Beetroot (or just beets) has a strong, earthly flavour to it. The juice stains anything it contacts and it’s often dismissed as rank, disgusting and best left in the ground – so why should we be eating it?
What’s in beetroot
Beetroot (sometimes just called beets) is probably best known for its ability to frighten the crap out of us after going to the toilet! It has a unique ability to turn urine pink and look as though we’ve passed blood in our poop!
The reason for this is because beetroot is very rich in a pigment called betacyanin. This can be extracted and made into an organic dye, and is responsible for beeturia – red coloured urine, but not in everyone! Some scientists theorise that high stomach acid breaks down the betacyanin enough to stop it from causing colouration in our toilet waste. But it could just be a genetic thing!
Beetroot is also rich in nitrates, something researchers have recently become quite excited about because of its medicinal properties. Once we’ve consumed beetroot, our bodies converts these nitrates into nitric oxide, and nitric oxide has the effect of vasodilation – it expands the blood vessels allowing blood to flow more freely.
There are compounds in beetroot that may help with male infertility and impotence.
Nitric oxide, because of its ability to expand blood vessels and improve blood flow; beetroot is able to have the following effect on some people:
- Reducing blood pressure. Studies have shown that regular intake of beetroot juice may reduce blood pressure. One study showed than only 250ml (small glass) maybe enough to have an effect.
- Resolving erectile dysfunction (impotence). Erectile dysfunction is common among men with metabolic disorders such as diabetes or men with high blood pressure. But there are many reasons why getting and sustaining an erection is problematic. Beetroot may therefore help in a number of ways, including influencing other mechanisms that help arteries relax
- Help endurance performance. Are you a runner, cyclist or want to boost your performance on the pitch? Many recent studies have shown that nitrates in beetroot could help you run further! But you need to consume it within 90 minutes of exercise. I would imagine concentrated “shots” are the way to go – pretty hard to drink though without spitting it out, so you need to close your eyes, block your nose and wallop it down in one swig!
- Could help cognitive performance in older men. Whilst, the research has relatively mixed results, further studies could show the benefit of regular beetroot consumption on thinking time, memory and concentration. There’s also a belief that improving blood flow to the brain could protect against dementia.
Most of these studies have used beetroot juice, because it’s a method of concentrating the nitrates in a way that can be taken in one dose. Imagine eating 10 beetroots in one go? It’s easier to drink its juice instead!
It’s not just nitrates
Beetroot is rich in many other compounds, not just nitrates! Not only that, but beetroot is low in calories too (around 44kcal/100g).
The main one is folic acid. Beetroot is rich in it! Why is this important to men? Well, it depends upon whether you want to be a dad or not! Folic acid has shown in some studies to boost the quality of sperm we produce. However, very little research has been conducted in this field.
Poor sperm quality is becoming more common in men, and it’s affecting our ability to father kids. One head line just a few years ago suggested that men are becoming more infertile than women. Possibly due to poor diet and other environmental factors.
Beetroot is also rich in dietary fibre, which is great for a healthy gut. If you’re prone to constipation, then you need to add more fruit and vegetables into your diet to help the digestive tract retain more water and keep the stool soft.
It also contains antioxidant compounds like vitamins A and C, and phytochemicals like betacyanin, that may offer an additional protective effect against neutralising free radicals that are responsible for many disease states, including cancer.
How to make beetroot tolerable
I like beetroot, I regularly chop it up in salads – so for me, it’s no problem. But beetroot really is the “Marmite of the vegetable world” – you either love it or hate it.
If you want to give a natural remedy a go, the best way maybe to juice beetroot with other fruits and vegetables to sweeten it and neutralise its earthy flavour. Some ideas are to use apples, ginger, celery, honey, lemon juice and create a drink that you might enjoy more!
You can also enjoy beetroot juice blended with full-fat natural Greek yoghurt – yoghurt is really good at tempering down some strong flavours. Borscht, a classic eastern European beetroot soup, is great with a swirl of crème fraîche or soured cream, or vegan alternatives to these.
Beetroot also works excellently with the sweetness of goat’s cheese. For vegans, then pears also work really well.
Featured image: Pixabay.com/darkerstar
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com