The common perception is that beetroot is rich in iron and hence increases hemoglobin especially in the iron deficient group. Some other profess that beets help to purify blood. What’s surprising is that, it actually does none of these. Yes, there is no concrete scientific evidence to show that the deep red colour of beetroot has an impact on increasing iron content or blood volume. Iron content is only 1.1mg per 100gm. In fact, beets contain oxalates which can inhibit absorption of the non heme iron.
However, there are several other reasons to include this humble vegetable into our daily diets.
Beetroot are a great source of beta carotene, folic acid, manganese, potassium and vitamin C. The beta carotene helps to increase absorption of iron from foods. The red colour of beets reflects its high content of antioxidants especially the carotenoids and also alpha -lipoic acid. Like all green vegetables , it is an excellent source of dietary fiber. They are available almost throughout the year and are very much affordable.
More reasons to consume beets:
Recent studies have revealed some more health benefits from eating beets, though the studies need further substantiation.
Lowering blood pressure: Beetroots are rich in nitrates which are compounds that are obtained from soil. These nitrates are converted to nitric oxide which is chemical that helps in relaxing /expanding/dilating the blood vessels. This relaxation leads to reduction in the pressure exerted on the blood vessels causing a drop in blood pressure. Simply put, consumption of beets/ beetroot juice can help lower blood pressure to some extent by virtue of its high nitrate content.
Dementia in elderly: Dementia is a term used to indicate decline in memory and cognitive functions. Some studies have shown that drinking beetroot juice lead to improved oxygenation and blood flow to certain parts of the brain leading to slowing down of the progression of dementia.
Improved exercise performance: Due to its higher nitrate content, beetroot juice may help to enhance exercise tolerance by improving muscle oxygenation.this effect is more pronounced for endurance exercises such as marathons, long-distance swimming, cyclathons, etc but not so much for short-term exercises.
Some diabetics avoid beetroot because it tastes slightly sweet and boiling it further increases its sweetness. We strongly recommend the consumption of beets whether raw, cooked or baked throughout the year by all groups of individuals. This crimson vegetable can confer several health benefits without being heavy on the pocket.
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Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.