Beets may not be the most familiar vegetables to the majority of people, but their popularity has actually begun to increase over the years because they are affordable and packed with nutrients. When prepared correctly, they have an incredible texture and a flavor that is both sweet and earthy. Whether you have loved the humble beet for years or have always been a bit scared of trying this vegetable, learning more about its many health benefits may just make you add some to your next shopping list. Plus, you can even learn how to enjoy the nutritional benefits of beets without having to spend time selecting and cooking them.
General Benefits of Consuming Beets
Beets, sometimes called beetroot or table beets, are chock full of nutrients. They are quite high in fiber while also having plenty of folate, potassium, vitamin C and iron. A whopping 87% of this vegetable is water while 8% is carbohydrates and up to 3% is fiber. The glucose and fructose in beets make this root vegetable surprisingly and naturally sweet.
However, it is the fiber that is so beneficial to many people. Fiber is of great importance to the digestive system where it is needed to help digested food move through the intestines and out of the body smoothly. Plus, fiber helps to feed healthy bacteria in the colon that keep the digestive tract well-aligned.
It is not just fiber that is so incredible for the human body. Many of the micronutrients in beets, such as vitamin C, function as antioxidants in the body. These antioxidants fight off free radicals that can eventually lead to irreversible signs of aging throughout many body systems.
Some of the other known physical benefits of beets include the following:
- Decrease systolic blood pressure
- Improve physical performance by increasing oxygen consumption in the body
- May decrease chronic inflammation
- May increase blood flow to the brain and improve brain health
- May reduce the incidence of certain types of cancer
Beets and Diabetes
Beets have also been garnering numerous mentions when it comes to diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) actually mentions this superfood as a highly nutritional non-starchy vegetable. The ADA recommends eating three to five servings of non-starchy vegetables every day. With so many incredible vegetable options available at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, you may be wondering why you should bother adding beets to your regular vegetable rotation.
Superfoods are defined as foods that are incredibly rich in nutrients when compared to their calorie content. They do not include unhealthy fillers but instead contain high levels of micronutrients, including antioxidants, which provide a rich variety of benefits for the human body. Although a superfood is not an actual food group, it most often is used to describe plant-based foods, such as beets.
If you or a loved one has diabetes, beets could be an incredible addition to the diet. In fact, this food, first cultivated among the Greeks, has been used for hundreds of years to treat a wide variety of physical complaints. Because of the hearty doses of folate, potassium and other micronutrients in this vegetable, beets are a potent fighter of diabetes. Here are just three key ways that beets can help prevent diabetes or reduce the side effects that typically come along with this chronic disease diagnosis.
1. Beets can help regulate both glucose and insulin levels in the body.
Individuals with diabetes have trouble regulating their blood sugar or glucose levels because the hormones known as insulin and glucagon no longer function strongly on the body’s cells. When insulin tells cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, the cells do not respond. This is called insulin resistance. The opposite is true when glucagon tells the cells to release glucose back into the bloodstream.
However, beets have been shown to decrease high glucose levels immediately following meals, which is the time that most diabetics experience unhealthy blood sugar spikes. This benefit is most likely due to phytochemicals that are found in the bright red color of the beet.
2. Beets can help decrease the risk of dangerous side effects from diabetes.
The antioxidants found in beets are especially good at reducing cellular damage in the body. This is quite important for diabetics who frequently suffer from complications in the eyes, blood vessels, kidneys and heart. In fact, research has shown that antioxidants can decrease kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, retinopathy of the eyes and neuropathy in the feet. They can even decrease blood pressure by reducing disease in the smaller blood vessels in the body.
3. Beets lower your risk of a variety of chronic diseases.
Beets can be helpful even for those who have not yet been diagnosed with diabetes but who are looking for ways to prevent this chronic illness in the future. This benefit can once again be traced back to the powerful antioxidants in beets, which decrease oxidative stress and reduce chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation throughout the body has been linked to a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity and arthritis. In fact, at least 50% of yearly deaths can be traced back to diseases caused by systemic chronic inflammation.
Best Ways to Consume Beets
Beets are some of the most beautiful vegetables, adding a splash of color to a plate of otherwise bland-looking meat or a bed of lettuce. While they can be consumed both raw and cooked, the majority of people prefer them cooked. From traditional boiling or pickling to slow roasting in the oven, beets can be prepared in a myriad of ways depending on your meal and personal preferences.
However, as with all fruits and vegetables, you need to be careful when cooking beets because many of this vegetable’s amazing nutrients can be lost when roasted or boiled. Although beets will still retain some nutrients along with much of their fiber, you will want to consume them in the most healthful manner as frequently as possible to glean the most benefits from them.
The most nutritional option is eating beets raw. Because they can be quite hard and crunchy, you will probably want to dice raw beets finely or even shave them into ribbons to add to your salads.
If you do choose to cook them, consider keeping the skin on your beets. Once you scrub and slice or dice these beauties, you will hardly notice that the skin is still there. As is the case with many root vegetables, many of the nutrients can be found in and just beneath the skin of the beet.
In addition, do not overcook beets. Try steaming beet slices for just 15 minutes to soften them slightly. Another option is to roast or sauté beets because you will retain more of the nutrients that would otherwise be lost in the red juice when boiling. While boiling may be the traditional way of cooking them that your mother or grandmother favored, it is certainly not the healthiest option.
If retaining as many nutrients as possible is quite important to you or if you just cannot stand the taste of fresh beets no matter how many different ways you have tried eating them, you still have a wonderful option for enjoying this root vegetable’s health benefits. Beetroot powder that is made from dehydrated ground beets includes all of the mighty beet’s incredible micronutrients along with all of its fiber. Unlike beet juice, which may be sweet and tasty but which eliminates nearly all of the vegetable’s fiber, consuming beetroot powder is quite similar in health benefits to eating a whole beet.
Beetroot powder is easy to add to many of your typical foods. Plus, it gives you a simple way to amp up the quality of your meals even when you are not at home. Simply add it to a shake, smoothie, warm or cold drink or soup. You can even mix the powder into homemade energy balls or energy bars.
When purchasing beetroot powder, you must look for several key indicators of health and freshness on the container:
- Only shop for powders made from whole, ground beets rather than beet juice.
- Opt for an organic variety that will not include such chemicals as insecticides and pesticides.
- Look at the ingredient list, and reject varieties that include fillers and additives, such as additional sugar.
Zen Principle Organic Beetroot Powder checks all of the above, so why not give it a try?
The beet may seem to be a humble, unassuming vegetable, but it packs quite a punch when it comes to health benefits (beets are great for dogs too!). Whether you opt for whole, fresh beets or beetroot powder in the upcoming weeks, try increasing your consumption of this bright red root vegetable. Not only could it prevent diabetes or decrease side effects from this chronic disease, but also it could fight against a wide variety of other chronic illnesses and age-related complaints.