Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday - Beets

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Beets are on the brain. Usually beets can be found year-round in the grocery store, and we’re certainly starting to see more at the farmers markets. In Mendocino and Lake Counties they tend to be harvested from May through December.

It is suggested that beets have been around for ages, having an important presence in ancient Greek and Roman cultures. In ancient times the roots were recognized for significant medicinal use, and the leaves were often used to dress wounds. This ancient beetroot was shaped more like a carrot, whereas the beetroot we’re used to today dates back to Europe in the 16th and 17th century. Popularity of the root vegetable grew after a few hundred years, and pickled beets became one of the most widely available vegetables after World War II.

Many countries have a classic dish made with beets and it’s no wonder why. These are truly a superfood of a vegetable. They’re rich in calcium, boron, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, vitamin C, plenty of B vitamins, and loads of phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins, betaine, carotenoids, glycine, lutein and zeaxanthin to name a few.

One of the most touted benefits of beets is that they are high in nitrates, not to be confused with nitrates and nitrites in deli meat. Nitrates found in plants are accompanied by compounds that will prevent the formation of nitrosamines which can cause cancer. The nitrates in beets will become nitric oxide, which contributes to lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Due to these nitrates, oxygen is able to move more easily throughout your body which is extremely advantageous for athletes or at times of exercise. Studies have found that post-workout fatigue and muscle exhaustion is avoidable when drinking beet juice before a workout. The increased oxygen flow is also beneficial for healthy function of the brain.

Historically, the Romans respected beets for their aphrodisiac properties, and it was said that Aphrodite, the Roman goddess of love, had an appetite for beets. It is true that beets are great for sexual health. Not only is increased blood flow due to nitrates beneficial, but the high levels of the mineral boron in beets helps boost sex hormone production which could result in improved fertility and sperm motility as well as increased libido. Boron, along with copper and magnesium from beets also contribute to proper bone development.

Beets are full of antioxidants, especially betanin, that help fight free radicals and thus growth of cancer cells. The potency of betanin is leading to further studies to be done on the use of beetroot extract as chemo preventative treatment. Beets also contain betalain, which is the pigment that results in the deep, bloody red color beets are known for. Betalain is powerfully anti-inflammatory and is even able to interfere with inflammatory signaling. The bounty of antioxidants, copper, vitamins A, C and B-complex, and zinc are all contributing to the anti-inflammation and immunity boosting benefits of beets.

Rich pigmented fruits and vegetables tend to be great for eye health. Vibrant beets contain high levels of beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A that helps prevent cataracts as well as slow down the macular degeneration of the eyes as you age. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are carotenoids that are known for maintaining eye health.

Heart health can be supported by consumption of beets due to their bioactive compound betaine, which helps decrease risk of heart attacks and strokes by lowering levels of homocysteine in the body. Beets are just all around a nourishing tonic for the cardiovascular system. The betaines in beets also come in handy for stimulating the liver and supporting toxin elimination. The water-soluble fiber, pectin, as well as magnesium and potassium complement this by helping the liver flush out toxins.

Beets add fun vibrant color to any dish, whether in a salad or soup, roasted, steamed, pickled, or even juiced. While the deep brown red beet is what may first come to mind, beets can be various colors; white, red, red and white striped, orange, and more. The greens of the beetroot should also be eaten as they also provide heaps of key benefits. Just one cup of beet greens contains 17% of the suggested daily amount of fiber. Plenty of antioxidants, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, vitamin B6 and heaps of vitamin K are present in the greens as well. The iron levels in beet greens are actually higher than those in spinach. This high amount of iron in the leaves and the root – more easily absorbed thanks to the high dose of vitamin C beets offer as well – is helpful in preventing anemia.

While beets offer these incredible benefits, there are a few things to note about potential symptoms. Of all vegetables, beets are known to have the highest content of sugar and might not be the best option if one is trying to decrease sugar consumption. Eating beets can result in pink urine, which is not inherently a health issue, but it could indicate an iron deficiency. Pink or red stools is also a harmless symptom. If overconsumed, the oxalates in beets can cause kidney or bladder stones, increase uric acid which leads to gout, and cause issues with the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients – calcium, for example.

We’re constantly amazed by the wisdom and amazing health benefits in the produce we can grow in our gardens. We hope you’re enjoying learning more about it all!

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  1. Vegetable Facts - History of Beetroot - Historical Uses of Beetroots
  2. Organic facts - 22 Amazing Health Benefits of Beets by Meenakshi Nagdeve
  3. Food Revolution Network - 10 Healthy Reasons to Brighten Your Meals with Beets by Ocean Robbins
  4. Mercola Take Control of Your Health - Power Up With Beets - by Dr. Mercola
  5. PubMed - Cytotoxic effect of the red beetroot extract compared to doxorubicin in the human prostate and brest cancer cell lines by Kapadia GJ, Azuine MA, Rao GS, Iida A, Tokuda H

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