Beets. They don’t always get the universal acclaim of “hip” vegetables like kale, but they’re loaded with health benefits. Let me tell you a little bit about why you should eat your beets.
Betalains are a class of red and yellow pigments with numerous beneficial health properties (they can also change the color of your urine). These compounds are named after beets and unless you eat rhubarb or certain cacti, beets will likely be your best source. Betalains are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and have been shown to improve cardiovascular health. One specific type of betalains in beets known as betacyanins have also been examined for their role in cancer treatment, as certain studies have shown they can reduce the growth rate of certain types of tumors. Finally, studies on rats have shown beet betalains are protective against the damaging effects of gamma rays. So, if you’re worried about exposure to gamma radiation (going into space perhaps?), it looks like eating beets is a good idea.
Certain compounds in beets appear to be converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a blood vessel dilator and may explain studies that show beets can lower blood pressure and improve physical endurance.
Betaine (named after sugar beets, the less cool cousin of beets) is a compound that lowers our need for the essential nutrient choline. Eat too little choline and you’re at higher risk of liver disease. Choline can be easily obtained in plant foods, but vegans often eat less (eggs and liver are the best sources). So, we can either eat enough choline or eat choline sparing nutrients like betaine. Beets, whole wheat, and spinach are the best sources of betaine. Betaine additionally helps lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that significantly increases risk of cardiovascular disease and weakens bone collagen. So avoiding high levels might prevent heart attack and bone fracture.
Beets are also a very good source of folate, or vitamin B-9, a nutrient needed for DNA synthesis and repair. In case you didn’t know, DNA is really goddamn important to health, and adequate folate intake can prevent everything from depression to anemia. Like betaine, folate spares choline and lowers homocysteine, which can additionally decrease the possibility of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Folate is found in liver, leafy greens, beans, and beets.
In summary, beets are not nutritionally bereft; they’re bursting with betalains, betacyanins, betaine, and B9. They’ll benefit your brain, your body, and your blood. And thats just the beginning. Eat some beets and enjoy better health.