How does it feel?
Beetroot has an earthy yet sweet flavour profile. It is one of the foods that gives off an instant feeling of deep nourishment as our body recognises foods that are high in nutrients and that offer healing to our inner landscapes.
What can I use it for?
All parts of this plant have different medicinal uses, both the leaves and the root are attributed with being anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory and can be applied for a number of conditions.
Both beetroot leaves and root are also diuretic, expectorant and carminative, whilst also being specifically hepatoprotective and protective to the cardiovascular system. Beetroot contains high levels of antioxidant compounds and nutrients making it an excellent healing food that supports the health of the entire circulatory system, from the smallest microcapilliaries to heart iteself (3).
With its high levels of carotenoids, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory constituents, beetroot is indicated where there is inflammation in the mucous membranes, such as in the gastrointestinal or urinary systems. Deeply nutritive brightly coloured vegetables such as Beetroot are important where cellular health is involved, reducing oxidation in the cells and supporting in their regeneration.
Other benefits reported by include the inhibition of lipid peroxidation and chemo-preventative effects. Red beet is a significant source of polyphenols, which together with the betalains, show a high antioxidant effect and radical scavenging capacity (1,4,5).
Green leaves and stems are a perfect solution in obesity problems and weight management, as they are typically low in calories. The high level of vitamin A, K and C is important for physiological processes involved in bone health. Green leafy vegetables are a major source of iron and calcium in a healthy diet which are important in preventing chronic diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as they have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity (1, 4, 5). Beetroot leaves are also used to reduce blood pressure.
Into the heart of Beetroot
Beetroots have a broad nutritional profile including a wide range of vitamins, minerals and organic compounds such as betain, carotenoids, iron, folic acid, phosphorous, potassium, anthocyanins and nitrates. It is the betain that is responsible for beetroots’ vibrant red colour.
Beetroot has a specific affinity for the blood, which is indicated in its bright red colouring. Beetroot is naturally protective for our heart and blood vessels. Naturally occurring nitrates in beets, are converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps to relax and dilate the blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. Beetroot is also natural source of potassium which dilates blood vessels and contributes to an overall lowering of blood pressure. Nitric oxide also improves oxygen uptake within the body, making beetroot a favourable food with athletes for improving endurance and stamina during exercise.
In addition to boosting cardiovascular functioning, beetroots are high natural sources of Vitamin A, silica, iron and folic acid. Vitamin A protects against macular degeneration of the eyes and conditions such as cataracts as well as being a valuable antioxidant. Silicahelps the body to utilise calcium, an important component for musculo-skeletal health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Last but not least, iron and folic acid can help support a healthy pregnancy.
Beetroot is a popular vegetable in many parts of the world, usually consumed as a food to gain its medicinal and nutritional properties. It has been used since Roman times to treat various medical conditions, including fever, constipation, digestive illnesses, and blood conditions. In ancient Rome, it was also used as a blood tonic and an aphrodisiac.
Traditionally, beetroot is used in Africa as a supportive treatment of AIDS and other illnesses. Beet leaves also have a long history of use for medicinal purposes; it is alleged that Hippocrates promoted the use of the leaves for treatment of wounds.
What practitioners say
Cardiovascular: Beetroot contains high levels of antioxidant compounds and nutrients making it an excellent healing food that supports the health of the entire circulatory system, from the smallest microcapilliaries to heart itself. Beetroot leaves are also used to reduce blood pressure (1,3).
Cellular health: Beetroot is often recommended by herbalists for those with inflammation in the mucous membranes, mild to moderate cell abnormalities or as a prophylactic (4). Beetroot is powerfully antioxidant, inhibiting lipid peroxidation and eliciting chemo-preventative effects (1). Beetroot can be used in powdered form taken as a daily medicine or used within the diet.
Compounds in beetroot called betalains have been found to inhibit cervical, ovarian and bladder cancer cells in vitro, and can also inhibit the proliferation of cells in human tumours, making beetroot an important food and medicine to incorporate into the diet of anyone suffering with cell abnormalities (4,5).
The two primary constituents in beetroot are betains and anthocyanins. Although they are both responsible for the deep red colouring of the plant, they are also antioxidants. Antioxidants help us to fight free radical damage, and protect against chronic degeneration at a deep cellular level.
Cellular health: Compounds in beetroot called betalains have been found to inhibit cervical, ovarian and bladder cancer cells in vitro, and can also inhibit the proliferation of cells in human tumors, making beetroot an important food and medicine to incorporate into the diet of anyone suffering with cell abnormalities (4,5).
The cancer chemopreventative potential and antitumor effect of beetroot is based on research around betanins and other compounds. The mechanism of action is based on the stability to manage the oxidative stress involved in the origin and aggravation of cancer. Betaine also has an antiproliferative action along with the induction of cell apoptosis (1, 4, 5, 7).
Cardiovascular: Betain specifically supports Phase 2 detoxification processes in the liver. This process breaks down toxins that are bound to other molecules enabling them to be efficiently excreted from your body. So, betain is valuable for supporting detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver. Betaine also lowers the levels of homocysteine in the body which can affect blood vessel structure. Increased levels of betaine can also, therefore, protect the health of our heart and blood vessels preventing the onset of conditions such as atherosclerosis.
Obesity: An in vitro study investigated the effects of beetroot juice and chips on oxidative metabolism and apoptosis in neutrophils from obese individuals. Fifteen obese women (aged 45 ± 9 years, BMI >30 kg/m2) and nine healthy controls (women, aged 29 ± 11 years, BMI = 22.2 ± 1.6 kg/m2) were examined. Beetroot products inhibited neutrophil oxidative metabolism in a concentration-dependent manner. Additionally pro-apoptotic effects of beetroot were observed at a concentration range of 0.1–10% in a 24 h culture of stimulated neutrophils (6).
Did you know?
The generic name Beta derives from the Celtic bett meaning red. Originally, it was the beet greens that were consumed; the sweet red beet root that most people think of as a “beet” today wasn’t cultivated until the era of ancient Rome.
The beet plant is a polymorphic biennial flowering in the second year of growth and reaches heights up to 2 m tall when in flower. The leaves are at the base of the plant and form a rosette arrangement. The flowers are small and green forming dense, usually branched inflorescences. The ‘Seeds’ are actually fruits that are attached to one another. The roots are characteristically blood red, bulbous and round in shape. It is this part of the plant that is most commonly cultivated.
Some individuals may have a kidney deficiency that prevents them from properly metabolising betain. This can cause beeturia, or the production of red urine. Although not an immediate contraindication, it may place strain on individuals who already have a kidney deficiency.
Some individuals may have a kidney deficiency that prevents them from properly metabolising betain. This can cause beeturia, or the production of red urine. Although not an immediate contraindication, it may place strain on individuals who already have a kidney deficiency. These pigments in beetroot produce red or pink urine (called beeturia) in about 10%-14% of people.
- Fresh root
- Dried powdered root
Fresh: Can be eaten regularly as part of a balanced diet, or in a juice form (however, this will not contain the natural fibres). The leaves of the beetroot plant are also nutritionally valuable.
Dried: 1-2 teaspoons of dried beetroot powder daily.
Plant parts used
- B-vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12)
- Vitamins C, A, E, K
- Folate minerals
- Inorganic nitrate
- Nutritionally; Carbohydrates, starch, soluble fibers, proteins, being a product with moderate caloric value
- Alkaloids (calystegine B1, calystegine B2, calystegine C1, calystegine B3, ipomine) (1)
In the leaves:
- Amini Acids
- Glutamic acid
- Tyrosine (1)
- Rasa (taste) Sweet
- Guna (quality) Energising
- Dosha effect: PKV+
- Dhatu (tissue) Blood, heart, plasma, muscle
- Srotas (channels) Cardiovascular, liver
The beet family of plants, grow naturally along coastlines in North Africa, Asia, and Europe.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status Beetroot is classed as Least Concern. The taxon is however nationally threatened and in decline in some countries; therefore, national level monitoring is recommended.
As with all fruits and vegetables that are widely available in supermarkets, it is recommended that locally grown organic plants are sourced to allow for the highest nutrient density.
Herbal Medicines are often extremely safe to take, however it is important to supply herbal medicines from a reputed supplier. Sometimes herbs bought from unreputable sources are contaminated, adulterated or substituted with incorrect plant matter.
Some important markers for quality to look for would be to look for certified organic labelling, ensuring that the correct scientific / botanical name is used. A supplier should also be able to tell you where the herbs have come from. There is more space for contamination and adulteration where supply chain is unknown.
How to grow
Beetroot are very easy to grow, taking up little space. Sow seeds little and often for continuous cropping, harvesting when the roots are young, tender and the size of a golf ball. If you grow varieties for winter storage, it’s possible to have beetroot almost all year round.
- Beetroot grows best in fertile, well-drained soil. Prior to sowing, dig in a bucketful of well-rotted garden
- Sow three seeds at 10cm (4in) spacings, 2.5cm (1in) deep, in rows 30cm (1ft) apart in small batches at fortnightly intervals. Sowing may begin from March or April going through to July for a succession of tender, tasty roots.
- Choose bolt-resistant varieties for early sowing under cloches or fleece in late February or early March. From late March onwards protection will not be required.
- When the seedlings are about 2.5cm (1in) high, thin out to leave one every 10cm (4in). During dry spells, water every 10–14 days. If plants are not growing strongly, apply organic, high nitrogen fertilizer.
- Liliana, C. and Oana-Viorela, N. (2020). Red Beetroot: Composition and Health Effects – A Review. Journal of Nutritional Medicine and Diet Care, 5(2). doi:10.23937/2572-3278.1510043.
- Sun-Pan B, Kuo JM, Wu CW (2006) Flavor Compounds in Foods. In: Zdzislaw E Sikorski, Chemical and Functional properties of food components. (3rd edn), CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.
- Kayin N, Atalay D, Akcay TT, Erge HS (2019) Color stability and change in bioactive compounds of red beet juice concentrate stored at different temperatures. Journal of Food Science and Technology 1-10.
- Neha P, Jain SK, Jain NK, Jain HK, Mittal HK (2018) Chemical and functional properties of Beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) for product development: A review. International Journal of Chemical Studies 6: 3190-3194.
- Edziri H, Jaziri R, Hadda O, Anthonissen R, Aouni, M, et al. (2019) Phytochemical analysis, antioxidant, anticoagulant and in vitro toxicity and genotoxicity testing of methanolic and juice extracts of Beta vulgaris L. South African Journal of Botany.
- Zielinska-Przyjemska M, Olejnik A, Dobrowolska-Zachwieja A, Grajek W (2009) in vitro effects of beetroot juice and chips on oxidative metabolism and apoptosis in neutrophils from obese individuals. Phytotherapy Research 23: 49-55.
- Lechner JF, Stoner GD (2019) Red Beetroot and Betalains as cancer chemopreventative agents. Review Molecules 24: 1602.