Beets contain the bioactive agent betaine which stimulates the function of liver cells and protects the liver and bile ducts. When the liver is functioning properly, fats are broken down efficiently, aiding weight loss, and preventing fatigue and nausea.
The antioxidants present in beets, including carotenoids and flavnoids, can limit the harm that too much cholesterol in the blood can cause. Through helping prevent LDL or “bad” cholesterol from being oxidized, antioxidants help prevent the build up of harmful, artery-clogging plaque.
In the 16th century, it was given as a “blood builder” to people who were pale and run down. At the time, doctors and patients may not have known why it was so efficacious, but health experts now know that the high iron content in raw beets can be helpful for people who suffer from anaemia and fatigue.
Beets contain two important nutrients that can help lower blood pressure: potassium and nitrate. Potassium works with sodium to maintain the volume of blood in circulation steady. More sodium in the body means more water, more blood volume and higher blood pressure. Consuming more potassium helps flush sodium out of our system, lowering blood pressure.
By widening blood vessels, the nitric oxide that comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in beets helps increase blood flow and reduces the oxygen needed by muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently. Also, beets can increase exercise performance and stamina by allowing muscles to perform the same amount of work with less oxygen.
Beets contain betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used in other forms to treat depression. It also contains trytophan (also found in chocolate), which contributes to a sense of well being.
Since Roman times, beets have been viewed as an aphrodisiac. It contains high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.
Beets are rich in potassium, which is one of the main minerals responsible for muscle contraction, including the contraction of the heart. A diet rich in beets and other potassium-rich foods can help decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and stoke.
Beets contain the mineral silica, which helps the body to utilize calcium, so it’s important for musculo-skeletal health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
A lot of nutritionists use beets and beet juice to test levels of stomach acid. If you consume beets and your urine turns pink, you have low stomach acid (which is typically a good thing!). If your urine is still clear, it means that you have high levels of stomach acid.
In many cultures the belief persists that if a man and a woman eat from the same beet, then they will fall in love.
If you boil beets in water and then massage the cooled down water into your scalp each night, it is said to be an effective cure for dandruff.
In 1975, during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, cosmonauts from the USSR’s Soyuz 19 welcomed the Apollo 18 astronauts by preparing a banquet of borscht (beet soup) in zero gravity.
Around 800 BC, an Assyrian text describes beets growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Since the 16th century, beet juice has been used as a natural red dye. In 19th century England the Victorians used beets to dye their hair.
Beets can be made into a wine that tastes similar to port.
In Australia, a true Oz-style burger must have a slice or two of beets. Even McDonalds and Burger King have had to toe the line and include it in their menus!
Beets are a traditional food eaten at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.