Beets (Beta Vulgaris) originated in the Mediterranean, and their history predates written history. Beets and their health benefits are mentioned in the writings of the neo-Babylonian era. It was noted by the Greeks as one of the most valuable foods there was. They and the Romans after them mentioned their health benefits, which included their abilities to give additional energy and to relieve constipation.
Nearly two thirds of all beets are canned and not sold or eaten fresh. Beets grow easily and can withstand frost quite well. They can even be planted in gardens one month before the last frost of winter. The seeds of the beet are delicate and do best when the soil is cool and moist, as in early spring. They mature quickly and do well when planted in succession, three to four weeks apart. Seeds should be planted half an inch deep and about one inch apart. Rows should be spaced about twelve to eighteen inches apart. Planting seeds too deep may cause the seed to sprout more slowly. As the beets mature, they do quite well in warm weather conditions. When the seeds begin to sprout they often have multiple shoots. They will need to be thinned out so that they are one to three inches apart. Beets do not thrive well when they have to compete with weeds, as their roots are usually shallow. Weeding by hand is essential to preserving the young plants. Harvest time is about sixty days after planting.
Most people do not eat enough beets; for all of their healthy properties, they should be a part of our daily diet. In 100 grams this red veggie has only 42 calories, less than 10 grams of carbohydrates, and is thought to be the most perfect form of fiber we can eat. One cup of beets has zero fat of any kind, contains 1.5 grams of protein, 1 mg of iron, 27 mg of calcium, 43 mg of phosphorus, 10 mg of vitamin C, and 4 mg of niacin, sodium, and magnesium, as well as fiber, vitamin A, and biotin. Beets also contain folic acid and other B vitamins, which are recommended for pregnant women as it may lower the risk of birth defects. In the Encyclopedia of Healing Juices, beets and their juice are noted to build up the blood, renew its minerals and natural sugars, and help to detox the liver. Some studies even show that betaine, an amino acid found in beets, can help prevent coronary and cerebral artery disease and that beet juice and powder have slowed the development of cancerous tumors in some patients. Beet greens have been shown to contain high levels of iron, vitamins A and C, and calcium.
Throughout history beetroots have been used for treatment of liver disorders due to their stimulating effect they have on the detoxification process. Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their rich crimson-purple hue, helps with the detox and is a cancer-fighting agent. Studies have found the fibers in beets have a cleansing effect on the intestines, helps to lower cholesterol and help protect against colon cancer.
While discussing the benefits of eating beets, we can’t forget their ability to reduce the risks of having cataracts due to their high content of beta-carotene. Betanin, another pigment in beets, also has anti-inflammatory properties and can effectively lower the effects of stress. Some have noticed that while taking beetroot juice they had more success in fighting headaches, pain associated with a women’s menstrual cycle, pain in the lumbar region, toothache, and skin problems.
Beets can compliment many dishes and salads as a tremendous side dish or garnish. Add beets to your diet to garner their many health benefits. They can be prepared in a variety of ways and are delicious either hot or cold. Ever have a bowl of borscht? Try it—you may find a new way to add more beets to your eating program. The juice has many of the same health benefits, and drinking it gives us another option for getting them into our diet.
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