bacteria that reside there.
5. May be anti-inflammatory
Red beetroots have been ranked as one of the 10 most potent antioxidant vegetables. The betalain compounds, responsible for the root’s red colour, have been shown to have high anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. This means they help protect cells from damage and may be helpful in the fight against age-related conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Is beetroot safe for everyone?
For some people, eating beetroot may induce beeturia; a red or pink colour in the urine or stool. It is totally harmless! Beet greens and, to a lesser extent, the roots 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.
Healthy beetroot recipes
This article was reviewed on 8 February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Jo Lewin works as a Community Nutritionist and private consultant. She is a Registered Nutritionist (Public Health) registered with the UKVRN. Visit her website at www.nutrijo.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @nutri_jo.
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