Red Garden Beet, Harvard Beet, Blood Turnip
The humble Beetroot has only recently attained the lofty heights of “superfood” status due to its exceptional nutritional profile and its rich antioxidant content. Whilst this vegetable has been around for thousands of years, the Ancient Greeks and Romans used beet greens – the leaves growing over ground – only using the thin and puny roots ceremonially or as medicine.
Ancient herbal wisdom teaches the “Doctrine of Signatures”, a system that recognises the appearance of plants and vegetables signifies which part of the body they heal and nurture. Beetroots are famous for their benefits to the health of the blood and circulatory system, and it is now known that they are extremely rich in nitrates, compounds that are converted into nitric oxide in the body which dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. In a study done by “Queen Mary’s William Harvey Institute”, it was shown that Beetroot is equally effective as nitrate tablets in lowering blood pressure.
This dilation of the blood vessels also boosts circulation, increasing the flow of oxygen around the body which can result in more energy and improve athletic performance. Beetroots are a wonderful blood purifier and blood builder, helping in the creation of red blood cells. They improve blood structure which in turn improves the health of the circulatory system, digestive system and large intestine.
Beetroots contain betaine, a compound that works together with choline (a B-complex vitamin also found in beets), to prevent build up of homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine in the blood are associated with artery damage, heart disease and strokes.
Beetroots are rich in betalains – a potent class of antioxidants that neutralise free radicals and protect against oxidative stress. They are particularly rich in betacyanin, the pigment that gives them their deep ruby red colour and a powerful antioxidant, leading to recent findings ranking Beetroots as among the top ten most potent antioxidant vegetables. Betacyanin has been found to be especially helpful in protecting the body against common carcinogens.
The betalain pigments in Beetroots have repeatedly been shown to help in neutralising toxins by making them sufficiently water-soluble for excretion in the urine. Around 15% of people experience red urine after consuming beets, a condition known as beeturia. Whilst this is not thought to be a dangerous condition, it can be a sign of iron deficiency.
The liver is the human body’s largest internal organ and one of the most important for survival. Without it, bodily tissues would die from lack of nutrients and oxygen and the digestive process would not be able to take place. One of the liver’s most important functions is the removal of toxins from the system.
Beetroots contain a number of nutrients that have been shown to be cleansing and detoxifying to the liver. These include the antioxidant betaine, which helps the liver cells eliminate toxins; pectin, a fibre which clears the toxins that have been removed from the liver so they don't reincorporate back into the body; and betalains, pigments with high anti-inflammatory properties to encourage the detoxification process.
The nitrates in Beetroot are also responsible for their positive effect on brain health. In 2016 a study was published in the “Journal of Gerontology” that demonstrated Beetroot consumption improved brain neuroplasticity by improving oxygenation of the somatomotor cortex, a brain area that is often affected in the early stages of dementia.
The co-author of the study, W Jack Rejeski noted; “Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule. It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic, or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body … [W]hat we showed in this brief training study of hypertensive older adults was that, as compared to exercise alone, adding a beetroot juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.”
Suggested Dosage: 1-3 tbsp. of beetroot powder 1-3 times a day.
Many years of cultivation and domestication transformed the Beetroot into the bigger, sweeter vegetable we know today. It is thought that the Beetroot was first embraced as a dietary staple in Northern Europe, it being one of the few vegetables that flourished in the winter.
In the 16th century, cultivation of the Beetroot really took off, with prominent French chefs roasting Beetroot as a delicacy. In Elizabethan England they were enjoyed in tarts and stews, their rich and earthy yet sweet flavour lending itself to both savoury and sweet dishes.
10-15% of population experience red urine when consumed high amounts of Beetroot, this has no apparent consequence.