Five big-time health benefits of beets

Beets are rich in folate, fibre and antioxidants, and may even reduce your risk of heart disease. How's that for nutritious?


Photo, Roberto Caruso

The beet root’s bright-green leaves were once a hot commodity in the markets of Europe and Africa, but these days, it’s the fuchsia bulb at the plant’s tip that’s getting the most attention — particularly for its nutritional value. Here are five major health-boosting properties of the mighty beet.

They’re high in folate.

Beets are comparable with dark greens when its comes to their folate levels, with one serving providing as much as 34 per cent of our recommended folate intake. The chemical (a.k.a.: vitamin B9) helps our bodies make red blood cells, and is one of the most important vitamins for proper brain function and mental and emotional health. It’s especially crucial to get enough folate during pregnancy, when the body’s cells and tissues grow very rapidly.

Tip: Roasting beets helps preserve their natural folate content.

Their purple colour is associated with high antioxidant levels.

The veggie’s signature hand-staining, purplish dye comes from betalain pigments, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, according to a 2010 review published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition.

They’re good for your heart.

Beets are second only to spinach and bran as a source of betaine (see #2). This compound lowers the amount of homocysteine in the blood, which can contribute to a heightened risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and narrowed arteries at elevated levels.

Tip: Drinking one cup of beet juice daily may also reduce your blood pressure.

…And your gut.

Don’t let a little red urine scare you: beets are very beneficial to your digestive health. The vegetable is high in fibre — one serving provides 28 percent of the daily requirement — and it’s also a rich source of glutamine, an amino acid that helps protect the lining of your gastrointestinal tract.

They’re chock-full of vitamins and minerals.

Namely: manganese, vitamins B6 and C, magnesium, potassium and iron.

Tip: Itching to cook with beets all of a sudden? You can find 12 of our favourite recipes here.