If you're like me, you try to pay attention to the types of foods you eat (or should eat) and how they affect your health. I considered beets and found that eating fresh red or purple beets is a simple way to bolster your overall health. From cholesterol to cancer – and more, beets can help keep you well.
Beets are high in fiber and low in cholesterol. They are also rich sources of antioxidants and phytonutrients. At the forefront of this nutritional powerhouse are folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. In addition, beets contain two important compounds: betaine and betacyanin (the compound that gives beets their deep red color).
Protecting your heart
Studies have shown that diets rich in beets have helped reduce total cholesterol levels by as much as 30 percent while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Research has also shown that the betaine in beets helps to lower the amount of the homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is a natural amino acid acquired mostly from eating meat. High levels of homocysteine have been found to be a factor in cardiovascular diseases.
The betacyanin in beets is particularly helpful in fighting and preventing colon cancer. The high fiber content and anti-oxidant properties of beets also aid in preventing this particular type of cancer.
Studies have also found that beet juice helps to protect against the formation of compounds called nitrosamines. These compounds can lead to cell mutations which cause cancer.
Helping your liver
Betaine can also protect against liver disease by helping to break down fatty deposits within the liver. These deposits are often associated with diabetes, hypertension, or alcohol use. Additionally, beet fiber helps increase the levels of specific antioxidants which fortify the cellular health of the liver and protect it from potential cancers.
Eat your beets!
You can eat beets raw or cooked. If you choose to cook them, try not to overcook cook them or use too high of a temperature. Many of the nutritional properties of this vegetable break down quickly as the temperature goes up. Do not peel them until you're done cooking, otherwise a large portion of the betacyanin will leach out as they cook.
I personally prefer them raw because all of the nutrients remain intact.
Did someone say peanut butter? !!
I've never really liked the taste of beets, but I came up with a novel way to make them taste better. I simply get a little peanut butter in my mouth before chomping down on the beets. It does not take much – about as much as licking some off a spoon. The fats and oils of the peanut butter bond to the receptors on your tongue, which then blocks the molecules of the beet responsible for its taste. The end result is a very subtle and mild flavor that is very palatable. Now I can eat an entire raw beet with about one tablespoon of peanut butter.
The peanut butter also has nutritional characteristics that complement the beet. It is rich in folate and niacin which help to increase beneficial HDL (high-density lipoproteins) by as much as 30%. Its unsaturated fats can also help reduce the potential of heart disease by up to 25% if you eat about an ounce per day.
If you are considering adding or increasing beets in your diet, be aware of several things. First, the beet greens are edible, but they contain significant amounts of a natural substance called oxalates. When these become too concentrated in the body fluids they can crystallize and create health problems such as kidney stones. So if you have existing kidney or gallbladder problems you may want to avoid the greens. Secondly, beets are high in natural sugar. One cup of beets contains about 9 grams of sugar, so if you are diabetic, you will want to consider that.
And finally, as you increase your consumption of beets, you may experience a side effect called beeturia. It is harmless, but the urine (or stools) can become tinted red or pinkish within about 24-48 hours after consuming beets. Your individual experience of beeturia can vary over time and may also change based on the varieties of beets that are eaten.
I hope you will add this great little veggie to your plate more often. Once you consider all the benefits and taste your peanut-buttery beet, it should be an easy choice.