Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned the health benefits of the vegetable beet in his Prophetic Medicine. He said that the juice of the black sort of beet (this is most likely referring to the red root vegetable we know as beetroot or garden beet), was beneficial for alopecia (hair loss), freckles, warts and killing lice. He also mentioned that when beet was used as an ointment with honey, it was beneficial for tetter (any of various skin diseases, such as eczema, psoriasis, or herpes, characterized by eruptions and itching), and opened obstructions of the liver and spleen.
Ibn al-Qayyim said that the white sort of beet (probably the root vegetable we know as sugar beet), was beneficial for colic, however it contained little nourishment and in large quantities could cause constipation and bloating.
What Is beet?
Beet (Beta vulgaris) is a plant in the amaranth family. It has many varieties and probably the most well known is the red root vegetable known as garden beet or beetroot. Other cultivated varieties include the leaf vegetables chard and spinach beet, as well as the white root vegetable sugar beet.
Beets are an excellent source of the B vitamin, folate, and a very good source of manganese and potassium. They are also a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.
Beets have edible green leaves are attached to the round or oblong roots that we know as beets or the beetroot. The sweet taste of beets reflects their high sugar content making them an important raw material for the production of refined sugar; they have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, yet are very low in calories.
The color of red/purple beetroot is due to a variety of betalain pigments. Different betalain pigments can produce beetroot which are yellow or other colors in addition to the familiar deep red. Other pigments contained in beet are indicaxanthin and vulgaxanthins. Indicaxanthin has been shown as a powerful protective antioxidant for the blood condition thalassemia, as well as preventing the breakdown of alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E).
Health Benefits of Beets
The pigment that gives beetroot its rich, red color, betacyanin, has found to be a powerful cancer-fighting agent. Beets' potential effectiveness against colon cancer, in particular, has been demonstrated in several studies.
Beet juice can also help to lower blood pressure. Research published in the American heart Association journal Hypertension showed that drinking beetroot juice led to a reduction in blood pressure.
The betaine found in beets can help to lessen inflammation. A study found that people whose diets had the highest intake of choline, (a B vitamin) and its metabolite betaine, had low levels of inflammatory markers, which have been linked to a wide range of conditions including heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, and type-2 diabetes.
Tips for Eating Beets
- Choose small or medium-sized beets whose roots are firm, smooth-skinned and deep in color.
- Store beets unwashed in the refrigerator where they should keep for two to four weeks.
- When red beetroot is cooked or heated it will bleed and leave a purple stain. This is because its cells are unstable, but leaving the skin on when cooking will maintain the integrity of the cells and therefore minimize leakage and staining.
- Rubbing lemon juice on hands stained with beetroot juice will remove the staining.
- Simply grate raw beets for a delicious and colorful addition to salads or decorative garnish for soups. The leaves of beets are also edible, and can be added raw to salads, or cooked like spinach.
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- Nagai T, Ishizuka S, Hara H, Aoyama Y. Dietary sugar beet fiber prevents the increase in aberrant crypt foci induced by gamma-irradiation in the colorectum of rats treated with an immunosuppressant. J Nutr 2000 Jul;130(7):1682-7 2000.
- Olthof MR, van Vliet T, Boelsma E, Verhoef P. Low dose betaine supplementation leads to immediate and long term lowering of plasma homocysteine in healthy men and women. J Nutr. 2003 Dec;133(12):4135-8. 2003.