Acquiring a taste for beets demands a love of strong flavor and dense texture. Red, yellow, or white varieties might appear at your local farmers market or grocery store providing a variety of nutrients and health benefits.
This super food has been the focus of recent studies claiming increased blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased athletic performance. Low in fat and less than 40 calories per 1/2 cup, beets are an excellent addition to your diet.
The root vegetable contains a good source of folate, vitamin C, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, iron, manganese, copper, potassium, and magnesium.
Beets also contain a unique phytonutrient called betalains which provides the deep red color. This pigment is different from those found in other red foods such as red wine or tomatoes, offering different health benefits to the body. Betalains has been shown to provide detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects on the body.
The green leafy top portion of beets is also edible supplying a great source of vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamin A. Consuming foods high in flavonoids and antioxidants can help protect against cancer and may also help prevent heart disease. The greens are usually served boiled or steamed providing a taste and texture similar to spinach.
The heart healthy benefits and lower blood pressure claims are possibly linked to beets being high in nitrates. The body converts nitrates into nitric oxide which helps dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. One study showed people who drank 1 glass of beet juice lowered their systolic blood pressure by 4-5 points within 6 hours. The results of one study are certainly not enough evidence to use beets as a treatment for high blood pressure, however it does reinforce the healthy impact beets can have on a balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.