by Dr Rupy Aujla03 Mar 2023
You’re food shopping for the week and happen to grab some fresh beetroots, attracted by their bright purple colour. But, when you get home, you realise you don’t know much about beets or how to enjoy them. We’re here to help!
When you stare at these reddish vegetables in your kitchen, you can travel back to ancient civilisations in North Africa and the Mediterranean Region, where the plant is thought to have originated. (Ceclu et al. 2020)
In Traditional Persian Medicine, beetroot was one of the foods used in the prevention and management of cancer. It has also been widely used in other medicinal systems including Arab, traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. (Tan et al. 2021)
When you hold beetroot in your hand, picture the hundreds of interconnected compounds that act collectively in the human body when we eat it. Meet some of its well-known players:
More than just a list
These compounds are part of a complex whole and interact in complex ways.
What about these compounds?
They show properties that could promote health, such as:
How? Nitrate in beetroot converts to nitric oxide, which is important for the regulation of blood pressure and for protecting tissues against cellular injury.
What about when we eat beetroot as part of our diet?
Sport performance & recovery
Athletes who took beetroot juice before a workout had better cardiorespiratory endurance, as per a meta-analysis. (Dominguez et al. 2017)
Special tip: Eating beetroot might be especially beneficial with salty foods to prevent high blood pressure, as per a preliminary study in animal models. (Morris et al. 2019)
How much? Positive results ranged from a few 80g portions of beetroot per week to one portion a day, in combination with other vegetables.
The bigger picture: Beetroot is one of the nitrate-rich vegetables that you create meals with weekly, alongside radishes and leafy green vegetables like rocket, spinach, kale and lettuce. Diversity and balance are key.
Nutrition research is challenging and ongoing
These results come with many limitations. But, combined with lab studies, they suggest that beetroots are a good addition to a balanced diet.
When we buy food in supermarkets, we are disconnected from where it was grown and who was involved in the process. If you’re lucky enough to have a farmer’s market nearby, you may exchange a few words and learn about your fruits & veggies. They could tell you how…
Shopping: In the shop, you’ll spot beetroot fresh in bunches with leafy tops, pre-cooked in packages or pickled in jars. We mostly know the bright red and pink beets but fresh beets actually come in a rainbow of colours, including sunny golden and striped varieties, all with unique flavours.
Flavour: Beetroot has a characteristic sweet earthy flavour, mainly due to the presence of a compound called geosmin. (Tan et al. 2021)
Around the world
My favourite ways to eat beetroot
Try my Golden Beetroot Bulgur Wheat Risotto with Spinach, Walnuts and Fresh Thyme on the website and more recipes with step-by-step images on the Doctor’s Kitchen App👇
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Animal study: Morris et al. Hypertension. 2019
Sports performance: Murphy et al. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012 – Dominguez et al. Nutrients. 2017 – Muggeridge et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014