The humble beet plant Beta vulgaris has a global backstory going back to its evolution from the wild seabeet, a native of coastal Asia and Europe thought to have its origins in prehistoric North Africa. Greek mythology attributes beetroot juice with beautifying and aphrodisiac qualities, calling it a love potion. Hippocrates advocated using beet leaves to bind wounds and later when the Roman Empire dominated Europe the beet plant was first cultivated as a medicinal food. Rome valued beetroot and its leaves not only as an aphrodisiac, but also for relieving constipation, dressing wounds, reducing fever, treating diseases of the blood and healing skin problems.
Beetroot spread throughout Europe, and right through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance illnesses related to digestion and blood continued to be treated with this amazing detoxifying and fortifying plant. In the Ukraine and other Eastern European countries borscht is a traditional beetroot soup eaten for its strengthening and restorative properties. Here in New Zealand beetroot is a defining ingredient of the true Kiwi hamburger, and beetroot chutney is a popular preserve. This versatile and tasty deep red vegetable can be eaten raw, juiced, cooked or preserved and deserves wide acclaim as one of our most nutritious and health enhancing medicinal foods. Beetroot provides good nutrition for a healthy start in life, with lots of folate and B6 for preconception and pregnancy.
A high nutritional content and traditional uses verified by research studies gives beetroot juice a key role in naturopathic prevention and treatment protocols for:
- Age-related brain conditions
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Liver conditions
- Cataracts and macular degeneration
Be a Hearty Liver of Life with Beetroot!
According to the Doctrine of Signatures (a guiding principle of herbal medicine) beetroot’s shape, rich red colour and abundant juice gives us an indication of its powerful role as a tonic for the heart and blood. A UK study in 2010 found clear evidence of a reduction in high blood pressure with daily consumption of beetroot. In several USA studies beetroot increased brain circulation and oxygenation, indicating its value for maintaining healthy brain function as we age, and in preventing or slowing the progress of several age-related conditions.
A multifaceted mechanism of action indicates beetroot’s key role in heart disease prevention. Alongside its blood tonic properties, it is rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids, vital nutrients for preventing capillary fragility. Evidence from the University of Maryland shows that its high levels of the amino acid betaine supports reduction of circulating homocysteine levels, another big risk factor for cardiovascular damage.
Beetroot is abundant in organic nitrate, which the body converts to nitric acid. This potent vasodilator and hypotensive nutrient has been indicated in recent research to help reduce the body’s oxygen requirement during exercise and improve stamina and performance.
Betaine is also an important nutrient in liver function and preventing non-alcoholic fatty liver (predominant in obese or diabetic people). Excess fat accumulation in the tissues and poor liver function are closely related to heart disease.
A summary of beetroot nutrient activity related to cardiovascular health:
- Improves blood flow to the brain
- Reduces blood pressure
- Stabilises blood sugar
- Stabilises cholesterol
- Lowers homocysteine levels
- Supports capillary strength and structure
- Supports healthy liver function
- Supports healthy weight management
- Supports athletic performance
Beets are high in beta carotene, the pro-vitamin A carotenoid that helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Research indicates beta carotene can actually inhibit progress of age-related macular degeneration at an advanced stage.
No wonder US eco-agriculturalist and author Charles Walters (1926-2009) called the red beet “the most powerful medicine in the pantry”. He also said “the single food most capable of repairing DNA is the red beet.” Beetroot contains the ingredients needed to support the continual process of cell division and DNA repair in the body. It has rich stores of the mineral boron, important for human sex hormone production.
The long list of beetroot’s plentiful nutrients with proven therapeutic effects includes:
- Minerals – high levels of manganese and potassium, plus magnesium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, silica, iron, iodine, copper and boron
- Vitamins – very high in natural folate and vitamin C, plus bioflavonoids, B1, B2, B3, B6, and beta carotene (provitamin A)
- Betalains – the betacyanin pigments that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support and beetroot’s deep rich red colour
- Betanin – (most researched betalain) – anti-cancer action
- Amino acids – especially Betaine: increases stomach HCl , protects liver & cardiovascular system
- Naturally occurring nitrates
- Dietary fibre
Beetroot supports liver detoxification, blood purification, glycaemic balance, bowel regularity, balanced cholesterol levels and healthy circulation. Although it has no fat content and a low calorie value, the root of the beet is a concentrated source of slow-release natural sugars. Rating only 64 on the Glycaemic Index (GI) with the very low glycaemic load (GL) of 2.9, beetroot helps stabilise blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for refined sugars.
In fact beet crops have long been the subject of negative political campaigns by sugar cane producers wanting to devalue the beet as a commercial sugar source. Unfortunately genetically modified sugar beet crops are now part of the market in the USA , Europe and Russia. Always look for certified organic beetroot unless you know a safe local grower, to avoid ingesting potentially harmful GMOs.
Beetroot tastes great raw (grated with carrot and a squeeze of lime juice – yum!) or juiced for a refreshing morning drink. Adding organic beetroot juice to your daily smoothie or breakfast detox drink enriches the flavour and gives you a hearty store of energising and restorative nutrients. Enjoy!
By Carolyn Simon, Naturopath
BioBalance Certified Organic Beetroot Powder is 100% dried Beta vulgaris root. This is the familiar common garden beetroot, organically grown and powdered for convenience. It’s a sweet and tasty tonic addition to smoothies, desserts or mixed with water and drunk on its own. Buy it now from our secure on-line shop.
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http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=170762 heart disease & NAFLD liver disease
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/999.html eye diseases
http://www.greenstringfarm.com/healthbenefits_beets.html Charles Walter