Get ready to supercharge your diet with beetroot. Beetroot, or beets as they are known in some countries, are believed to have originated along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and were first grown for their edible leaves. Fortunately, beetroot can be found in most countries around the world and are an excellent addition to many different cuisines. However, humans tend to have a love hate relationship with beetroot. Some of us just love the flavour of beetroot whereas, others complain that they have a somewhat earthy flavour. They’re not wrong either.

Beetroots contain a compound geosmin, which is responsible for that fresh earth smell that comes from a garden after rain. Humans are highly sensitive to geosmin, which may explain why we react to beetroot in such extremes.

Love or hate beetroot, there are still ways to enjoy the incredible health benefits of them without necessarily encountering that earthy flavour. Beetroots or beetroot powder can be added to smoothies, cakes, soups, and a variety of dishes where the flavour isn’t as prominent, but the nutritional value is.

Beetroots come in a variety of colours from white, yellow to a candy cane red and white variety known as Chioggia, with the most common being the bulbous dark red variety. Whilst being low in calories, beetroots are packed with essential nutrients and have been associated with several health benefits including the ability to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure, increased physical performance, endurance and stamina, and even in the prevention of some cancers.

Here is a list of some of the benefits that eating beets may offer:

  • Contributes to a healthy heart and circulatory system: Due to their high concentration of nitrates, studies have shown that beetroots can significantly lower blood pressure within only a few hours. According to Healthline, the effect appears to be greater for systolic blood pressure, or pressure when your heart contracts, rather than diastolic blood pressure, or pressure when your heart is relaxed. The effect may also be stronger for raw beets than cooked beets. In your body, dietary nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, a molecule that dilates blood vessels, causing blood pressure to drop. Blood nitrate levels remain elevated for about six hours after eating dietary nitrate. Therefore, beets only have a temporary effect on blood pressure, and regular consumption is required to experience long-term reductions in blood pressure.
  • Improves physical/athletic performance: Many studies have concluded that consuming beetroot can lead to an increase in physical and athletic performance due to the increased blood flow to muscles leading to increased overall energy in cells. “In two studies including seven and eight men, consuming 17 ounces (500 ml) of beet juice daily for six days extended time to exhaustion during high-intensity exercise by 15–25%, which is a 1–2% improvement in overall performance.” (Healthline, 2017).

  • Improves digestive health: Beets are a good source of dietary fibre which is essential to a healthy digestive system. One cup of beetroot contains 3.4g of fibre. A diet rich in fibre can help treat constipation and inflammation within the bowel and has been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic lifestyle diseases including heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes
  • Great source of vitamins and minerals: Beetroots contain many essential vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, Iron, Potassium, Manganese and Folate.

For most of us, our bodies tolerate their consumption; however, it is important to note that Beetroots are high in Oxalates. People who are prone to kidney stones may need to avoid excessive consumption of oxalates as they can contribute to the formation of stones. The leaves of the beetroot plant have the highest level of oxalates; however, the bulb is still considered high.

Beetroots can be used in a variety of ways.
The only real limit on how beetroot can be used is our imagination. Some ideas that come to mind are:

Roasted – Roasting beets at a high temperature is a great way to make the sugars caramelise, making these a perfect addition to a roast meal.

Smoothies – Adding beets to smoothies with other fruits, ice and a dash of organic coconut water is a great way for you to enjoy the health benefits without them dominating the flavour.

Slaw – One of my favourite ways to enjoy beets is having the raw bulb shredded and mixed with shredded cabbage, carrot and capsicum. Have it in a salad, on sandwiches or on a burger.

Dip – Let’s not forget that a homemade beetroot hummus dip is a star at brightening up any charcuterie board. Check out my Roasted Beetroot Hummus Recipe here.

No matter how you choose to enjoy beetroot, whether it be in soups or salads, this superfood can supercharge your health by lowering your blood pressure, increasing blood flow and substantially improve your athletic/physical performance. If beets are not in season where you are, pickled beets in jars are still highly nutritious.

How can you brighten up your diet with beets?

Author: Pete Welsh