Beetroot has been hailed as a new superfood. From heart health to digestion, we look at the evidence for the different health benefits.
Medically reviewed by Dr Louise Wiseman MBBS, BSc (Hons), DRCOG, MRCGP and words by Salma Khan
Beetroot has been hailed as a new superfood. As well as containing beneficial antioxidants, which may help to mop up damaging free radicals in the blood, this root vegetable is rich in nutrients such as iron, silica, potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B9 (otherwise known as folate) and vitamin C.
Many studies suggest that beetroot may help lower blood pressure and increase stamina, and aid healthy digestion.
Read on for some more benefits of the humble beetroot.
Beetroot for heart health
Beetroot is thought to be beneficial to circulatory health.
High blood pressure (hypertension) and high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol increase the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Many studies suggest that the vegetable may help to lower blood pressure and possibly ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Researchers suggest that the scientific basis behind beetroot’s ability to lower blood pressure is due to its high nitrate content.
The nitrates in this root vegetable are thought to produce a gas known as nitric oxide in the blood – this results in the widening of blood vessels and arteries.
A 2014 study published in the journal Hypertension showed that people with hypertension showed a significant decrease in blood pressure on a four week regime of 250ml of beetroot juice compared to a placebo control group.
A small study in the UK in 2010 showed some reduction in blood pressure with beetroot juice. This was a very small study and the participants were healthy and had normal blood pressure to start with, so the NHS website advises interpreting the results cautiously and that the effects may not be the same in everyone as shown in the study.
This certainly provides reason for beetroot and its effects on blood pressure to be studied further but we need more studies on different populations other than the young and fit with normal blood pressure.
Beetroot consumption is also thought to potentially raise levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol which should help to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body could result in damage to artery walls, leading to strokes and heart attacks. more studies are needed.
Beetroot for digestion
Beetroots are rich in betaine. This agent is thought to be beneficial for good digestive health.
Betaine has been reported to help improve digestion by supporting stomach acid levels, which could help reduce bloating, prevent food intolerances, and control yeast and bacterial growth.
Supporting stomach acid by consuming foods rich in betaine should also help to improve digestion of food and consequently absorption of nutrients.
Beetroot for sports nutrition
A study published in the ‘American Journal of Physiology’ suggested that beetroot juice may increase endurance during aerobic exercise, so may be helpful to improve the stamina of athletes during workouts.
It has been reported that beetroot consumption may reduce the level of fatigue that an individual might feel after a long work-out as they use less oxygen as they exercise.
This study was carried out on young and fit athletes.
Beetroot for skin and hair
Researchers suggest that beetroot may, in theory, help to prevent premature ageing as part of a balanced diet due to its high antioxidant content – antioxidants help prevent cell and DNA damage.
The vegetable consists of powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanidins that are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Anthocyanidins may also help protect and support collagen production.
Interestingly beetroot consumption may enhance skin and hair health due to its silica content. Scientists suggest that silica may improve skin texture and quality, as well as enhance the quality of hair. So give beetroots a go, and don’t be afraid to experiment with this wonderful root vegetable.
It may be consumed cooked or raw in salads, stews, soups, blended into a smoothie, as a juice and even in cakes. Here are some tasty yet simple beetroot recipes:
Easy beetroot recipes
Easy beetroot salad
- Grate equal quantities of raw or boiled beetroot, cucumber and carrots.
- Mix and enjoy with fish or chicken and baby new potatoes.
Spicy beetroot lamb
- Lightly fry a chopped onion, then add boneless pieces of lamb and cook till tender.
- Once the lamb is cooked add the following: one cup of chopped tomatoes, one fresh tomato, two green chillies, one teaspoon salt, half teaspoon crushed red chillies, half teaspoon turmeric powder, one teaspoon garlic paste and one teaspoon ginger paste.
- Next add five to six grated boiled beetroots.
- Cook for a further 10 minutes, then enjoy with boiled rice and salad.
Roasted beetroot delight
- Roast beetroots in the oven with various other vegetables such as sweet potatoes, aubergine, carrots and fennel.
- Flavour with sea salt, coarse black pepper and oregano.
- Serve with meat of your choice, eg roasted chicken, lamb or fish.