Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Beets - Dance on the beats of health!

What is the beet? What are its nutritional facts, and how healthy is it for our body.


Beets

Beets are highly nutritious and “cardiovascular health” friendly root vegetables. Certain unique pigment antioxidants in the root as well as in its top greens have found to offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke; lower cholesterol levels within the body, and have anti-aging effects.
Botanically, the tuberous root vegetable belongs in the Amarathaceae family, in the beta genus. Its scientific name is Beta vulgaris. Swiss chard is another member in the beta genus grown for its edible leaves.

Beets are small herbaceous plants with broad dark-green leaves. Its underground taproot matures in 50-60 days of sowing and weighs about 100 to 150 g. If not harvested, it keeps growing in size to more than 500 g and may develop surface cracks, lose taste and become unappetizing because of excess fiber content.
Different cultivars exist; red, orange-yellow and white verities. The unique crimson-red color of red beet is due to betalain pigments, such as betanin and betacyanin. Yellow varieties are rich in ß-xanthin pigment. Both root and top leaves of beet are used for consumption. Choggia beet or candy cane variety has alternative red and white concentric whorls.

Health benefits of beets

  • Garden beet is very low in calories (provide only 45 kcal/100 g), and contain zero cholesterol and small amount of fat. Its nutrition benefits come particularly from fiber, vitamins, minerals, and unique plant derived anti-oxidants.
  • The root is rich source of phytochemical compound, glycine betaine. Betaine has the property of lowering homocysteine levels within the blood. Homocysteine, one of highly toxic metabolite, promotes platelet clot as well as atherosclerotic-plaque formation, which, otherwise, can be harmful to blood vessels. High levels of homocysteine in the blood result in the development of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and peripheral vascular diseases.

  •  Raw beets are an excellent source of folates. It contains about 109 µg/100 g of this vitamin (Provides 27% of RDA). However, extensive cooking may significantly deplete its level in food. Folates are necessary for DNA synthesis within the cells. When given during peri-conception period folates can prevent neural tube defects in the baby.

  • Fresh tubers contain small amounts of vitamin-C; however, its top greens are rather excellent sources of this vitamin. 100 g of beet greens provide 30 mg or 50% of RDA. Vitamin C is one of the powerful natural antioxidants, which helps the human body scavenge deleterious free radicals one of the reasons for cancer development.

  • Additionally, the top greens are an excellent source of carotenoids, flavonoid anti-oxidants, and vitamin A; contain these compounds several times more than that of in the roots. Vitamin A is required maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for vision. Consumption of natural vegetables rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  • The root is also rich source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6) and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium.

  • Further, the root indeed has very good levels of potassium. 100 g fresh root has 325 mg of potassium or 7% of daily requirements. Potassium lowers heart rate and regulates metabolism inside the cells by countering detrimental effects of sodium.

    Selection and storage

    In the store, choose fresh, bright, firm textured beets with rich flavor and uniform size. Avoid those with slump looking or soft in consistency, over-mature and large. Whenever possible, go for organic to get maximum health benefits. 
    In the farmer markets, oftentimes the roots with intact top greens put for sale. If you are buying whole vegetable, severe tops from its root as soon as possible since, they rob moisture and nutrition from the roots.
    Beet greens, just like other greens, should be washed thoroughly in clean running water and rinsed in saline water for about 30 minutes in order to remove soil, sand, dirt, and any insecticide residues before use.
    Top greens should be used while they are fresh. Beetroot, however, can be kept in the refrigerator set at high relative humidity for few weeks.



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