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Beetroot, also known as beet is a plant that belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. It is impossible to miss the deep red colour of a beetroot, whether you are eating it raw, grating it into a salad or blending it into soups and smoothies. It is appealing not just because of its attractive appearance and vibrant colour, but it is gaining immense popularity as a superfood because of its healing and health building properties. From juice to hummus to salads, beetroot is finding its place in almost every dish, adding colour, antioxidants, and flavours.

Beetroot was first cultivated by the Romans, however, it was only used as animal fodder then. It wasn’t until the 6th Century that beets became popular for human consumption. During the mid 19th century, beetroot juice was often used as a colouring agent in wines. 

When harvested, the plant is edible in its entirety, from the shoot to the root. One of the reasons for its popularity is because there are many ways to add this vibrant vegetable to your plate. It can be steamed, roasted, pickled, pressure-cooked, fried, boiled, juiced or can simply be eaten raw as a salad.

Beetroots are power packed with various nutrients and antioxidants that make them highly beneficial for the body. Regular consumption of beetroots can lower blood pressure, can help prevent constipation, cancer and even protect the liver. Beetroots can also aid the body in the detoxification process, by eliminating the toxins from our body and flushing them out of the system through the urinary tract.

Some basic facts about beetroot:

  • Botanical name: Beta vulgaris
  • Family: Amaranthaceae.
  • Common name: Beet
  • Sanskrit name: Palangshak
  • Parts used: roots and leaves
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Beetroot is believed to have originated in Germany or Italy and spread to northeastern Europe. In India, it is mainly cultivated in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
  • Fun Fact: Beetroot soup (Banquet of borscht) was served as a welcome drink to the Apollo 18 astronauts in space, during the Apollo-Soyuz test project
  1. Beetroot nutrition facts
  2. Beetroot health benefits
  3. Beetroot side effects
  4. Takeaway

Raw beetroot is made up of 88% water. It is a good source of various minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium and vitamins such as vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B9 and C.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 100g of beetroot contains the following values:

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Water 87.58 g
Energy 43 kCal
Protein 1.61 g
Fat 0.17 g
Carbohydrates 9.56 g
Fibre 2.8 g
Sugars 6.76 g  
Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 16 mg
Iron 0.8 mg
Magnesium 23 mg
Phosphorus 40 mg
Potassium 325 mg
Sodium 78 mg
Zinc 0.35 mg
Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin A 2 µg
Vitamin B1 0.031 mg
Vitamin B2 0.04 mg
Vitamin B3 0.334 mg
Vitamin B6 0.067 mg
Vitamin B9 109 µg
Vitamin C 4.9 mg
Vitamin E 0.04 mg
Vitamin K 0.2 µg
Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 0.027 g
Monounsaturated 0.032 g  
Polyunsaturated 0.06 g
  • For weight loss: Beetroot contains 88% water and is quite low in fats and is thus a good weight loss food. It is also a rich source of fibres, thus, helping in digestion and making you feel full for longer, so, you eat less.
  • For exercise performance: Beetroot forms for an excellent energy drinks for athletes as it helps to improve exercise performance and minimise fatigue.
  • For diabetes: Beetroot is good food for diabetics as it aids in the lowering of blood glucose levels keeping the condition in check.
  • For the heart: Beet is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant and thus has beneficial effects on your heart. It helps in lowering blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
  • For cancer prevention: Rich antioxidant content of beet also makes it effective in the prevention of cancer, which occurs by the mechanism of apoptosis or programmed cell death. Beetroot has been found to have effects against breast cancer, oesophageal cancer, liver cancer and prostate cancer.
  • For the liver: Beet has hepatoprotective effects since it helps in reducing oxidative damage being a rich source of antioxidants.
  1. Beetroot lowers blood pressure
  2. Beetroot for diabetes
  3. Beetroot is rich in fibre
  4. Beetroot for cancer prevention
  5. Beetroot for weight loss
  6. Beetroot for athletic performance
  7. Beetroot as an anti-inflammatory agent
  8. Beetroot benefits for liver

Beetroot lowers blood pressure

High blood pressure is a long-term condition that usually does not have any immediate symptoms. But uncontrolled blood pressure increases the risk of heart diseases, kidney failure and stroke. Studies indicate that beetroot can help lower blood pressure. Beets are rich in potassium, low in sodium. This balance plays a huge role in regulating blood pressure.

Another research revealed that beetroots are rich in dietary nitrates which can help lower blood pressure. According to a preclinical study, 500 ml of beetroot juice can help reduce the blood pressure within a few hours of consumption.

(Read more: High blood pressure treatment)

Beetroot for diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that happens when the body is not able to metabolise sugars, causing a rise in blood glucose levels. Although this condition is not reversible, it can be kept under control by making modifications to the diet. A clinical study done on 30 subjects showed that daily consumption of beetroot juice can reduce the level of glucose in the blood.

Beetroot juice is rich in polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins. All of these compounds can help keep diabetes in check without posting any side-effects.

Beetroot is rich in fibre

Dietary fibres are a type of carbohydrates that cannot be processed by the enzymes in the body. Hence these fibres pass through the large intestines and get fermented there. Beetroots are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibres. Research indicates that regular intake of fibre-rich foods can help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by reducing the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body.

Adequate consumption of fibres can also help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by reducing the rate of glucose absorption into the blood.

Additionally, fibres are good laxatives and can help prevent constipation. This is because fibres have the ability to provide bulk to the stool, thereby making the bowel movement smoother.

Beetroot for cancer prevention

Cancer is characterized by an abnormal growth of cells. Research reveals that Beetroots are abundantly rich in antioxidants, which make them a powerful cancer-fighting agent. 

A preclinical study demonstrated the tumour inhibiting effects of beetroot extract. A study done on the oesophagal cancer cells of animal models suggested that red beetroot helps reduce inflammation and promoted cell death (apoptosis).

According to researchers, the chemopreventive properties of beetroot is because of the antioxidant action of betacyanins, betaine and betalains.

Another research indicated that betanin, a food dye obtained from beetroot has chemopreventive potential against breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Further research could possibly reveal if beetroot can be used in developing anti-cancer drugs.

Beetroot for weight loss

Obesity is a health condition characterised by an excess fat accumulation in the body. Regular physical activity and making small changes to the diet are the best ways to lose weight.

According to a clinical study on 97 obese women, decreasing intake of fat-rich foods and consuming more water-rich food items can help in weight reduction. This makes beetroot an ideal choice of vegetable because it is made up of about 88% water and it has a negligible amount of fat.

Beetroot is also rich in dietary fibres. Higher intake of fibre can lower the fat levels thereby helping in weight loss. Furthermore, high fibre foods increase the chewing time, and absorb water, making you feel fuller for longer periods of time. It also slows down the absorption of dietary sugars which adds to postmeal satiety.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Beetroot for athletic performance

Many athletes, especially amateurs often feel easily fatigued because of physical exertion and dehydration. This often hinders performance. Research indicates that beetroot juice can help increase productivity and performance during workouts.

Beetroot is an excellent source of antioxidants and nutrients such as potassium, sodium, betaine, betalains and dietary nitrate. All of these constituents can improve the performance of athletes.

Dietary nitrates can be converted to nitrites by the saliva and these nitrites can help the blood vessels to relax, thereby increasing blood circulation. An increased circulation then leads to an improved endurance due to better oxygen supply to the muscles.

Beetroot as an anti-inflammatory agent

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury or an infection. It is often characterized by redness, swelling and pain. According to studies, beetroot is an effective anti-inflammatory agent. A preclinical study demonstrated that oral supplementation of beetroot helped reduce inflammation.

This effect was attributed to the presence of betalain. The research also claimed that regular consumption of beetroot may help prevent acute inflammation in humans.

(Read more: Inflammatory disease types)

Beetroot benefits for liver

Liver is the second largest organ in the body and is responsible for various body functions including digestion and fat metabolism. However, the primary responsibility of liver is to purify the blood coming from the digestive tract before it passes to the other parts of the body. The liver also detoxifies the chemicals and drugs that enter our body through medications and diet. Any damage to liver can thus lead to accumulation of all these toxins in the body and deterioration of body functions.

Although factors like diet and lifestyle can increase the risk of liver diseases, it has been suggested that oxidative stress can add to the progression of liver damage. As an antioxidant rich food, beetroot may be an excellent hepatoprotective agent.

According to studies, the antioxidant betalains present in beetroot can have protective effects against oxidative damage. In a preclinical study, supplementation of beetroot juice for a period of 28 days reduces DNA damage and liver injury caused by a compound called N-nitrosodiethylamine. Another study demonstrated that beetroot extracts can reduce the growth and proliferation of liver cancer cells.

(Read more: Liver cancer treatment)

The saying “Too much of anything is good for nothing” holds true for beetroot as well. This highly nutritious vegetable when consumed in moderation can do wonders for our body. However, beetroot does have a few side effects and a few of them are mentioned below:

  • Excessive consumption of beetroot leads to a phenomenon called as beeturia in which your body produces pink or red coloured urine or stools. Though it sounds alarming, the condition is usually harmless and becomes normal within 48 hours.
  • Since this vegetable is rich in oxalates, having too much beetroot may lead to kidney stones. The oxalate content can be reduced by boiling or cooking the beetroot.
  • For those with gastrointestinal problems or sensitive stomach, consumption of beetroot, specifically raw beetroot, might intensify the condition.
  • While beetroot is good for regulating blood pressure, excessive consumption may lead to low blood pressure or hypotension.
  • Concentrated or direct consumption of beetroot juice may lead to tightness in the throat and difficulty in speech.

Given the numerous medicinal properties and the variety of ways in which one can eat beetroot, it can easily be classified as one of the healthiest vegetables to eat. Some of the health benefits of beetroot include its ability to lower blood pressure and control diabetes. The antioxidant properties of beetroot can help prevent cancer and liver diseases. Beetroot is rich in fibre and which can help in the prevention of constipation. Although beetroot does not have many side-effects, it can lead to medical complications if consumed excessively or incorrectly.

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References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 11080, Beets, raw. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  2. Health Harvard Publishing, Updated: April 3, 2019. Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Potassium and sodium out of balance. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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  5. John F. Lechner et al. Drinking Water with Red Beetroot Food Color Antagonizes Esophageal Carcinogenesis in N-Nitrosomethylbenzylamine-Treated Rats J Med Food. 2010 Jun; 13(3): 733–739. PMID: 20438319
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  8. Joanne Slavin. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1417–1435. PMID: 23609775
  9. Sha Li et al. The Role of Oxidative Stress and Antioxidants in Liver Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Nov; 16(11): 26087–26124. PMID: 26540040
  10. ajka-Kuźniak V, Szaefer H, Ignatowicz E, Adamska T, Baer-Dubowska W. Beetroot juice protects against N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced liver injury in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jun;50(6):2027-33. PMID: 22465004
  11. Kapadia GJ et al. Chemoprevention of DMBA-induced UV-B promoted, NOR-1-induced TPA promoted skin carcinogenesis, and DEN-induced phenobarbital promoted liver tumors in mice by extract of beetroot. Pharmacol Res. 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8. PMID: 12543062
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