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Superfood: Beets

Many of my patients have inquired about what foods to eat during the pandemic. There is one superfood I think should be considered for consumption during this time — beets. *Beet, beet sugar, sugar beets, and beetroot are synonymous.

I want to highlight four specific actions of beets that can contribute to their therapeutic effects.

Beets are nutritive. They nourish and help support normal growth, health, and renewal of the body. Beets are nutrient-dense. Both the leaves and the roots contain valuable nutrients that are required for the body to function well. Amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins A, B, and C, and minerals like manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium are valuable nutrients contained within the leaves and/or the root of beets.

Beets help stimulate the circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body, and it also helps to cleanse the body. This is very important because blood transports oxygen, nutrients, and other substances to and from various tissues throughout the body. Lymph, on the other hand, acts as a filter, taking away the waste so that it can be eliminated properly from the body.

Beets have hypotensive effects. They are potent vasodilators. Vasodilation is the relaxation of blood vessels. When blood vessels relax, they open. That allows blood and the transportation of oxygen and other nutrients to occur more easily. Beets have been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They also have a diuretic effect. Diuretics generally promote water loss, which can help relieve hypertension or high blood pressure.

Beets have anti-inflammatory effects. They inhibit two important cyclooxygenase enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. These enzymes convert arachidonic acid into prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are essentially natural chemicals that have a hormone-like function. There are many different types of prostaglandins, and they’re found in many different types of tissues. These prostaglandins can promote and also resolve inflammation and pain. Beets inhibit these two important enzymes.

Beets and its constituents have been used therapeutically for liver disease, high blood pressure, constipation, and certain types of anemia. I want to be really clear, yes, beets had beneficial benefits for some conditions, but I’m not suggesting you just go out, buy them, and start consuming them like mad. You need to consult with your doctor or another licensed healthcare provider so they can guide your case specifically. Consuming beets in large quantities can actually exacerbate some preexisting conditions, especially things like kidney disease. It is important to have a health provider monitoring intake and help determine if it’s even worth it to consume beets.

There are some adverse effects associated with beet consumption. The most common ones are allergies and skin rashes. Another common adverse effect, which can alarm some people, especially if they’re not aware of it or they’re not expecting it, is that their urination and bowel movements may appear red, almost bloody. This is due to a compound called betanin, which gives the beets they’re red/purplish pigment. That’s really important just to be on the lookout for. In case you start consuming beets, just be mindful your pee or your poop might turn red.

I always get a lot of questions about nutrition, food in general. One question I get asked a lot about in particular, about beets and other root vegetables is, “Are they safe for diabetics?” My response is generally, yes. Even though beets have a sugar content of about nine grams of sugar per serving (sources may vary), the glycemic load is low. One should be mindful of how much they are consuming.

If you need support navigating your nutritional needs, call to schedule an appointment (203) 900-4886.

Dr. Shyron Alston

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