By Emily Clayton
The beet is a powerhouse of good things. While this root vegetable may have originated in the Mediterranean region, it now spans the globe, and grows in everything from backyard gardens to large agricultural fields. Beets offer a wealth of health benefits and ways to enjoy them, whether as the main ingredient or as one part of a delicious feast. Here are five great reasons to eat more beets.
They’re Rich in Nutrients
Fruits and vegetables are important for optimal health, yet they’re not all equal in terms of nutritional value. When enjoyed as part of a balanced meal, fruits and vegetables offer an abundance of vitamins and minerals that boost overall health and improve both body and mind.
However, beets certainly know how to hold their own, and they stand out for their rich combination of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Folate, manganese, vitamin C, potassium and iron are present, as are antioxidants like anthocyanins, carotenoids and betalains. Researchers are studying betalain pigments in particular for their ability to fight off free radicals, detoxify the organs and reduce inflammation.
They Have Plenty of Dietary Fiber
Anyone who’s been a bit irregular wishes for some relief. The great news is that beets contain about 3.5 grams of fiber per cup. Beets contain a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber that together keep waste moving through the digestive tract and help the body regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. While the fiber in beets doesn’t add nutritional value, it does add intestinal value, which is just as important for good health.
They Can Improve Heart Health
Reminiscent of the circulation system with their vibrant reddish-pink color, beets take that connection one step further by boosting heart health. Beets contain naturally occurring nitrates that convert to nitric oxide—the real star of the show. Nitric oxide acts on blood vessels and causes them to relax and expand. This in turn increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure, reducing heart muscle stress and lessening the risk of heart disease.
They Can Boost Energy Levels
There’s a reason why everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts are becoming familiar with beet juice or beet juice powder. That’s because the nitric oxide in beets—remember how it increases blood flow?—enhances oxygen levels in the body and helps tissues use oxygen more efficiently. Oxygenated muscles work harder for longer, letting athletes, runners and others stay the course and elevate their routine.
They’re Versatile and Delicious
Beets are naturally sweet, with an intriguing earthy flavor that comes from the chemical compound geosmin. This compound is what people first notice, and those who love it go on to eat more helpings. Others might need more convincing before they realize just how complex and delicious beets can be.
A versatile ingredient, beets often appear on the dinner table roasted, baked, boiled, steamed, pickled or raw. They can be sliced thin like toothpicks or cut into cubes. They can be left whole, cut in half, sliced into wedges or grated like cheese. Beets can appear in salads, veggie burgers and baked goods, on pizzas and grilled vegetable kebabs, and as crunchy beet chips or a roasted main course. Beets truly are a versatile vegetable.
Of course, too much of a good thing can happen. Consuming beets too often could result in a higher risk of developing kidney stones or gout. Kidney stones form when oxalates combine with calcium, form masses and prevent absorption. Gout develops when these oxalates interfere with and result in excess uric acid.
When eaten in moderation, whether as a whole vegetable, juice or powder, beets have tremendous potential to improve anyone’s health.
Emily Clayton writes about many topics, including travel, healthy living and greening up spaces.