You Can’t Beet It

There are few foods as a child I can recall my parents ate that I automatically put in the “It’s nasty” category. You know a child; you didn’t have to taste it, see it, or experience it to determine it was on your list of hated foods and veggies. Well, as a child, beets were almost number one on my list. My father used to eat a traditional Jewish dish called beet borsch, which was cooked fresh beets, served in cold cream. In my opinion, that red “blood” look swimming in that white cream couldn’t have looked more unappetizing and there was no way I was eating it like that. Well, some things haven’t changed. I still won’t eat them swimming in a bowl of cream, but I have learned to greatly enjoy them juiced, served raw on summer salads and understand their amazing health benefits. There are few natural sources of foods that can truly earn the title of a “Super Food”, but in the case of the little bright red gem, beets have earned their super food title and compared to many vitamin supplements and foods today, it’s hard to beat!

British researchers conducted studies which found that athletes who drank beet juice mixed with a little apple juice before working out reported better endurance and a lower resting blood pressure than those who did not. The performance boost is thought to be from the nitrates found in the root. Additional research suggests that a beet-apple juice mixture could make certain activities (like walking) less exhausting for seniors.

Beets contain high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that studies show may help reduce the risk of some cancers. They get their striking red color from betacyanin; a plant pigment that some preliminary research indicates might help defend cells against harmful carcinogens. Also, high levels of a unique fiber found in beets may be linked to a lower colon cancer risk.

Beets are a good source of foliate and betaine. These nutrients act together to help lower blood levels of homocysteine, which can increase your risk of heart disease by causing artery-damaging inflammation.

Beet greens are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. They also contain a wide variety of phytochemicals that may help improve the health of your eyes and nerve tissues.

Beets produce nitric acid, which helps increase blood flow throughout your body, including to your brain. MRIs done on older adults showed that after eating a high-nitrate diet that included beet juice, the subjects had more blood flow to the white matter of their frontal lobes.

If you’re prone to kidney stones, you might want to eat beet greens with caution. They’re high in oxalates, which can form small crystals and contribute to the development of kidney stones.

Beets are high in oxalate, which can contribute to gout, a type of arthritis that develops when too much uric acid builds up in the body.