Beets (beetroot) are good for your liver? And heart? And brain?
It’s surprising, but true, the beet is a superfood. People either love them or hate them, but either way, there is no denying their numerous health benefits including:
Beets are high in antioxidants which helps the body reduce inflammation. The most notable is Vitamin C: “vitamin C significantly reduced the levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), interleukin 6 (IL-6), fasting blood glucose (FBG), and triglyceride (TG) after 8 weeks of treatment (overall: P<0.001)” All three of these markers affect the heart and reducing them reduces inflammation and risk of heart issues. Beets provide 11% of daily vitamin C needs.
The benefits of vitamin C are amazing, but the benefits to the heart continue with fiber which is good for reducing blood pressure and reducing atherosclerosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9158217/ Lower blood pressure enables the heart to work more efficiently. Atherosclerosis clogs the arteries and makes the heart work harder. Fiber helps on both of these fronts.
The liver works hard every day processing food and eliminating toxins from normal processing and from exogenous sources. Many nutrients are needed for detoxification, one of the most helpful is betaine which is a “methyl-donor.” By donating a methyl, betaine helps remove homocysteine, toxins, and inflammation (3 for 1). Removing inflammation and toxins enables the body to lose weight more easily. And since fiber helps food move through the gut more slowly, easily and smoothly, the body absorbs more nutrients, keeps more toxins in the waste system, and makes eliminating more comfortable. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8224793/
Antioxidants are getting a lot of press lately. Mainly because they help the body fight off oxidative stress, neutralize free radicals and prevent damage to the cell membrane. Since most diseases cause increases in oxidative stress and free radicals, it stands to reason that antioxidants will help with most diseases. And the beet has an abundance of antioxidants including nitrates, carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, betalaines, and phenolic compounds. “Beetroot contains several highly bioactive phenolics, such as rutin, epicatechin and caffeic acid which are also known to be excellent antioxidants.” https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/4/2801
As we age, we tend to have more cognitive decline. Beets can help improve brain function because their “dietary nitrate may be useful in improving regional brain perfusion in older adults in critical brain areas known to be involved in executive functioning . . . ” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20951824/
The effect of beets on the liver cannot be over stated. The liver produces bile, which helps the body digest fats. The bile attaches to fiber and toxins, helping to eliminate the toxins by way of the fiber. The antioxidants help the liver do it’s daily job of cleaning the blood of toxins and free radicals. The fiber in beets help the stool move more slowly through digestion and the liver attaches the waste products to the fiber. So, it is a cycle that needs antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients, all of which can be provided by the humble beet(root).
Beets can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted or fried. Eating them raw ensures you obtain the majority of the nutrients, and they are slightly sweet and very crunchy, similar to carrots. When purchasing them, look for smaller to medium size with no bruising. And the greens are edible as well, cooked or raw.
Using them raw, they pair well with arugula, the beets providing sweetness and the arugula a slightly peppery flavor. Together with any other salad fruits or veggies, they provide an array of benefits. Try an arugula salad with beets, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, delicious!
Using them cooked, the best method is roasting or steaming, to retain the most nutrients. Roasting will take about 60 minutes (if left whole, done when soft when pierced with a fork). They pair well with any savory such as rosemary or basil as roasting brings out the sweetness in the beet. Steaming beets takes about 30-40 min (if left whole) and also brings out the sweetness.
Frying, boiling or even pickling beets are options, but much of the antioxidants will be broken down in these methods, so I don’t recommend them.
Another option for beets is hummus. Yum! Chick peas and Beets, cooked, then pureed with garlic, tahini, lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil.
The greens of beets are also edible, used similar to kale, they are surprisingly bitter compared to the root. Some like them in salad, but I prefer them fried with some garlic and butter (just a touch).
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