There is global tendency towards a healthy diet including “functional foods”: food items that help in promoting good health via good diet. Red beetroot is one of the veggies that have many properties which make for a functional food. Beets, known as “nature’s candy”, are versatile, earthy and nutritious edible root vegetables commonly known as “chukandar”. Red beetroot (beet, garden beet, table beet) is a traditional, popular vegetable used in many parts of the world. It is the red root vegetable that is most typically associated with the word “beet”.
Nowadays, beetroot is regularly consumed as part of the normal diet, either fresh or processed, and commonly used in manufacturing as a food colouring agent known as E162. Not only the roots but the greens of the vegetable are edible and consumed. Beet greens are packed with high amounts of vitamins and minerals, iron, protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc and fibre, and at the same time being extremely low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Beet greens boost immunity, lower blood pressure, improve mental health, strengthen bones, and much more.
Historically, beet greens were used for their amazing healing properties. Beet greens contain Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene) and Leutin, that are vital for improving eye health. One cup of beet greens equals more than 100% of our daily required value of Vitamin A and K. Vitamin K is also integral to building strong bones. Beet greens contain more iron than spinach, hence help in prevention and treatment of anaemia. It’s also a good source of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D, which make our teeth and bones strong and healthy.
The beetroot is the taproot part of a beet plant and a rich source of phytochemicals and bioactive compounds, known for benefits in improvement of several clinical conditions. Beetroot is among one of the ten plants with the highest antioxidant activity. It is gaining popularity as a superfood. Traditionally it has been used to treat constipation, gut, joint pain, dandruff and as a colouring agent. Beetroots, commonly known as beets, are a vibrant and versatile type of vegetable. They’re known for their earthy flavour and aroma. There are numerous types of beetroot, many of which are distinguished by their colour — yellow, white, pink, or dark purple. Packed with essential nutrients, beetroots are a great source of fibre, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, copper, potassium, iron, and vitamin C and sugar in form of sucrose (6.8 gms). Beetroot juices have been associated with numerous health benefits, such as improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increased exercise performance.
As beets are rich in fibre, they promote digestive health, prevent conditions like constipation, IBS and diverticulitis. Raw beet root contains vitamin A—20 I.U., thiamine—0.02 mg, riboflavin—0.05 mg, niacin—0.4 mg, vitamin C—10 mg, calcium—27 mg, iron—1.0 mg, phosphorus—43 mg, total fiber 87.4 g, fat—1 g, carbohydrates—9.6 g, protein—1.6 g, calories—42 kcal per 100 g. 100 g of this plant contains: alkaloids (128.8 mg), steroids (16.4 mg), glycosides (0.652 mg), flavonoids (6.15 mg), terpenoids (115.5 mg), saponins (3.789 mg), beta-carotene (11.64 mg), vitamins A (2.6 mcg), K (3.2 mcg), C (4.36 mg), E (0.18 mg), B3 (0.03 mg), B6 (90 mg), B2 (0.034 mg), pantothenic acid (0.151 mg), potassium (20 mg), iron (0.76 mg). The chemical adipic acid rarely occurs in nature, but occurs naturally in beetroot.
There are many other plant compounds that aid good health; these are betanin, inorganic nitrate and vulgaxanthin. Betanin is also known as beetroot red and is the main pigment in beetroot which makes it red. Betalains possess a number of anti-inflammatory properties, so help to reduce inflammation caused by obesity, heart diseases, liver problems, etc. Inorganic nitrate is mostly available in green leafy vegetables, but beetroots are rich in this substance; it helps in lowering blood pressure by relaxing the artery walls and reduce risk of many such diseases. Nitrates also aid in improving cognitive and brain function as dilation of blood vessels provide increased blood flow to brain. Thirdly, vulgaxanthin is a yellowish or orange pigment found in beetroot and has proven to be helpful in improving health.
Beetroot intake helps in improvement of stamina by boosting oxygen use (up to 20%) and overall performance and leads to better exercise like running, cycling, etc. Raw or cooked beetroot provide good amount of carbohydrates (8–10%); simple sugars such as glucose and fructose form 70% and 80% of the carbohydrates in raw and cooked beetroots, respectively. Beetroots are also a source of fructans — short-chain carbohydrates classified as FODMAPs. Some people cannot digest FODMAPs, causing unpleasant digestive symptoms. Beetroots have a glycemic index (GI) score of 61, which is considered medium. On the other hand, the glycaemic load of beetroots is 5 (very low). This means that beetroots should not have a major effect on blood sugar levels because the total carb amount in each serving is low.
Beetroots are high in fibre, providing about 2–3 grams in each 3/4-cup (100-gram) raw serving. There are huge numbers of red beetroot-based dietary supplements and functional food available in the market, like juice and juice mixtures, gels, fermented and fractionated juice, dried powder, beetroot pickle and beetroot enriched bread. Beetroot can be eaten raw, used for juice extraction, baked or boiled. Red beets are delicious roasted, pickled, eaten in salads, or made into soup. It’s also used as a natural colouring agent in many dishes. The pomace of beetroot also contains phenolics (45.68 mg) and flavonoids with both betanin and vulgaxanthin, making it useful for extrusion.
Since adversities go hand in hand with advantages, so is the case with beetroot too. The adverse effects of beetroots are mostly for individuals prone to kidney stones. Consumption of beetroot may also cause urine to become pinkish or reddish, which is harmless but often confused for blood. The red colour compound betanin is not broken down in the body, and in higher concentrations may temporarily cause urine (beeturia) or stools to assume a reddish colour. Beet greens have high levels of oxalates, which lead to kidney stone formation. Oxalates also interfere in absorption of micronutrients. Being rich in FODMAP, beets cause unpleasant digestive upset in sensitive individuals, such as IBS. Beetroots are usually boiled and eaten as a salad by adding oil and vinegar, used as pickle, cooked along with mixed veggie, added in jams, ice-creams, sweets, breakfast cereals. Beetroots is dried, powdered and used as a colouring agent in day to day recipes at home in form of beetroot powder. It is a naturally occurring colouring agent. It can be stored in zip-lock bags under refrigerated conditions.
—The writers are Associate Professors at Division of FST, SKUAST-K, Shalimar. [email protected]