THE DARK, CRIMSON COLOR IS UNMISTAKABLE
When you think of superfoods, beetroot probably won’t be the first thought that pops into your head. That should change, however, as these bright crimson bulbs, which have made a deserved comeback in recent years, are a powerful combination of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that lie dormant beneath the surface.
Beetroot, one of several cultivated cultivars of Beta vulgaris, is a root vegetable with dark purple skin and flesh and a member of the amaranth family. The scientific name is composed of the Latin words for “turnip” and “common”. A close relative of spinach and chard, its earthy, sweet flavor paired with a vibrant color lends itself to a variety of sweet and savory dishes. In general, the dark red species are known, but now there are also white, yellow and even striped varieties available. The culinary possibilities are enormous, whether raw, steamed, baked or juiced, this vegetable packs a punch when it comes to bringing color and health to the plate.
The oldest archaeological finds prove that beetroot was already cultivated in Egypt 3,000 BC. The Babylonians, an early civilization in Mesopotamia, also used them for various purposes. What is perhaps surprising is the fact that it wasn’t always this deep red color. In ancient times there was an old variety that was long and thin, similar in shape to a carrot and either black or white.
These were not grown for their bulb, but primarily for the leafy green tips. Hippocrates used them against inflammation and infectious diseases, and the Romans ate the roots primarily for medicinal purposes as a laxative or to reduce fevers. At the same time, however, it was also considered an aphrodisiac and was said to promote feelings of love. In fact, this assumption has a valid basis, because the vegetable is a natural source of tryptophan and betaine, both substances that promote well-being. They also contain large amounts of boron, a trace element that increases the level of sex hormones in the human body.
The round shape we know today appeared in Europe from the 16th century and it took a few hundred more years before it became so popular. Initially, beetroot was mainly used for desserts or to add color to dishes. Industrialization made it possible to preserve it, so after World War II beetroot even became the most widely available vegetable in jars. In the meantime, it is not only consumed as food, but also used in medicine and as a food coloring. The tuber, which can grow up to 13 cm tall, grows two-thirds underground and is attached to purplish-green, variegated leaves by long stalks. They thrive best in moist, well-drained soil in full sun exposure.
A SUPER-FOOD PACKED WITH ANTIOXIDANTS & MORE
Beetroot is easy to incorporate into the diet and incredibly tasty. In addition to its just 40 calories per 100 grams, it is not only low in calories, but packed full with essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are associated with numerous health benefits. Some of their most important properties are:
Blood purification: Betanin is a dye responsible for the deep red color. It is one of the flavonoids (secondary plant substances) and has promising antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. On the one hand, it strengthens the gallbladder and stimulates the function of the liver cells in order to remove toxins from the body. This blood-cleansing effect leads to reduced accumulation of fat in the liver. Thus, the cholesterol level in the blood decreases and artery diseases and heart diseases are prevented.
Reduced inflammation: Beets are high in nitrates, which reduce inflammation by removing harmful compounds from the bloodstream. The body converts these nitrates into nitric oxide, an essential molecule that signals blood vessels to relax and dilate, increasing blood flow and ensuring oxygen and nutrients are efficiently transported to all cells in the body.
Improved brain function: With increasing age, the capacity to form nitric oxide itself decreases, which can lead to a decline in brain metabolism and nerve activity. The resulting nitric oxide helps increase blood flow to the brain, resulting in improved brain function.
Protection against premature skin aging: The high content of vitamin C supports the body’s defense system and many of the body’s metabolic processes. It protects the skin from signs of premature aging and helps eliminate impurities.
Anemia prevention: For centuries, beetroot has been used as a remedy for anemia because it is rich in folic acid, which, together with the high iron content, is instrumental in the formation of red blood cells and cell growth. Without iron, these could not transport oxygen through the body.
Power Booster: Beetroot has also become increasingly popular among athletes since it was discovered that beetroot has a positive impact on athletic performance. The increase in performance is due to the nitrates, which strengthen stamina and lower blood pressure. Just one glass a day can lower blood pressure.
Healthy digestion: Dietary fibers are vegetable fibers and bulking agents and are essential for health. They are largely indigestible and extremely important for a healthy intestinal flora. A deficiency can be a risk factor for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and other ailments. Thanks to the high content in the beetroot, digestion is positively supported and at the same time gives a long-lasting feeling of satiety.
In most cases, you can safely eat beetroot or drink the juice without any negative side effects. Despite all the benefits, there is still a potential health risk. Beets are high in oxalate, which form small crystals and can contribute to the development of kidney stones, or gout, a type of arthritis that occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body. Regular drinking of beetroot juice can affect the color of urine and stool due to the natural color pigments it contains. However, these color changes are temporary and not a cause for concern.
The article was first published in Issue 18