Beetroot (Beta Vulgaris) is a root vegetable that is nutritionally dense in natural iron which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue. Folate (naturally occurring folic acid) in beetroot contributes to normal blood formation and healthy function of the immune system. It also contains magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, B6, C, complex carbohydrates, protein, antioxidants and soluble fibre.
The growing interest in beetroot as a superfood today is also due to its high content of nitrates, which in our body are converted to Nitric Oxide (NO). Nitric Oxide is regarded as a very beneficial gas as it relaxes and enlarges blood vessels and through this action it improves blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and improves symptoms of various cardio-vascular conditions including erectile dysfunction. According to the results of a 2008 study, published in the journal Hypertension, it took only three hours for the participants who consumed 500 ml of beet juice to experience a surprisingly significant drop in blood pressure. This effect was later correlated with increased Nitric Oxide concentrations in the blood vessels of the study participants. But beetroot may be beneficial also for our cardiovascular health because its fibre is able to simultaneously increase good HDL and lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. This health benefit of Beetroot was proved by a 2000 study which also pointed to another incredible ability of the fibre found in this vegetable as it also reduced the cholesterol plaque accumulation in the aorta by almost 30%!
Beetroot is also abundant in the highly bioactive pigments called betalains, which demonstrated a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that when betalain rich beetroot supplements are used in sufficient doses, they may alleviate pain and have similar anti-inflammatory effects in osteoarthritic patients as synthetic drugs like Ibuprofen. Unlike Ibuprofen, however, betalains can be used without causing side effects.
Beetroot has also shown to reduce the maximum volume of oxygen needed during exercise, improved time-trial performance in trained cyclists and running performance in healthy adults. Scientists explain that beetroot helps to improve athletic performance mainly through the vasodilatation (widening) of the blood vessels and through reducing the need for oxygen consumption by muscles.
With age, the cognitive functions of the brain deteriorate as the cerebral blood flow is reduced, contributing to the development of dementia. Research has shown that foods high in nitrates, such as beetroot, may stimulate a region of the brain that is responsible for essential cognitive processes such as reasoning, memory or focus.
But the power of Beetroot doesn’t end here as active ingredients present in this incredible vegetable has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and even certain anti-cancer properties against, for instance, prostate cancer cells.
Beetroot may be also very useful in helping us to detoxify our body including especially liver. In a 2006 study Beetroot demonstrated powerful liver-protective properties against some common toxic chemicals. In addition, the same previously mentioned anti-inflammatory betalain compounds of Beetroot have been found to reduce toxicity associated with gamma radiation exposure.
Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
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