It is said to be one of the plants that grew in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and that it was served to the Elizabethans in delicious tarts and stews and stuffed into pastries by medieval cooks. The root vegetable called beet has a habit of triggering a passionate response due to its delightful colors and saccharine flavor. It’s a kitchen mainstay in the past and still is in the present. But beets are not only sought after for its importance in gastronomy; they are also very nutritious.
Beet is the shared name of the member of the Beta vulgaris species. Typically, it refers to the fleshy, edible taproot that is prized as a vegetable. Various cultivars of this species have been created over the years, and they are all of them are categorized into four major cultivar groups; the sugar beet, garden beet, mangel-wurzel and the Swiss chard.
Beet is herbaceous biennial (in rare occasions, can be perennial) with leafy stems shooting up to 1-2 m high. Its heart-shaped leaves can grow 5 to 20 cm long (some cultivars have larger leaves). The flowers are only 3 to 5 mm in diameter with green or reddish petals that grow in dense spikes. The fruit of a beet is a bunch of nutlets. The taproot of a beet is usually garnet red, but color may vary from deep red to white.
Preliminary research suggests that drinking beet juice lower blood pressure, therefore, it may hinder with the development of cardiovascular diseases. This effect is believed to have derived from the naturally-occurring chemicals in beets called nitrates. These are changed into nitric oxide, a molecule that relaxes and dilates the blood vessels which results to sound blood flow and stable blood pressure.
Beets contain betaine, neutral chemical compound that may serve as an organic osmolyte. It helps protect the cells from osmotic stress, henceforth, preventing dehydration. The presence of betaine in the bloodstream is also linked to lower quantities of a number of inflammatory markers such as the C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.
The potent phytonutrients contained in beets give them their reddish color. These are alleged effective against cancer. Studies have revealed that beetroot extract decreased tumor formations in different animal subjects.
Beets are a great source of immune-enhancing vitamin C. This vitamin is also needed for synthesis of collagen, a structural protein that can be found in various parts of the body. Individuals who are recuperating from wounds and/or infectious diseases and pregnant and lactating women are advised to get their daily dose of vitamin C from a natural source like beetroot.
Betalin pigments found in beets facilitate Phase 2 of the body’s detoxification process. This process removes the toxic substances in the body to prevent cellular destruction.