Beetroot is a versatile and nutrient-packed root vegetable that is not only tasty, but has some amazing health benefits too. Whether it's roasted or blended into a juice, this superfood will provide vital antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that could help boost heart health and even supercharge you fitness – Paralympic gold medallist credits a shot of beetroot juice as the secret to his success. But what are the other benefits of beetroot, and how can you include it in your diet? Read on for the lowdown on this humble root vegetable…
What are the health benefits of beetroot?
There are numerous ways that beetroot benefits health, boosting everything from exercise stamina to brain power.
- Helps lower blood pressure: Studies have found that drinking beetroot juice may help to lower blood pressure. It is thought that nitrates, compounds found in the juice, converted into nitric acid that helped to relax and widen blood vessels.
- Improves exercise stamina: There might be something in David Weir's claims about beetroot juice aiding his success; a 2012 study found that drinking the root vegetable juice increased plasma nitrate levels and provided a boost to physical performance, with participants in a trial discovering their 10km cycling time got faster after drinking two cups of beetroot juice daily.
- Could slow the progression of dementia: It's not only good for heart and muscle health, beetroot could also aid brain health too. The nitrates in beetroot juice may help to increase blood flow to the brain in older people and slow cognitive decline.
- Good source of potassium and other minerals: You may want to consider making beetroot one of your five-a-day. This root vegetable is a rich source of potassium, a mineral electrolyte that helps nerves and muscles to function properly. It is also a good source of vital minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, sodium, zinc, copper and selenium.
- May reduce cholesterol: Adding beetroots or beetroot juice to your diet could have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels. A 2011 study on rats found that beetroot extract lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing good HDL cholesterol. It is believed that this is down to its phytonutrients, including flavonoids.
- Could help fight inflammation: Given inflammation is associated with diseases such as obesity, heart disease, liver disease and cancer, it's a good idea to try and reduce this as much as possible. Beetroots contain pigments called betalains, which may possess anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helping with conditions such as osteoarthritis.
How to choose, store and prepare beetroots:
Although beetroots are available all year round, they are at their sweetest during their peak season, which runs from June to October. Good quality beetroots should have their greens intact, and should be firm without wrinkled skin or dull colour. You can store fresh beets with the greens attached for three to four days in the fridge, but once the greens have been removed the beets can be stored for two to four weeks.
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When preparing your beetroot, wash it gently under cool running water and take care not to damage the skin. If you boil beetroot, keep the root ends and one inch of stem attached, remembering not to peel until after cooking as beetroot juice can stain the skin. If your hands do become stained during preparation, rubbing lemon juice over them should help to remove the colour.
Healthy beetroot recipes:
Looking for some inspiration of how to incorporate beetroot into your diet? These healthy recipes are flavoursome additions to your repertoire.
Pulled Pork with Beetroot and Red Onion: This succulent pork recipe, from Packington Free Range farm, is a versatile party dish. The pork becomes so tender it can easily be pulled of the bone and piled into fresh buns. It can be prepared in advance and is a great party dish that can be put in the middle of the table for people to help themselves to.
Goat's cheese and beetroot salad with praline: The rich flavour of goat's cheese works perfectly with the earthy beetroot and delicious praline. As salads go, this is a game changer.
Chocolate and beetroot cake: You can even incorporate beetroot into a sweet treat with this tasty recipe, which combines cooked beetroot with dark chocolate for an unexpectedly good result.
Raymond Blanc's beetroot salad with hot smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraiche: Try something new courtesy of celebrity chef Raymond Blanc, who combines beetroot with tasty hot smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraiche.
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