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The humble beet is great for detoxification

Readers have questioned me about the absence of this feature in the past few weeks.

Lack of space on the page is usually the reason it gets dropped, but don't worry there are plenty weeks still left in this year to cover the many produce items that grow here.

Beets are currently in season and well worth growing as we eat both the greens from the top and the round purple root.

Naturally sweet, it is used to produce sugar.

It's rich purple colour stains for a while and can be used to colour women's lips and cheeks one of the most natural lipsticks you can lay your hands on.

Beets

Scientific name: beta vulgaris

Family of: chenopod.

Related to: chard, spinach, quinoa.

Grown: in Bermuda.

Vitamin content: excellent source of folate vitamin B9. A good source of vitamin C.

Mineral content: a very good source of manganese and potassium, a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus.

Dietary fibre: a good source with about 3.4 grams in 1 c of the boiled vegetable.

Omega 3 fatty acids: beets do not contain omega three fatty acids.

Protein: a good source of the amino acid tryptophan. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.

Good for: cardiovascular health, protection from tumors and colon heath.

The characteristic purple colour of beets comes from its betalains nutrients.

These antioxidant nutrients also account for the purple colour in the stems of chard and rhubarb, but not the purple pigment in cabbage.

The strong colour of beets is an indication that the concentration of betalains is high, making the vegetable the best source of this phytonutrient.

Research conducted on the betalains betanin and vulgaxanthin show them to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.

In a lab study, betanin was seen to reduce the growth of human tumors.

Human tumor cells of the stomach, colon, nerve, lung, breast prostate and testicles were used in the study.

This research points to the possibility of a link between the pigments of beets being useful in prevention and treatment of certain types of cancer.

Beets display an unusual mix of antioxidants, being high in betalains and carotenoids.

Usually when a food is high in carotenoids, beta-carotene is the star antioxidant, but in the case of beets, lesser known carotenoids leutien and zeaxanthin are in higher concentrations than beta-carotene.

Also when a food has the deep purple-red colour of beets, the pigment is usually the result of the antioxidant anthocyanin (this is the case in red cabbage) and not betalains.

Research nutritionists report that when the unusual mix of betalains and carotenoids are coupled with the high concentration of vitamin C and manganese (also anti oxidants), beets provide a unique type of antioxidant support.

In particular they anticipate that beets may support cells in the eyes and nerve tissues.

Beets are also been closely studied for their anti-inflammatory effects.

Compounds in beets have been shown to inhibit messages in the body that trigger inflammation.

In chronic conditions including diabetes and atherosclerosis, inflammation exacerbates the problem.

It could emerge that a diet rich in beets will help reduce this unwanted swelling.

Beets also have an anti-inflammatory effect because they contain betaine, a nutrient not found in many foods.

Betaine is made from the B vitamin choline which helps regulate inflammation in the cardiovascular system.

Diets that include betaine have been associated with lower levels of many molecules that support inflammation.

Finally not all fibre is equal. Beet fibre (also carrot fibre) may provide special benefit to the digestive system, and the colon in particular, guarding against colon cancer.

How to select and storeImportant to note:

Beet roots should be firm, smooth-skinned and deep in colour. Small young roots may be so tender that peeling won't be needed after they are cooked.

Avoid beets that have spots, bruises or soft, wet areas, all of which indicate spoilage. Shriveled or flabby roots should also be avoided as these are signs that they are old and likely tough and fibrous.

Many of the nutrients found in beets are easily destroyed by heat. For this reason beets should be steamed for no longer than 15 minutes and roasted for under an hour.

Beets can cause a reddening of your urine and/ or stool. This condition is called beeturia and is not considered harmful. It can act as an indicator of problems in iron metabolism whether iron deficiency or excess iron.

It is important to be sure that the red or pink colouring you see in your urine or stool is a result of beets and not blood. The appearance of blood, particularly in your stool, should be medically checked.

Local farmers have fresh beets this week.

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Published March 22, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 21, 2011 at 4:07 pm)

The humble beet is great for detoxification

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