The health benefits of beets include the treatment of anemia, indigestion, constipation, piles, kidney disorders, dandruff, gall bladder disorders, cancer, and heart disease. It also helps to prevent macular degeneration, improve blood circulation, aid in skin care, prevent cataracts and mediate respiratory problems. These health benefits of beet roots can be attributed to their richness in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Beets or beetroots, as they are often called, belong to the Chenopodiaceous family. Their history stretches back to ancient times, and the earliest signs of their cultivation was approximately 4,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region. From there, they were probably transported to Babylon, and by the 9th century AD, they had made their way into Chinese culture and cuisine. They have long been associated with sexuality and have been used as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years.
Beetroot is frequently added as an ingredient to salads, soups and pickles and is also used as a natural coloring agent. Even though beets are available throughout the year, they are still considered seasonal vegetables. Besides their use as an actual food item, beets are valuable as a source of sucrose, which makes them a viable replacement for tropical sugar cane. They are still frequently used to make refined sugar.
Nutritional Value of Beets
Beets have such a wide range of health benefits because of their nutritional content, including vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds like carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, betaine, dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, while also being a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthocyanins. They are very low in calories, with no cholesterol, but they do have the highest sugar content of all vegetables.
The roots and leaves of beets have plenty of medicinal uses which include the following:
Good for Heart Health: Beet fiber helps to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides by increasing the level of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). Having a high level of triglycerides increases the risk for heart related problems, so increased HDL is a good line of defense against that. The presence of the nutrient betaine lowers the levels of homocysteine in the body which can also be harmful to the blood vessels. Thus, consumption of beetroot helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases in multiple ways, so conditions like ahterosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes are less likely to develop. The fiber in beets also works to strip excess LDL cholesterol from the walls and help to eliminate it from the body quickly.
Reduces Birth Defects: Beets are good for pregnant women since they are a source of B vitamin folate which helps in the development of infant’s spinal column. Deficiency of folate could lead to a variety of conditions called neural tube defects.
Prevent Certain Cancers: Studies have revealed that beets are good at preventing skin, lung, and colon cancer, since they contain the pigment betacyaninis, which counteracts cancerous cell growth. Nitrates used in meats as preservatives can stimulate the production of nitrosamine compounds in the body which can also result in cancer. Studies have now shown that beet juice inhibits the cell mutations caused by these compounds. Researchers in Hungary have also discovered that beet juice and its powdered form slows down tumor development. Adding a healthy weekly amount of beets to your diet can keep your body cancer-free for a very long time.
Good for Liver Health: Betaines contained in beet juice stimulate the functions of the liver
Prevents Respiratory Problems: Beetroot is a source of vitamin C that helps to prevent asthma symptoms. The natural beta carotene in beetroot also helps to prevent lungs cancer. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system in a number of ways. Besides acting as an antioxidant itself and defending against the effects of free radicals in the body, vitamin C also stimulates the activity of white blood cells, which is the body’s main line of defense against foreign bodies, as well as viral, bacterial, fungal, and protozoan toxins that can result in a multitude of infections and illnesses. Vitamin C’s range goes from fighting the sniffles to reducing the chances of cancer, and beets has plenty of vitamin C!
Prevents Cataracts: The presence of beta-carotene, which is a form of vitamin A, helps to prevent age-related blindness called cataracts as well as a reduction in macular degeneration that commonly occurs as we get older. Vitamin A is considered a powerful antioxidant substance that is involved in many essential activities in the body.
Capillary Fragility: The flavonoids and vitamin-C in beets help to support the structure of capillaries.
Aphrodisiac: Beets have been considered an aphrodisiac or sexual booster for millennia. Part of this stems from the fact that beets contain significant levels of the mineral boron, which has been shown to boost the production of sexual hormones. This can lead to a boost in your libido, increased fertility, sperm mobility improvement, and a reduction in frigidity in the bedroom. Your sexual life can get a legitimate and time-tested push in the right direction by adding beets to the diet of you and your partner.
Boosts Energy Levels: Beets contain a significant amount of carbohydrates that provides fuel for energy and prolonged sports activities. These are the natural building blocks of energy metabolism, and beets provide them without any of the negative side effects of many other carbohydrate-heavy foods. When the body has a sufficient amount of carbohydrates, it is able to fuel all of the necessary bodily functions as well, including the important metabolic reactions that keep your organ systems functioning efficiently.
In a related function, researchers have noticed that oxygen uptake is greatly increased by people who drink beet juice due to the high nitrate content. The results show that oxygen uptake increases by up to 16%, which is an unheard of boost, and is actually more than a normal person can improve by, even when training extensively. This increases stamina for exercising and participating in sports, making beet juice an interesting sports drink that most people would never consider.
Macular Degeneration: The beta-carotene present in beetroot aids in reducing or slowing macular degeneration in the eyes. Macular degeneration is often associated with an increase in free radicals, which drastically affect the premature aging process of many people. The beta-carotene is a powerful form of vitamin A, which has antioxidant capabilities and defends the eyes against the damaging effects of these free radicals.
Strokes: A deficiency of potassium in the body increases the risk of stroke. Therefore, the potassium-rich beetroot is recommended to boost heart health for that reason as well. Potassium is called a vasodilator, meaning that it relaxes the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure throughout the body. When blood pressure is reduced and the vessels and arteries are no longer contracted, blood clots are far less likely to form, or get stuck, and the plaque that may have built up along the walls of your blood vessels will not accumulate more detritus to form additional clots. Clots are what eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes, so beets and their potassium content are quite a health booster!
What is more impressive is that studies have shown the effect to be ongoing. Blood pressure will continue to drop over the course of 24 hours, as though beets are naturally delaying their effects so the body can adjust, rather than plummeting the blood pressure at a dangerous speed.
More Benefits? In ancient times, beets were used to cure fever and constipation. In the Middle Ages, beetroot was also used as a remedy for digestive disorders. Finally, beet leaves are good for speeding up the healing process of wounds.
A Few Words of Warning: Beets contain oxalates, which when consumed in excess can cause bodily fluids to crystallize. People with kidney or gallbladder problems should avoid beetroots because they could exacerbate kidney and bladder stones.