Beetroot has become increasingly popular in recent years – not only is it cheap but its packed with healthy nutrients.
Most of its health benefits, come from high levels of nitrates – more than any other vegetable – that can help lower blood pressure by relaxing the walls of blood vessels.
A new study from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia,discovered a 500ml glass of the juice resulted in a significant drop in blood pressure after six hours. The researchers concluded that if more of us drank beetroot juice, there would be a ten per cent reduction in death from cardiovascular disease.
Other studies have shown that beetroot can improve stamina. A 2010 study found that adults who drank 500ml of the juice a day could exercise 16 per cent longer than those given a drink supplement with nitrates removed. It was discovered that beetroot reduced the oxygen supply required by the muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently.
A 2011 study carried out by Wake Forest University in North Carolina found beetroot may slow the progression of dementia.
It is thought this is because nitric oxide boosts blood flow to the brain. Beetroot’s high folic acid content – approximately 75 per cent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) in just two or three small beetroots – may also play a role as previous research has suggested the nutrient protects against Alzheimer’s.
Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beetroot its rich hue, is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to possess anti-cancer properties.
In 2011, a study carried out by Howard University in Washington, USA, found that betacyanin slowed tumour growth by 12.5 per cent when exposed to prostate and breast cancer cells.
If all that wasn’t enough its high in fibre and good for the liver. The antioxidants in beetroot encourage the production of glutathione, a substance that helps it process toxins.
Beetroot Fun Facts from www.lovebeetroot.co.uk
1. Hangover cure – Beta cyanin, the pigment that gives beetroot its colour, is an antioxidant so the humble beetroot could be the key to beating your hangover! Beta cyanin speeds up detoxification in your liver, which enables your body to turn the alcohol into a less harmful substance that can be excreted quicker than normal. To really kick the hangover why not do it with our Beetroot, Bacon & Cheddar Brunch Bread or Beetroot Pancakes with Eggs, Smoked Bacon & Maple Syrup recipes.
2. Nature’s Viagra – One of earliest known benefits of beetroot is its use as an aphrodisiac during the Roman times. And it wasn’t all folklore as it has been found to contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.
3. Getting in the mood – Beetroot contains betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used in other forms to treat depression. It also contains trytophan which is also found in chocolate and contributes to a sense of well being.
4. Getting in a jam – The red pigment in beetroot is used to colour strawberry jam as well as to improve the colour of tomato paste, sauces and strawberry ice cream.
5. Food of love – The Lupanare, the official brothel of Pompeii, which still stands despite the best efforts of Vesuvius in 79AD, has its walls adorned with pictures of beetroots.
6. Healing power – Hippocrates advocated the use of beet leaves as binding for wounds.
7. Beware garlic – Platina recommended taking beetroot with garlic to nullify the effects of ‘garlic-breath’.
8. The commander’s code – Field Marshal Montgomery, an army commander in WWII, is reputed to have exhorted his troops to ‘take favours in the beetroot fields’, a euphemism for visiting prostitutes
9. Rags to riches – Sir Alan Sugar of Apprentice fame demonstrated early entrepreneurial flair when, while at school, he got a job boiling beetroots for the local greengrocer.
10. Litmus test – You can use beetroot juice to measure acidity. When added to an acidic solution it turns pink, but when it is added to an alkali it turns yellow.
11. Potent like a horseradish – The Oracle at Delphi claimed that beetroot was second only in mystical potency to horseradish, and that it was worth its weight in silver.
12. Everlasting love – In many cultures the belief persists that if a man and a woman eat from the same beetroot then they will fall in love.
13. Head and shoulders – If you boil beetroots in water and then massage the water into your scalp each night, it works as an effective cure for dandruff.
14. Out of this world – In 1975, during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, cosmonauts from the USSR’s Soyuz 19 welcomed the Apollo 18 astronauts by preparing a banquet of borscht (beetroot soup) in zero gravity.
15. Wonders of the world – Around 800 BC, an Assyrian text describes beets growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the wonders of the ancient world.
16. Turning heads – Since the 16th century, beet juice has been used as a natural red dye. The Victorians used beetroot to dye their hair.
17. Bottoms up – Beetroot can be made into a wine that tastes similar to port
18. Vanish – Beetroot is a water-soluble dye, and hot water seems to ‘fix’ the colour stain more, so use lukewarm or cold water to avoid staining. To cure the inevitable ‘pink fingers’, rub with lemon juice and salt before washing with soap and water. On fabrics, try rubbing a slice of raw pear on the stain before washing, or rinse in cold water before washing in a biological powder.
19. Beetroot burgers – In Australia, a true Oz-style burger must have a slice or two of beetroot. Even McDonalds and Burger King have had to toe the line and include it in their menus.
20. A diet for cricketers – The Beetroot Diet involves followers eating beetroot three times a day, alongside other vegetables and whole foods. The Warwickshire County Cricket Club adopted the Beetroot Diet in 2004 and won the county championship that season!
21. Record breakers – The world’s heaviest beetroot weighed 23.4kg (51.48lb) and was grown by Ian Neale from Somerset in 2001.
22. Sugar rush – Beetroot has one of the highest sugar contents of any vegetable. Up to 10 per cent of beetroot is sugar, but it is released slowly into the body rather than the sudden rush that results from eating chocolate.
23. Messy business – The Elizabethans prepared beetroot by wiping it with fresh dung before cooking it.
24. Darling buds of May – Catherine Zeta Jones is reported to have become addicted to beetroot after eating it while pregnant with her two children