By Michael A. Smith, MD
Why You Should Eat Beets Every DayBeets come in many varieties. The most well-known beet is the purple-to-red root vegetable known as the beetroot or garden beet. Other cultivated varieties include the leafy vegetable chard and spinach beet, as well as the root vegetable sugar beet, which is important in the production of table sugar.
The nutritional facts of a beet are quite impressive. Let’s just list all of the nutrients and let you decide for yourself if beets are a veggie you should add to your diet. First, let’s look at the nutritional label for 1 cup of raw beets:
Now let’s take a look at the beet’s nutritional value, in terms of vitamins and minerals. The beet is considered a good source of the following micronutrients, supplying between 5% and 35% of the RDI1:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- Vitamin B6
- Folic acid
But it’s not the amount of vitamins and minerals that has us excited about beets. We’re excited about them because of their deep rich red color, which indicates a high concentration of antioxidants. To measure the beets antioxidant power we need to know its ORAC value – the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. The beet’s ORAC value is 800.
An ORAC value of 800 places the beet right smack dab in the middle of the ORAC table. However, a laboratory study shows that beets have powerful antioxidant properties against a dangerous free radical (peroxynitrite) despite its moderate ORAC value.2
However, the deep red color imparts additional health benefits beyond absorbing free radicals and lowering oxidative stress. Let’s now take a look at some of the scientific evidence supporting the beet.
The Medicinal Uses of BeetsThe roots and leaves of the beet have been used in folk medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Ancient Romans used beetroot as a treatment for fevers and constipation, amongst other ailments. A collection of Roman cookery recipes compiled in the late 4th century gives three beet soup recipes that were used as laxatives.3
Hippocrates advocated the use of beet leaves as binding for wounds. Since Roman times, beetroot juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. From the Middle Ages, beetroot was used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, especially illnesses relating to digestion and the blood.
It has been suggested the pigment molecule betanin in the root of red beets may protect against oxidative stress and has been used for this purpose in Europe for centuries. Recent research highlights betanin’s potential in helping to treat prostate and breast cancers.4 It turns out, betanin is similar in structure and anti-cancer activity to doxorubicin, a common chemotherapy agent used in both cancers.
One word of warning: beets contain oxalic acid, which have been implicated in the formation of kidney stones. So as with everything … eat them but don’t overdo it!
My Favorite Beet Burger RecipeI like this recipe because it tastes great and it’s easy enough for me to handle. It comes from Fit Sugar’s veggie burger page.
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1/2 yellow onion (finely diced)
- 2 cloves of garlic (grated or finely diced)
- 2 roasted beets (peeled and finely diced)
- 1 can of black-eyed peas (drained, rinsed, and mashed with a fork)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup chickpea flour
- 2 tablespoons of chipotle BBQ sauce
- 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard
- 2 tablespoons of Bragg's Liquid Aminos
- 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon of dried basil
- Smoked sea salt (if you can find it)
- Melt butter over medium-low heat and add onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent and add the garlic. Sauté for a minute or two more and then add the diced beets and black-eyed peas. Cook until the peas are soft and the beets are heated through.
- Add in the BBQ sauce, mustard, Bragg's, vinegar, spices, salt, and pepper, and season more to taste. Cool the mixture a bit and add the egg and chickpea flour, then puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor.
- Form the mixture into patties and bake at 350-degrees for about 25 minutes. Or, you can partially bake the burgers, refrigerate and then reheat the patties on the grill like we did. This requires some planning, but the charcoal flavor is worth it.
|Courtesy of FitSugar.com|
- Free Radic Res. 2011 Nov 17.
- De Re Coquinaria of. Apicius published by Walter M. Hill, 1936.
- Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2011 Mar;11(3):280-4.
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