Beets: A Natural Medicine?
Health News about Beetroots
The humble beet (Beta vulgaris) is not the most glamorous of foods. Yet, this globe-shaped root vegetable has a storied past, and according to recent research, holds promise as a natural cardiovascular medicine.
For at least 3,000 years, humans have grown and eaten the bulbous (often) dark red root of the beet plant and its bushy leaves. The Greeks and the Romans regarded the plant as a food and a medicine, favoring the leaves for eating and the root for healing. In fact, both the leaves and the beetroot contain beneficial compounds and nutrients. The greens offer potassium, calcium, iron, beta carotene and vitamin C. The root is rich in fiber, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C, vitamin A, and betaine, a compound which reduces homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease.
Protecting the Heart and Brain
According to two recent studies presented in Science Daily, beets may prove to have even more medicinal benefits. The first study, from Queen Mary University of London found that drinking 250 ml (about one cup) of beetroot juice significantly reduced blood pressure in adults. Researchers demonstrated that in the body, the nitrate in the beets is converted to nitric oxide which has a dilating effect on the major blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.
The second, more recent study, from Wake Forest University built on the first by showing that drinking beet juice increased blood flow to the frontal lobes in the brains of older adults. This is important because reduced blood flow to the brain is implicated in a variety of age-related cognition problems.
So, beets might be vital in protecting both the human heart and mind. Not bad for a not so popular vegetable.