Beetroot is a root vegetable also known as beet or red bean. There are several types of beetroot that are distinguished by their color such as celery, a leafy variety, and sugar beet whose root has a high concentration of sugars.
The intense color of red beetroot is due to the presence of a substance called betanin. This is the main pigment of beets with a concentration of 300 mg to 600 mg per kg. It is an antioxidant that is believed to have various health benefits. It is extracted from beets and is a food additive with the name (E162). Betaine also prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol by DNA damage . .
What is its nutritional value?
Beetroot for a good source of fiber, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and iron while especially its juice has gained superfood status in recent years. 100 grams of raw beets have the following nutrients:
- Calories: 43
- Water: 88%
- Protein: 1.6 g.
- Carbohydrates: 9.6 g.
- Sugar: 6.8 gr.
- Fiber: 2.8 gr.
- Fat: 0.2 g.
- Folic acid 80 mcg
- Sodium 78 mg
- Potassium 325 mg
- Calcium 16 mg
- Magnesium 23 mg
- Phosphorus 36 mg
- Iron 0.8 mg
- Vitamin B6 0.1 mg
- Vitamin A 33 IU
- Vitamin C 4.9 mg
In addition to cooked or pickled, beetroot can be eaten raw. Its root is hard while cooked it becomes soft. The leaves can also be eaten although they can leave a bitter taste in the mouth if eaten raw.
Beetroot is healthy no matter how you prepare it. However, its juice is the best way because cooking reduces its nutritional value. If you do not like natural beetroot juice try adding apple, carrot or orange juice to have a better taste. If you decide to include beetroot juice in your diet, start gradually and as it adjusts you will be able to drink more.
The properties of beetroot
Beetroot has cardioprotective properties and improves performance during exercise. Its properties are due to its high content of nitrates and nitrites which improve blood flow. Nitrates and nitrites are found mainly in leafy green vegetables  and are also used as preservatives. Spinach, red beetroot, celery and lettuce are important. Spinach contains about 20 mg per 100 g. and beetroot 15 mg. Nitrates and nitrites are converted in the body to nitric oxide which has many important functions.
It should be noted, however, that there has been much debate over the years about the role of nitrates in health . While most nitrates and nitrites are obtained from vegetables and fruits (80-95%), we also take them as food additives in cooked products, cereals and processed meats because they inhibit the growth of bacteria. They are thought to be able to react with food amines (ammonia derivatives) to form nitrosamines which have been linked to cancer in various studies . However, nitrates and nitrites do not have negative effects on their own, after all they are produced by the human body itself – from the amino acid arginine – in order to meet its normal requirements.
Beetroot lowers blood pressure
Many studies have shown that beetroot juice can improve blood pressure and vascular function. The cause for these properties are considered to be nitrates and nitrites which in the body are converted to nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide relaxes and dilates blood vessels, facilitating blood flow. It works on the walls of the arteries sending signals to the smooth muscle cells to relax [5, 6]. When smooth muscle cells relax, blood vessels dilate and blood pressure drops.
Beetroot or its juice can lower blood pressure by up to 3–10 mmHg for a few hours.
Beetroot increases endurance during exercise
Consumption of beets can improve running and cycling performance, increase endurance and enhance oxygen utilization leading to an overall better performance during exercise [8, 9].
Studies show that beetroot nitrates can increase athletic performance – especially during high-intensity exercise – by reducing the body’s need for oxygen. That is why athletes often consume beetroot juice.
Nitrates and nitrites have been shown to reduce the use of oxygen during exercise by affecting the efficiency of mitochondria, the organelles in our cells that are responsible for energy production .
Beetroot helps patients with heart failure
The ability to exercise is a key factor associated with the quality of life of patients with heart failure. Due to their condition, patients with heart failure show intense breathing, have reduced oxygen intake when a large amount of it is required and use more energy during exercise than healthy individuals.
One study examined the effect of nitrates in the form of beetroot juice supplements on the exercise capacity of eight patients with heart failure with a reduced ejection fraction, a condition in which the heart muscle does not contract effectively and cannot give enough oxygenated blood to the body. The researchers found that beetroot juice supplementation resulted in significant increases in maximal oxygen uptake during exercise .
Another study found in patients with heart failure who consumed concentrated beetroot juice that they had a 13% increase in muscle strength in the muscle extending to the knee two hours later.
Beetroot can delay dementia
Nutritional sources of nitrates can help increase blood flow to the brain in the elderly and slow down cognitive decline. One study found that when participants ate a diet high in nitrates containing beetroot juice, MRI scans of their brains showed increased blood flow to the frontal lobes, which are linked to thought and behavior .
The possible side effects
Eating beetroot can make your urine turn pink or red, which is harmless but often confused with blood.
It is sometimes thought that beetroot juice can raise blood sugar and is therefore not suitable for people with diabetes. Simple sugars – such as glucose and fructose – make up 70% and 80% of carbohydrates in raw and cooked beets, respectively, but do not have a significant effect on blood sugar levels because the total amount of carbohydrates in a serving is low. The glycemic index of beets is 61 and the glycemic load is only 5.
Beetroot contains high levels of oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones [13, 14]. Oxalates are substances that have anti-nutritional properties in the sense that they may affect the absorption of certain micronutrients. Oxalate levels are much higher in the leaves than the root, but the root is also considered high in oxalates.
The vegetable also contains fructans – short chain carbohydrates classified as FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols). These carbohydrates feed the bacteria in your gut. However, FODMAPs can cause unpleasant digestive symptoms in sensitive people, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome.
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- Betanin–a food colorant with biological activity.
- Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits.
- Nutritional epidemiology in the context of nitric oxide biology: a risk-benefit evaluation for dietary nitrite and nitrate.
- Processed meat consumption, dietary nitrosamines and stomach cancer risk in a cohort of Swedish women.
- Nitric oxide and the vascular endothelium.
- Dietary nitrates, nitrites, and cardiovascular disease.
- Inorganic nitrate is a possible source for systemic generation of nitric oxide.
- Dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise performance.
- Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance.
- Dietary inorganic nitrate improves mitochondrial efficiency in humans.
- Dietary Nitrate Increases VO2peak and Performance but Does Not Alter Ventilation or Efficiency in Patients With Heart Failure With Reduced Ejection Fraction.
- Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults.
- Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content.
- Contents of oxalic acid, nitrate and reduced nitrogen in different parts of beetroot (Beta vulgaris var. conditiva Alef.) at different rates of nitrogen fertilization.