Purple stained fingers, clothing and benches aside, there’s no faulting the value contained in this versatile vegetable.
Adding an earthy, woody flavour to meals, and delicious served cooked, boiled, pickled, baked, roasted or raw, there is no shortage of ways to get more beetroot
in your diet.
Hailing from the coasts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the native Mediterranean vegetable was originally consumed by early Romans, who only used the leaves.
Nowadays, the root is most commonly consumed.
While you probably recognise the standard variety of beetroot, which can range in hue from a deep, dark red/purple to pale red, there are also new hybrids with gold, white, or red with white striped skins. They also come in a baby variety, which are around the size of a golf ball.
In terms of nutrients, beetroot is a good source of vitamin C, iron, folate and magnesium, and a great source of dietary fibre. It’s also a unique source of betacyanin, an antioxidant important for a healthy heart.
Heart health benefits of beetroot
Betacyanin isn’t the only reason beetroots can boost heart health. Rich in nitrates, studies
suggest beetroot juice increases plasma nitrate and nitrite concentrations, supporting healthy blood pressure.
Essentially, the body turns nitrates into nitric oxide, which research has shown is responsible for vasodilation (the widening and dilating arteries.)
And thanks to studies indicating a (large) cup of beetroot juice a day may help keep the doctor away, concentrated ‘shot’ supplements have become popular. These can deliver the same dose with far less volume – 70mls compared to half a litre (500mls).
Sports performance benefits of beetroot
The high dosage of nitrates in beetroot and its juice may also have applications for the physically active or those that undertake endurance or team sports. Allowing more blood and oxygen to be delivered to muscles, nitrate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of exercise.
This means that, in some circumstances, beetroot may enhance exercise tolerance and performance
How much beetroot should you consume in a day?
Sports Dieticians Australia (SDA) report there is still a lot to learn about optimal dosing – including whether it’s best consumed all in one dose or spread out over the day. They note currently available studies have used an array of strategies with variable amounts – ranging from ~300-600mg nitrate.
SDA note high consumption of beetroot, beetroot juice or supplements can cause gut discomfort, especially those following a FODMAP diet, and that using mouthwash or gum can reduce the bacteria available in the mouth, a key factor in the conversion of nitrate to nitric oxide.
Not sure how to get more beetroot into your diet? Check out our 4 easy beetroot recipes
, or simply grate raw beets and toss through salads.
If you get any pesky pink dye on your clothing, run cold water through until it runs clear (use kitchen gloves when chopping to keep your fingers clean, and sprinkle bicarbonate soda on chopping boards to remove the stains.)