Are you following the Mediterranean Diet? Looking for a dish that helps improve your health? Beets may be the dish you’re looking for! Read on to see why.
History of beets in the Mediterranean Diet
Beets are a staple in the Mediterranean Diet and have a long history in the Greek culture. Greeks are known to have cultivated the original beetroot around 300 BC. Different from today’s hybridized beetroot, the old variant was long and thin like a carrot. The ancients didn’t typically use the roots of the plant, but only ate the leaves. Hippocrates used the leaves of beetroot for binding and dressing wounds, along with recommending the beet root for blood cleansing and digestive problems.
In addition to medicinal purposes, the root also played a fascinating part in Greek mythology. Ancients considered it an aphrodisiac and it was believed to have provided Aphrodite her romantic powers. It’s been recorded as having been offered to the sun god Apollo in the temple of Delphi, where he was told it was “worth its weight in silver.”
Modern day beets are considered by many a functional food; a food that offers many more health benefits other than basic nutrition. They’re frequently served as a side dish and paired with many main courses. Served as patsarosalata (beet salad), they’re boiled and/or steamed, drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. Research reveals three distinct benefits of beets. Read on to find out why they’re so good for you.
Beets contain betalains
Beets’ deep red colors are phytonutrients called betalains. There are a variety of betalains found in the beet, and the majority function as both antioxidants AND anti-inflammatory.
Antioxidants are a must in today’s diet since they protect our bodies from damage caused by common free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to the triggering of a variety of health conditions such as premature aging, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Antioxidants found in betalains safely interact and destroy these free radicals before they can cause any cellular damage.
The anti-inflammatory compounds found in betalains help relieve inflammation induced symptoms like ongoing irritating pain in the body, chronic fatigue and/or skin problems. Keep in mind, that while you may feel fine and not experience any of the associated inflammatory symptoms, you may still have high levels of inflammation going on.
There’s more! Betalains are found to lessen tumor cell growth (in various areas of the body), protect the liver and cells from toxins and protect brain cells. They’ve been associated with a reduction in blood clots and help lower bad cholesterol.
Note: Don’t overcook beets as betalain content may be significantly reduced. It’s generally recommended that you keep beet steaming times to 15 minutes or less, and roasting times under an hour.
Beets contain betaine
Betaine (not to be confused with betalains described above) is an amino acid also known as trimethylglicine. Betaine plays an important role in liver detoxification by helping to break down and remove fats. As a result, it’s considered a lipotropic agent meaning that it cleanses the liver by promoting the flow of fat and bile into the gallbladder. Relevant information for many, since NALFD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), is one of the most common diseases in America today.
Once only associated with alcoholism, fatty liver disease is believed to be prevalent due to the overconsumption of high fructose corn syrup; an ingredient commonly found in processed foods. Beets, or the betaine found in beets, may help prevent this fatty acid buildup.
The benefits of betaine is extensive. It plays an important role in homocysteine conversion, supports hearth health, supports muscle mass and helps promote fat loss. All the more reason to eat those beets!
Beets support digestion
Not only do beets support liver health, but they also support digestive health. Thick bile and/or congested liver contributes to low HCI (hydrochloric acid). Consuming beets daily for several months has been found to help increase bile flow which in turn increases HCI. This is a much necessary function of digestion since low stomach acid is associated with (but not limited to) heartburn, indigestion, hair loss, and iron deficiency.
How do you know if you suffer from low stomach acid (hypochlorydria)? If you experience ‘beeturia’ after consuming beets. Beeturia is the passing of red or pink urine after eating beets and its estimated that 10-15% of Americans experience this. Not only is beeturia indicative of low stomach acid but it may also indicate possible mineral malabsorption problems — particularly iron.
Bring on the beets!
Beets overall health benefits are vast. They’re known to stimulate the growth of phagocytes, the bacteria-eating cells in the liver. These are important as they help to prevent liver related diseases. They contain high amounts of folate, a much needed nutrient for cell growth and formation of DNA. Folate is also needed for neurological support, colon health and healthy cholesterol levels. Finally, beets are known to boost energy in athletes, are considered anti-depressant, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal. They’re also a diuretic and expectorant.
It’s easy to see why you should add beets to your Mediterranean Diet and eat them frequently. The wisdom of the ancients once again holds true as indicated by extensive modern-day research. Eating beets daily is just another easy and effortless way to improve your daily diet and your health as well.
Kali oreksi! (Good appetite)!
Want to get healthy? Get food and health related information delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for Roula’s monthly newsletter here. It’s free.
More from Roula Marinos Papamihail, CHHC:
Probiotics: Superfoods of the Mediterranean Diet
Mediterranean Diet is Loaded with Prebiotic Superfoods
She trained at Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. and holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Indianapolis. She’s also the proud mom of 4 little boys. Roula is currently accepting new clients in her office, at home, over the phone, or via Skype. Visit her website at www.myhealthysoma.com.