Vegetables are good for us, we know that. But did you know just how good the humble beetroot is? Registered dietitian Tracy Phelan explains why we should be including it in our diets and shares the recipe for her beetroot smoothie
Beetroot has recently shot to fame in the vegetable department and for good reasoning. This versatile vegetable is delicious raw, cooked or pickled. The colourful leaves can also be cooked and used similar to spinach in dishes. There are so many varieties of beets with yellow and red being the most popular.
What are the health benefits?
Aside from the taste, consuming beetroot has multiple benefits. Nitrate is found in all vegetables, however beetroot is particularly abundant in dietary nitrate. Consuming dietary nitrate lowers blood pressure by causing our blood vessels to dilate and relax.1
Studies also show that consuming beetroot in the form of juice may enhance athletic performance.2-4Beetroot juice reduces oxygen use during physical exercise and increases blood flow to exercising muscles therefore increasing exercise tolerance.2-3 Many studies have shown that athletes who consume beetroot juice before athletic events can have faster finishing times than those who don’t.3-5
Fortunately, the research also suggests its not just elite athletes who can benefit from the perceived benefits of beetroot, average gym-goers can too. One study compared performance between two average running groups. The first group consumed 200g of cooked beets 75 minutes before a race and the second group consumed an alternative food. The group that consumed the beetroot portion ran faster and reported less exhaustion than the placebo group.2
Aside from their vibrant colours and dietary nitrate content, beets contain other beneficial plant compounds. Bentanin is the pigment responsible for that rich colour of beets. Bentanin is also a powerful antioxidant which slows the effects of ageing.6 Beetroot has a low glycemic load, high fiber content (3g/100g serving) and low calorie content (40kcals/100g serving).
How to cook with beets
Beetroot and beetroot greens can easily be incorporated into anyone’s diet. Roasting beets in their skin brings out their sweet flavour. After roasting, simply wrap the cooled beet in a cloth and rub gently to remove the skins. Beet greens are delicious when sautéed in garlic and seasonings. Store-bought diced beets or beetroot juice can also be added to smoothies for a quick snack or colourful breakfast. See the below smoothie recipe for some beet-inspiration.
Beet smoothie recipe
- 1 banana
- 1 cup frozen strawberries/raspberries mix
- 250mls milk of choice
- 2 tablespoons diced beetroot (I used frozen)
- 1 tablespoon milled flax seed
- Ice cubes
- Blend all ingredients except seeds
- Stir in flax seeds and enjoy!
Tracy Phelan is a registered dietitian from Cork and is now based in Dublin. Tracy works with a wide range of corporates and also see patients in Cork and Dublin. Tracy will be joining the panel discussion at the WellFest Summer Tour in Cork with KBC on 11 August.
- Hord, NG, Tang Y, Bryan NS. (2009) Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ;90(1):1-10.
- Murphy, M., Eliot, K., Heuertz, RM. and Weiss, E., (2012) Whole beet consumption acutely improves running performance. Journal Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(4):548-52.
- Wylie et al, (2013). Dietary nitrate supplementation improves team sport-specific intense intermittent exercise performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology 113(7):1673-1684.
- Cermak, NM., Gibala, MJ. and Van Loon, LJ. (2012) Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. International Journal of Sports nutrition and exercise Metabolism 22(1):64-71.
- Jones, AM., (2014) Dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise performance. Sports Medicine, 44(35-45).
- Esatbeyoglu, T., Wagner, AE., Schini-Kerth, VB. and Rimbach, G., (2015) Betanin–a food colorant with biological activity. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 59(1):36-47