Can’t Beet It!

As you might imagine there are several super foods vying for the spot light this last week of National Nutrition Month. The list of potential super foods range from the exotic Shichimu Togarashi , a Japanese spice blend, to avocado oil and cinnamon to the familiar sesame seed. So you might be surprised to read that I will end the month with the humble beet.

My family never ate beets growing up so I am a recent convert to this delicious and versatile vegetable.  Besides enjoying the wonderful mix of a bleu cheese and beet salad and succulent roasted beets, I have discovered the wonders of beet root juice. Any one who knows me knows I am not a huge fan of juicing  but I do try to keep an open mind. It may have been the early morning run on the beach or the lungs full of clean air but this past vacation I became intrigued by the “Active Juice” offered at the breakfast buffet. Freshly squeezed green apple and ginger were expertly mixed with beet root juice, pretty darn good. So good that when I had the simpler green apple and ginger juice mix, it just didn’t measure up.

So what is it about beets that have put them on the trendy nutritional map? Fortunately in the case of beets much of the research has been done on humans. And while beets are a good source of anthrocyanins ( the same health promoting  anti-oxidants found in blueberries) most of the research has been focused on nitrates.

The natural occurring nitrates in beets are converted to nitric oxide by your mouth bacteria. It is this nitric oxide that researchers feel can significantly improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure.  Research in the elderly and athletes produced measurable benefits using beet juice.

In a 2010 study from Wake Forest University  “MRI scans showed that after eating a high-nitrate diet, the older adults had increased blood flow to the white matter of the frontal lobes, which are the areas of the brain most commonly associated with the degeneration that leads to dementia and other cognitive conditions.”*

Further study in the United Kingdom in 2011 found  a remarkably difference from beets in the performance of elite cyclists.

“Research by the University of Exeter, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, has shown drinking the juice enables competitive-level cyclists to cut down the time it takes to ride a given distance. This is the first study which has shown that beetroot juice can be effective in a simulated competition environment.”**

You might not be a highly trained athlete or  an old person (yet) but you are living in one of the most stressful cities in the world and that alone makes adding beets to your diet a healthy move. Besides the magic nitrates in beets, they are a rich source of folate ( the B vitamin that is super important for women of child bearing age) and potassium  as well as a good source fiber, which benefits everyone.

Are beets a “super food” ? You bet they are!

You can make beet juice without a juicer if you have a strong blender. Beet juice can be bitter so most drinks are juice blends.    Try my favorite and add one green apples and several slices of fresh ginger to the mix.                                                                    

Tools: Blender, paring knife, vegetable peeler and 1/4 cup of water.                                                                                                                 Instructions: Clean and peel 1-3 beets. Chop the beets, the finer you chop them the easier it is on the blender, same for the green apple and ginger. Add all to the blender with about 1/4 cup ( 120 ml) of water.  Blend well. If the mixture is too thick, add water until yo get your desired consistency. Strain the juice through cheesecloth to remove any large pieces.                                                                                     

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!

*The findings are published online in Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Nitric Oxide Society,  http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20101103/beet-juice-good-for-brain

**www.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_145007_en.html