Super-charged with powerful nutrients and a distinctly sweet and earthy flavor, beetroot deserves to be in your culinary repertoire. Beets are a well-known source of folic acid, potassium, magnesium, iron as well as vitamins A, B6 and C. Here are the reasons that make beetroot a medicinal food.
Betaine and homocysteine
One of beetroot’s many active compounds is betaine, also termed trimethylglycine(TMG). Betaine plays a role in the breakdown of homocysteine in our body, a substance that is natural but can be harmful if allowed to build up to high levels.
– Raised levels of homocysteine are linked to heart disease, thickening and loss of elasticity of the arterial walls (arteriosclerosis), compromised fertility, osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances, mood disorders, pain and inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, type II diabetes and more.
– Raised homocysteine is an indication that a process called ‘methylation’, which keeps all the natural chemicals in our body in balance, is not working well.
– Betaine and other nutrients – especially B vitamins – are needed for healthy methylation and to keep homocysteine levels in control.
Research is making us more aware of the importance of controlling homocysteine levels. (Tests are available to check levels.)
Beetroot and the Liver
Beetroot also works to support liver detoxification and bile production for the digestion of dietary fats. Substances called betacyanins in beetroot (including betalains, which give beetroot its beautiful purple-red colour) have been found to support the second phase of liver detoxification. During this second phase, wastes that have actually been made more reactive and harmful during the first phase of detoxification are attached to substances that allow them to be excreted safely from the body. To be in optimal health and protect our body from excessive free radical damage, we need this second phase to work really efficiently.
Research has also shown that betacyanins help to produce bile, a substance that is made by our liver, stored in our gallbladder and then released into our digestive tract when we eat. As well as helping the liver to get rid of waste products, bile acts in the small intestine to break down fats in our food, supporting the digestive process and our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin A.
Beetroot and the Bowel
Some call it ‘God’s Gift to the Colon’ as it contains a form of soluble fibre that makes the stool soft and easy to pass. Remember to leave the peel on of course.
Beetroot has been found to increase levels of a crucial amino acid called glutathione in the body. Glutathione is one of our body’s most important antioxidants, and also has many other roles including supporting detoxification and participating in DNA synthesis and repair. In addition, the betacyanins in beetroot also work directly as free radical scavengers, protecting our cells.
Nitrates for healthy blood pressure
The naturally occurring nitrates found in beetroot (root and leaves) helps to make another vital substance in the body called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide supports normal dilation of blood vessels and flexibility of the arteries – helping to maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure.
Recent research has also examined the role of nitric oxide in reducing oxidation of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. If LDL cholesterol is allowed to oxidise, it is more likely to cause inflammation and damage to the lining of our blood vessels, potentially leading to build-up of plaques and hardening of the arteries. Beetroot may help to prevent this happening.
A rich source of Vitamins and Minerals
Beetroot is a source of iron (for formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin), potassium (for normal muscle function), magnesium (for the health of your nervous system and supporting energy production) and vitamin C (for your immune system). It also contains folate which, like betaine, is important for methylation and maintaining healthy homocysteine levels as I said before.