By Caroline Rosini
Known for their unique flavor and saturated hues, beets are the latest super food to grace the health and nutrition space; but they’re not new in town. Beets (also, beetroot) have been used for cooking and medicinal purposes since the Middle Ages. Traditionally, beetroot was used as a treatment for digestion and blood ailments.
Whether you consume them in juice, powder, or raw form, here’s what beets can do for you:
Improve Blood Flow
When it comes to vascular health, nothing beats the beet. Beets contain a substance called betaine (pronounced BEET-uh-een. Get it?), which studies suggest aids in metabolizing homocysteine — an amino acid associated with heart disease and stroke. Beets are also an excellent source of fiber and nitrates as well as other heart-healthy nutrients, like folate and manganese.
Beets have one of the highest concentrations of nitrates of all vegetables. As beets or beetroot juice are digested in the mouth, bacteria form nitrites from the existing nitrates. Subsequently, the nitrites are absorbed into the bloodstream where they eventually convert to nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels. Blood pressure lowers and circulation improves when blood vessels are relaxed, or dilated.
The benefits of beets to the bloodstream are so worthwhile, the American Heart Association suggests consuming beets every day to promote healthy blood pressure.
Enhance Your Athletic Performance
Okay, or just go that extra mile at the gym. Better blood flow is a benefit to everyone, but especially those who exercise regularly. By opening blood vessels, the nutrients in beets support blood flow through the muscles. Additionally, studies show that beets allow muscles to function with less oxygen which can lead to less exhaustion, improved performance, and decreased perceived exertion during vigorous physical activity.
Be Versatile in the Kitchen
As if the health benefits of beets aren’t convincing enough, they’re easy-to-prepare and delicious to eat. Beetroot juice is a favorite among Olympians, but if the acquired taste and red teeth aren’t your thing, beetroot powder may be the solution. Beetroot powder can be stirred into water or blended into a smoothie.
For more substance, try adding shredded beets to a salad, roasting them in the oven, pulverizing them into a puree, or making them into a beet burger. The possibilities are endless! Check out some of our favorite recipes:
- Brazilian Black Beans and Beets
- Creamy Beet Risotto
- Beet Noodles with Romanesco and Hazelnut Hemp Seed Crumble
- Red Beet Curry with Brown Basmati Rice