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Beauty and the Beets

By Larraine Roulston:

Beets usually are not the most popular choice for the average household chef. They often look dirty and take a long time to cook. Popping the hot skins before cutting or mashing is a somewhat messy task, as well. The health benefits, however, make this lovely colored root vegetable worthwhile to prepare in several different ways. And when in season, they are very economical.

Commonly red, beetroots appear in a variety of shades. As they contain manganese, folate and copper, their contribution to our diet can be substantial.Their green tops, which can be steamed, are full of vitamins A, C, K and B2.

These are their top 10 health benefits:

  • Beets are a good source of nitrates, which help to lower both heart rate and blood pressure. In 2014, the journal Hypertension  published research claiming that people could reduce blood pressure by consuming 1 cup of beetroot juice daily over a period of four weeks.
  • For athletes, beet nitrates improve blood flow. Beetroot juice is often consumed by endurance athletes to improve their performance. For best results, studies recommend that beetroot juice shouldbe taken within 90 minutes before beginning athletic activities.
  • Betalain in beets can reduce inflammation. Individuals with knee pain found that taking a dose of concentrated betalain twice-daily improved the functioning of their joints and reduced pain.
  • As this vegetable is high in fiber, it improves digestion and protects against hemorrhoids, constipation, colon cancer, ulcers, acid reflux, obesity and diverticulitis.
  • Beets are good for the brain. A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Gerontology demonstrated how beet juice improves the blood flow to the brain while exercising.
  • Beets incorporate antioxidant properties. Betalain, in particular, has been studied for its ability to ward off cancer.
  • Since beets contain a high amount of zincand copper as well as vitamins A and C, they are a boost to the immune system. They also containiron, required to carry oxygen within your body.
  • Beets contain zeaxanthin and lutein, both of which have have a positive effect on vision.
  • With its abundance of nutrients, beets maintain a healthy liver.
  • The nitrates in beets play a role in the production of hormones. Beets enhance blood flow; therefore, one’s sexual health could also benefit. (As their use dates from Roman times, perhaps the title Beauty and the Beets is somewhat applicable.)
  • As beneficial as beets are, there can be potential downsides to consider. For example, beets are high in oxalates, which may reduce the absorption of calcium and other nutrients; they have an abundance of natural sugar; and the strong color can stain clothing. The red will also surprise you when it appears in your stool, but don’t panic — you aren’t bleeding to death.

Beets can be roasted and seasoned with thyme; boiled; grated raw into salads or onto a pizza; pickled; made into burgers; blended into sauces, dips or soups; and added to baked goods for extra moisture. To be energy efficient, boil all the beets at once then separate for future meals.

Some interesting recipes include these — Colorful Beet Salad with Carrot, Quinoa, & Spinach;  Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Milk Soup; or Easy Beet Wonder Dip.

For all their benefits it’s hard to beat beets.

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Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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