Both the roots and the leaves of the beet are used for food. The roots, with their beautiful, rich red color, are a source of anthocyanins, which can be strong antioxidants.
A 2008 study found that drinking beet juice lowered blood pressure, and researchers theorized that this was because of the nitrates in beets. This finding seems somewhat ironic, because nitrites and nitrates have long been suspected of creating carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach’s acid environment. But nitrates and nitrites are also involved in a cycle that produces nitrous oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. More research must be done to tease out the particulars.
Beet juice appears to help protect the integrity of cells lining the stomach and digestive tract. Thus it may benefit people taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are known to damage these cells. For the same reason, it may also help reduce adverse reactions to chemotherapy.
Beets provide the minerals phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium, along with vitamins A and C, and the B vitamins folic acid, niacin, and biotin. They are rich in fiber, and although a half-cup serving of cooked beets contains more carbohydrate than most of the vegetables in this chapter, their unique Benefits make them a powerful SuperFood.
Beet greens are in some ways even more nutritious than the root. A half cup of cooked beet greens has fewer carbohydrates, more protein, more fiber, more of vitamins A and C, and more potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese than the beet root, and only about half its calories. What beet greens lack is the red pigment that may be the beet root’s magic ingredient.Nutritional Facts
(cooked beets) One-half cup of cooked fresh beets provides 37 calories, 8.5 g carbohydrate, 1.4 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 1.7 g dietary fiber, 30 IU vitamin A, 3 mg vitamin C, 68 mcg folic acid, 259 mg potassium, 65 mg sodium, 32 mg phosphorus, 14 mg calcium, 0.67 mg iron, 20 mg magnesium, and 0.28 mg manganese.
(cooked beet greens) One-half cup of cooked beet greens provides 19 calories, 3.9 g carbohydrate, 1.9 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 2.1 g dietary fiber, 5511 IU vitamin A, 17.9 mg vitamin C, 10 mcg folic acid, 654 mg potassium, 174 mg sodium, 30 mg phosphorus, 82 mg calcium, 1.37 mg iron, 49 mg magnesium, and 0.37 mg manganese.