I just love this bright reddish-pink root! It's beautiful. The humble beetroot certainly doesn't get the fame and praise that it deserves. It is so AMAZING for our health and healing that it should be an MS diet staple. I have come to the conclusion that beetroot is as essential as supplements such as vitamin D and flaxseed oil and I eat it religiously - every day. It's cheap, easily obtainable and delicious. I have been juicing it and adding the juice to my morning smoothie for a few months now and I really feel the boost it gives me. I like to say that I'm 'supercharged' after my beetroot smoothie because I certainly feel that way. I feel like I have been spring-boarded into my day with a go-go-go mentality!
In this post, I'd like to focus on some of the outstanding benefits of beetroot and explore some ways of using it.
In Praise of Beets
There are many phenomenal benefits of eating this vegetable. It contains some truly miracle working compounds that will definitely contribute to your healing. I've tried to summarise these far reaching benefits into five main categories.
1. Reduces Inflammation
Well now, this is probably the most important benefit for those with MS. We should be constantly trying too find ways to lower the inflammation levels in our body. Our symptoms are caused by inflammation and luckily there are certain foods - namely beetroot - that can really help to improve them. How does beetroot reduce inflammation? Beets are full of phytonutrients which should be dubbed 'the little miracle workers'. In beets, the phytonutrients are specifically called betalaines. These are also the pigments that give beets their rich colours. Betalaines are nutrients that help protect cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. They calm areas of inflammation and help them return to normal as quickly as possible.
2. Nitrates for Healthy Blood Pressure
Beets are a fantastic source of nitrates which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitrates are naturally occurring salts in soil which are easily absorbed because beetroot is a root. Nitric oxide helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels - improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points. Ok, so why are we spending hundreds on blood pressure lowering meds when a juicer and a bunch of beetroot will do?
3. Provides Strength & Stamina
The nitrates in beetroot will also help you to exercise more effectively and for longer. An Exeter study has shown that people who drank beet juice, before starting a workout, were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. A second Exeter study in 2011 found that cyclists could shave seconds off their time by doing the same. Professor Andy Jones, from the sport and health sciences department at Exeter, explains that it is the nitric oxide, from nitrates in beets, which widens blood vessels, increases blood flow and reduces the oxygen needed by muscles thus enabling them to work more efficiently. It seems like a glass of fresh beetroot juice is a must before exercising if you want to feel at your best. I challenge you to give it a go!
4. Full of Antioxidants
Beets contain a unique mix of antioxidants that is unlike any other antioxidant rich vegetable. They contain a good amount of vitamin C, manganese and beta-carotene (Vitamin A). This combo of antioxidants actually seems to have promising benefits for overall nerve tissue health. Studies in this area are still in their infancy but beets may may actually contain little soldiers dedicated to the protection of our nerves. This could be very good news for those with MS. However, we don't need to wait for the results of this study. Let's do our own daily research by actually juicing and eating them and then noting the results.
5. Promotes Healthy Digestion
Beetroots can also really help to keep your gut healthy. Remember that a healthy, intact gut is essential for recovery from MS. Digestion is improved because of Betaine - an all important phytonutrient. Betaine has been reported to help improve digestion by increasing stomach acid levels, which could help reduce bloating, prevent food intolerances, and control yeast and bacterial growth. So, it also seems to have a protective effect on the gut - helping it to heal and reducing leaky gut syndrome. Keeping digestion healthy is incredibly important for preventing MS symptoms and beets can help with this!
Ideas for Eating Beets
Juicing is an effective way to receive a quick shot of the goodness contained in beetroot. In this form, the body can absorb the nutrients quickly and easily. Your body gets a potent dose which it responds to very quickly. Drinking pure beetroot juice is very useful if you are about to exercise as your body will receive the energy without your stomach having to digest anything which can slow you down. I juice one beetroot every morning and add it to my smoothie. The pigment is so intense that it turns the whole smoothie into a beautiful pink colour. It doesn't matter what else I add (spinach, carrot juice, cacao) the smoothie stays the same colour. This is great if you want to disguise green vegetables in your child's smoothie. Somehow berry red is a far more attractive colour than browny green! Check out my Beet Bomb recipe!
Peel the skin off your beets using a carrot peeler and then simply grate them into your salad or stir fry. Be warned that it may turn the whole dish pink!
This is also a great way to add beetroot to your dishes. Again, peel off the skin and then you can actually use the same peeler to shave very thin slices off the beetroot. This is lovely and crunchy when it's raw but if you find this difficult to stomach, you can even bake the whole beetroot for 30-40 minutes. Bake it in it's skin and then peel it off by hand once it's cooked. When baked the beetroot slices actually resemble carpaccio. Absolutely delicious in a green salad!
This is the healthiest way to cook beets and will ensure maximum nutrient content is retained. Simply peel the beetroot and then dice into chunks of your desired shape and size. Steam for around 15 minutes. It's lovely when accompanied by some steamed broccoli and baked salmon - topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. This is the epitome of a clean, nutritious and delightfully tasty meal!
The Forgotten Greens
The green leafy tops of the beets are actually among the healthiest parts of the plant. They contain a host of essential nutrients such as:
protein, phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, beet greens also supply significant amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. They also have more iron than spinach.
Beet greens have also been found to strengthen your immune system by stimulating the production of antibodies and white blood cells. This is a good thing for people with MS! Some people are of the opinion that it is better not to have such a strong immune system as then it might attack more frequently. This is completely inaccurate. We want to strengthen our immune system so that it works as it should. A healthy immune system is less likely to go haywire and start attacking healthy tissue.
If you've never tried beet greens before, don't let them intimidate you. They can be added raw to vegetable juice or sautéed lightly right along with other greens like spinach and Swiss chard.
Summing it Up
Beetroot is a fascinating vegetable. In my opinion, it is completely undervalued and under utilised. Yet, it can really give us that boost that we need to be more effective in our daily lives. I would recommend eating one beetroot every day, whether it's juiced, added to a salad or steamed. Try and find organic beets as they are susceptible to the use of nasty pesticides. If you can't find any (my grocery store often doesn't have them available), then just make sure you buy a good, natural vegetable spray which should dissolve any nasties within a few minutes. I use Veggi Wash (bought from my local health shop) which is a completely natural and removes farm chemicals, waxes, surface grime and insects. I challenge you to try a glass of beetroot juice before a workout and see if you feel any different during your workout. Hopefully you'll feel supercharged and filled with boundless energy!
As always, I'm looking forward to hearing your comments and feedback!