Beetroot: Red alert

Bite into the beetroot if you are looking for a high-nutrition, low-fat food to include in your diet


Most of us know about the beetroot but don’t consume it often. A root vegetable like potato and yam, beetroot is rich in nutrients and is available round the year. Let’s cut into this wonder food to explore its goodness.

What does beetroot contain?

Beetroot has magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin C, B9 and B6. Beetroot greens [leaves] give you a good amount of calcium, iron, zinc and folic acid. The nutrients make this vegetable wholesome, nutritive and energy-dense. Being rich in antioxidants it helps you fight health problems. Beetroot also contains simple sugars or carbohydrates, but falls under the medium glycaemic index category and, therefore, can be eaten by diabetics in moderation. Since it’s low in fat, it is also a good option for weight watchers.

Beetroot gets its colour from an enzyme betanin, which is not digested by the body. That’s the reason you pass red colour stools and urine after eating beetroot. Don’t worry, this is not harmful. In fact, betanin is used in the food industry as a colouring agent to various jams, squashes and jellies.

Why is beetroot healthy?

Beetroot, thanks to its various nutrients, has many health benefits:

  • It lowers homocysteine, a cardiac marker.
  • Helps lower bad cholesterol [LDL].
  • The simple sugar/carbohydrates and betanin help the liver, making it an ideal food for liver disorders like jaundice.
  • Beetroot contains water-soluble fibre and hence is a boon for those suffering from constipation, and colon disorders like piles.
  • It helps rid the body of toxins as it contains beta cyanin, which is good for the liver, the gall bladder and the kidneys.
  • It also stimulates the lymphatic system, which is beneficial in colds, coughs and other bronchial ailments.
  • It aids recovery from anaemia as it contains beta carotene and iron, which help build red blood cells.
  • It keeps hypertension in check, as the nitrate content, which gets converted to nitric oxide by the saliva, helps dilate blood vessels, lowering the blood pressure.

Quick facts

How to store beetroot

It has a long shelf-life if you store it in a cool, dry place. Store the leaves separately. Beets can be frozen for months, but as pulp in an air tight container.

How to choose a beetroot

While buying beetroot, look for firm [not hard] and maroon ones. Resist the temptation to buy big ones and go for medium or small sized beetroots. If the bulbs are scaly and spotty, don’t pick them. If you find beetroots with leaves, buy them.

Watch out for

Leaves of beetroot contain oxalates, which can be harmful if you have kidney stones. Also beetroot is rich in nitrites, which when cooked and left unattended for days, turn into nitrosamines that are carcinogenic.

This was first published in the August 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Malavika Athavale
Malavika Athavale is a post graduate in Dietetics from SNDT University and a consulting nutritionist with varied experiences across clinical nutrition, individual consulting and corporate nutrition assignments. She runs her nutrition clinic in Mumbai and also conducts educational workshops.


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