Beetroot has become quite popular in the last couple of years with many food companies, smoothie bars and cafes jumping on the band-wagon to create products containing this root vegetable.
But why is this? And what is so special about this earthy vegetable?
The beetroot belongs to the same vegetable family as the spinach. What many people do not know is that you can actually eat both the roots and leaves (1). Most people tend to discard the leaves, which is a shame, as they like the root are packed full of nutrients, including: vitamins A, C, and also calcium and iron. Packed within the root you can get a good source of: folic acid, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin B6. In addition beetroot juice is a naturally rich source of inorganic nitrate (2).
Inorganic nitrate is important to human life and modulates many of the processes that are important to exercise performance. These include: helping our cells to communicate to one another and allowing our arteries to relax and widen to give greater blood and oxygen flow to the working muscles.
In a study that looked at taking beetroot juice in different doses 2hrs before a 2,000-m rowing performance test, found that it may improve performance in highly trained athletes (3). Another study that looked at supplementing beetroot in cyclists on an altitude ride, also concluded that it may be a practical and effective aid in improving exercise (4).
So whilst it has shown to have positive effects in endurance sport, another good aspect to beetroot is, it has shown to have many other health benefits for people with: Hypertension, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Along side this some of its rich compounds have shown to provide health benefits to people with chronic inflammatory disorders/diseases (5).
The reason for this is, beetroot is one of the few vegetables that contains a compound called betacyanin. This compound gives the beetroot its rich colour and has shown to have high levels of both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This is what brought this vegetable a lot of attention. Most chronic conditions are associated with high levels of something called oxidative stress. Beetroot is now being studied in relation to this oxidative stress to see whether its antioxidant capacities in certain doses can help protect our cells from damage and therefore slow the processes of degeneration.
So when you pass beetroot in the supermarket of if you are lucky like us and you know someone that grows it…..don’t leave it sitting there staring at you. Pick it up and enjoy the health benefits of such a great vegetable.
1: Murray & Pizzorno (2007) The encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Time Warner Books. London.
2: Jones A (2014) Dietary Nitrate: The new magic bullet. Accessed: http://www.gssiweb.org/Article/sse-110-dietary-nitrate-the-new-magic-bullet-
3: Hoon et al., (2013) The effect of variable doses of Inorganic Nitrate-rich beetroot juice simulated 2,00m rowing performance in trained athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 9:4 (615-620)
4: Muggeridge et al., (2014) A single dose of beetroot juice enhances cycling performance in simulated altitude. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,
5: Clifford et al., (2015) The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation and health and disease. Nutrients, 7:4 (2801,2822)