Why the Beetroot is Our In Season Produce Focus
Beets are having something of a moment. Named one of the top restaurant trends of 2015, the brightly colored root vegetable is a nutrient powerhouse, full of minerals and vitamins with a sweet, earthy flavor too. Moreover, beets are low in calories with zero cholesterol and a small amount of fat. However, the root is high in sugar and carbohydrates, so while you can consume the greens on top of the root in unlimited quantities, you should only have the root a few times a week.
Beets are best from early spring to late fall. Bringing them into your diet now can start a healthy habit to last you through a few seasons.
Why Eat Beets?
The beet root and its leafy greens are rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron, beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamins A, B and C. Specifically, the root is the source of all forms of B vitamins as well as the potassium, magnesium, iron and manganese. The top greens offer carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants and vitamins C and A. The greens also provide more iron than spinach. Betaine, a nutrient made from the B-complex vitamin choline, is also a notable nutrient in beets.
The health benefits of this number of nutrients are many. In addition to the well-documented perks of a nutrient-rich diet, beets offer in particular the following benefits.
- The mineral silica helps the body utilize calcium, which boosts bone strength and helps prevent osteoporosis.
- Folic acid helps new cell growth in pregnant women.
- Betalain supports the body’s natural detox process.
- Betalain can reduce cancer risk.
- Tryptophan and betalain help relax the mind and provide a sense of well-being.
- Betaine can help support emotional health.
- Betaine stimulates function of liver cells, protecting the liver from disease.
- Betaine fights inflammation.
- Carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants can limit the harm of bad cholesterol.
- Potassium in diet can reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Potassium and nitrate lower blood pressure.
- Nitrates can help muscles work more efficiently, increasing energy and stamina.
All About the Betalains
Betalains are phytonutrients found in plants that give beets their red color. They have also been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support. Studies have also associated betalains with reducing cancer risk and lessening tumor cell growth. Betalains are highly concentrated in the peel and flesh of the beet, however, beets do undergo a steady loss of nutritional value with heat, so to get the most betalain benefit, beets should be steamed for no more than 15 minutes, if at all.
Interested in hearing more from Northwestern Medicine? Sign up for the Healthy Tips E‑Newsletter for everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical advancements.