Beets – Healthy Properties of an Essential Food
The beet, Beta vulgaris, is a plant of warm climates, sown in spring and harvested in autumn.
Initially, people ate only the leaves and not the roots. The ancient Romans were first civilizations to grow beets to use the bulb or root as food.
Use of Beets
The most common use of this plant is as a vegetable, mainly cooked. Still, it also has other food applications, such as sugar, extracted from some varieties after several processes, and red dye used to add color to some products such as soups, liqueurs, and ice cream.
Nutritional Properties of Beet
It is a very energetic vegetable, recommended in anemia, blood diseases, and convalescent people, due to its high iron content. It is also rich in sugars and carotenes. It facilitates intestinal transit, improves liver function, and helps fight urinary infections.
Its content in folates and specific vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, and B6 is outstanding. Folates are involved in producing red and white blood cells, in the synthesis of genetic material and the formation of antibodies in the immune system. That is why it is indicated in pregnant women’s diet, as it is an essential vitamin in ensuring the proper development of the fetus’s neural tube, especially in the first weeks of gestation.
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin is related to the production of antibodies and red blood cells. It helps in the production of energy and the maintenance of the epithelial tissue of the mucous membranes.
Vitamin B3 facilitates the digestive system’s functioning, the excellent condition of the skin, the nervous system, and the transformation of food into energy.
Vitamin B6 is involved in cell metabolism and the functioning of the immune system.
They are also high in insoluble and soluble fiber. The former helps keep the intestinal tract working well; the latter keeps blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control by delaying absorption.
Beets are food of moderate caloric content and rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins and minerals such as iodine.
Antioxidants for Our Health
Beet juice reduces high blood pressure because it is transformed into nitrite when mixed with saliva, which is modified by the hydrochloric acid in the stomach into nitric oxide, which helps control high blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels.
The beet contains pigments called anthocyanins, which have antioxidant action; they give the beet its characteristic red color. Also, they block the harmful effect of free radicals.
Breathing in the presence of oxygen is essential in the cellular life of our organism. Still, as a consequence of this, molecules called free radicals are produced that cause adverse health effects over the years due to their tendency to alter the genes’ DNA.
There are situations where radicals’ production is increased, such as environmental pollution, smoking, alcoholism, drug addiction, infections, stress, high-fat diets, obesity, and too much sun exposure.
The relationship between antioxidants and the prevention of cardiovascular disease is a fact. The so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ plays a crucial role in the onset and development of atherosclerosis.
Antioxidants block the free radicals that stimulate harmful cholesterol. This helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. On the other hand, low antioxidants are a risk factor for certain types of cancer and degenerative diseases.
Beets and Diabetes
According to preliminary research, phytochemicals in beets, with their characteristic red color, may have a positive effect against diabetes.
It has a moderately high glycemic index, with a rating of 64. The glycemic load is another measure of the sugar level in food and considers the actual amount of carbohydrates in each meal, as it does not look at the glycemic index alone.
The glycemic index is moderately high in beets, but the glycemic load is low. This is why it is considered an acceptable food to eat in a diet designed to keep blood glucose levels stable.
A 1/2 cup serving of beets at a meal has a negligible effect on blood sugar, based on their glycemic load.
It would take almost eight cups of beets to significantly impact raising glucose levels, far more than can be eaten in a single meal.
Also, the high fiber content of fresh beet makes it a high-value food for people with diabetes despite its sugar content, as it delays its absorption.
Beets and the Thyroid Gland
The appearance of a particular type of growth of the thyroid gland is related to a very low or no iodine consumption.
This deficiency can disappear or be prevented by consuming foods rich in this mineral, as is the case with beetroot. Along with garlic and chard, it is one of the most iodine-rich vegetables.
Beets and Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can be prevented by eating beets. It is rich in a type of organic acid known as oxalic acid.
This compound, also abundant in spinach and chard, can form insoluble complexes in the intestine with minerals such as calcium, decreasing their assimilation and preventing lithiasis in those prone to kidney stones.
Thanks to the abundance of potassium and lower sodium content, they have a diuretic action and promote the elimination of excess fluids.
They help control high blood pressure, increased uric acid, gout, and fluid retention.
By promoting the elimination of urine, it gets rid, besides liquids, of waste substances dissolved in it.
Selection and Conservation of Beets
Fresh beets are sold in bunches. It is preferable to choose those with the same size roots. That way, they’ll all be cooked evenly.
It is recommended to choose smooth, firm, round, and fleshy specimens without spots or bruises and of intense red color when buying them.
The leaves of the selected bunch should be green and lush, as it indicates the root’s youth. Despite having wilted or soft leaves, if the root feels firm to the touch, it is in good condition.
Those who wish to increase their nutrition by making use of the beet leaves should know that these, in addition to being green, must be tender.
Once at home, fresh beets should be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. This way, they can last two to three weeks.
It is not advisable to freeze raw beets because they soften. Unless they are small, after boiling them in salt water, you have to peel and cut them into slices before freezing in an airtight container.
Consumption of the Beetroot
They can be eaten cooked in salads, but they maintain their nutritional properties better when raw.
Its restricted-calorie content can be consumed as a salad ingredient in weight control diets.
Thanks to its high fiber content, it provides a pleasant feeling of satiety, limiting the appetite.
The roots or bulbs are generally used in salads, either cooked or raw, by shaving it together with carrots.
It can also be consumed in the form of juice, either pure or mixed with others such as orange and carrot. Therefore, beets are a food that we should not do without.
Advised Preparation of Beets
When consumed raw, beets are usually grated and seasoned with a little oil, preferably virgin olive, and lemon, but they are more digestible if cooked.
To cook them, it is advisable to put them in salted water and boil them without having previously peeled them because otherwise, they would lose part of their color and flavor.
They should be boiled for between one and two hours, depending on their size.
Once they have been cooked, the skin can be easily removed and served as a vegetable dish.
If you prefer, you can make roasts. They should only be put in the oven and not taken out until they are tender. Cooked in this way, the beets retain almost all their properties intact.
To take advantage of their high nutritional value, beet leaves can be cooked and seasoned like spinach.
Beet juice has all the vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting substances that whole beets do, but it should not be overlooked that all juice extracts have no fiber.
Healthy Beet Recipes
Mixed Beet Salad
This salad is very tasteful and highly nutritious.
1 cup cooked beets, drained and rinsed, cut into small squares
2 medium carrots, grated
1 medium ripe tomato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 leaves of cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt to taste
- Mix all the ingredients and stir well.
Ideal for people with diabetes. The vegetable puree contains great amounts of fiber and, in addition to being nutritious, helps in proper digestion and prevents constipation.
2 cooked beets
2 sticks of celery
1 cucumber without skin or seeds
2 lettuce leaves
2 chives with their leaves
Cumin to taste
- Wash the vegetables thoroughly and cut them into pieces.
- Blend all the ingredients and serve.
Unsalted Tuna Salad with Beets and Vegetables
4 boiled potatoes
2 cooked carrots
4 ounces of freshly cooked peas
2 cans of tuna fish
2 cooked beets
2 boiled eggs
1 spoonful of olives without seeds
2 or 3 spoonfuls of virgin olive oil
- In the bowl where the salad is to be served, pour the drained cans of tuna.
- Then add the carrot cut into small squares and the beet and potatoes, and mix well.
- Add the olive oil, the peas, and the olives cut in quarters and stir everything carefully.
- Decorate with slices of hard-boiled egg.
- Keep it in the refrigerator and serve it cold.
A delicious salad to nourish and satiate.