Beets may not be at the top of your list of favorite foods, but you may want to reconsider because this vegetable is a great source of many vitamins and nutrients vital to your good health. Beets are in the same family as Swiss chard and spinach, and are purple-red in color although there are white and orange-yellow varieties.
Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification benefits. The phytonutrients betanin, isobetanin and vulgaxanthin found in beets inhibit the activity of COX-1 and Cox-2 enzymes that trigger inflammation associated with heart disease (atherosclerosis) and diabetes. Beets also contain betaine, a key nutrient made from the B-complex vitamin called choline which helps regulate inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Betaine lowers the level of homocysteine, a metabolite in the blood that promotes platelet clot and plaque formation leading to coronary heart disease. Choline also detoxifies the liver and promotes liver health.
In recent laboratory studies, the phytonutrient betanin has been shown to lessen tumor growth in humans. Lab results have proven a reduced risk in human cells for colon, breast, lung, prostate and stomach cancers. Beets contain two carotenoids called lutein and ziaxanthin that help maintain eye health involving the macula and retina.
This vegetable is high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C, and is an excellent source of calcium, copper, folate (vitamin B9), iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. A single serving of beets contains 110% vitamin A, 30% vitamin C and 20% potassium. Beets are high in folate which is necessary for the production of new cells. Folate is needed every day because the body doesn’t store this vitamin. The daily intake of folate is essential for pregnant women since this vitamin plays an important role in the developing fetus.
Beets are high in iron, which regenerates the red blood cells and supplies fresh oxygen to the body. Iron also helps to fight anemia. The mineral with the highest concentration in beets is manganese which is needed to maintain healthy bones, connective tissue, metabolism and the regulation of blood sugar. Beets are alkaline and are effective in combatting acidosis and act as a solvent for inorganic calcium deposits that cause hardening of the arteries. The cellulose content in beets helps regulate bowel movements and relieve constipation. The red beet fiber helps lower cholesterol levels.
One half cup of canned or fresh boiled beets contain only 37 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 65 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar and 1 g protein. Beets contain the highest amount of natural sugars of all vegetables and should not be eaten more than several times a week. Beets should not be overcooked in order to maximize their health benefits. They will lose most of their nutrients if they are cooked too long. Beets can be steamed and served with butter; pickled; peeled, shredded and added to salads, or made into a soup called borscht.