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Beets are considered a root vegetable but as a member of the tuber family, it has a few unique and desirable nutritional qualities which set it apart from other root vegetables. There are several different varieties of beets from the common deeply red coloured beet to yellow and white types.
The bright colours of beets are attributed to their unique pigmentation. These pigments contained within beets give them a unique nutritional edge over most other tubers. The consumption of beets, either the tuber or its top greens is an excellent manner to acquire a source of valuable anti-oxidants in your diet.
The consumption of beet root and the greens has been attributed to improved glucose control, decreased blood pressure, and anti-cancer activity. Previous research as indicated that beet root extract can help suppress cancer cell growth in animal models. In a study evaluating the effect of beet root extract on prostate and breast cancer cells, the researchers compared the effects of the beet extract with a chemotherapy drug commonly used in cancer treatment. The results indicated that although the drug was more effective at cancer cell suppression, the beet root extract continued to show favorable results.
Like its close cousin Swiss chard, beet greens are great source of flavonoids which have been previously shown to lower inflammation, cholesterol and keep our blood from clotting excessively.
Beets are also good sources of folic acid, B-Vitamins, Vitamin-A, vitamin-C, carotenoids and the minerals, potassium, calcium, copper and iron.
Beet greens can be used fresh in salads along with any other green, leafy vegetable such as spinach, kale or Swiss chard. Beet roots can be prepared various ways including raw in a salad or cooked in traditional borscht.
Authentic beet borscht is delicious and an extremely nutritious type of food to be eaten in the winter months for its hardy nutritional and medicinal benefits. Beets can also be gently steamed and served with your favorite entree.
In my opinion, the best type of beet to consume is pickled beets. I love these as a summer treat as part of a salad or a side dish.
If you find your urine turning a pink colour after you consume beets, this is not something you should worry about. A small proportion of people are not able to completely break down some of the pigments contained in beets. Although it may surprise you, it’s completely harmless.
Dr. Kevin. J. McLaughlin
Clinical Director: The Vitality Project