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28.08.2020

Now in season: beetroot

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The purple superfood

Reddish-purple, round and earthy, beetroot is pretty unmistakable. Its season kicks off in September, when fresh beetroot pops up in supermarkets and farmers’ markets. If your only experience of beetroot has come from the jarred or vacuum-packed variety, then it’s high time you experienced it fresh. This vegetable is particularly popular in northern and eastern Europe. It is also widely used in food production due to its glorious reddish dye and intense colouring. Its natural pigment, betanin, is known as E162, and gives jams, juices and other sweet treats their beautiful red colour. 

Beetroot:

1.... helps to form blood cells.

2.... can lower your blood pressure.

3.... supports your immune system.

4.... protects your body’s cells against free radicals.

5.... impedes inflammation.

6.... boosts athletic performance.

7.... can lower your cholesterol levels.

8.… looks good. ;-)

9.… is inexpensive.

Bursting with health

Beets are packed with fantastic nutrients and nutritional properties. Its pigment, betanin, not only provides natural dyes that are used in the food industry, but is also good for your immune system. Betanin strengthens your body’s defences, shields against free radicals and protects your heart and blood vessels. The secondary plant substance betaine, which is related to betanin, strengthens liver cells and the gall bladder. Betaine also helps to lower cholesterol levels. Thanks to its high nitrate content, eating beetroot can counteract high blood pressure. After just one hour, your blood pressure will be significantly lower, and this can last for almost an entire day. Nitrate causes blood vessels to expand and reduce the oxygen demand in muscles during physical exercise, which can boost performance in sport. You might even go so far as to say that beetroot is a natural doping agent. :-) And not only does beetroot lower your blood pressure, but it also assists in the production of blood cells, as just 200 grams of beetroot contain 166 micrograms of folic acid and 1.8 milligrams of iron. That alone is 40% of your daily recommended intake of folic acid. Beetroot truly is a superfood!In addition to its many valuable nutrients, these beets are also very slimming. 100 grams of beetroot contain just 49 kilocalories and 8.8 grams of carbohydrate. 

Cooking tips

Whether you’re putting it into a smoothie, a salad, a soup or an oven-baked dish, beetroot is invariably delicious. Not only is it low in calories, but it also brings a burst of colour to your plate. It is advisable always to combine this vibrant vegetable with other vitamin C-containing foods, such as lemon juice. This is because the nitrate contained in beetroot can be converted into the carcinogenic substance nitrosamine. Vitamin C prevents this process.It’s best to don a pair of gloves before you start preparing beetroot. Slice it on a surface that’s easy to clean, as the natural dye is very stubborn and can leave permanent stains. ;-) You can get around this by boiling beetroot before cutting it up. You can then treat it like a baked potato. After boiling for approx. 30 minutes, quench the beetroot in cold water. You’ll find that it’s now easy to peel and chop up, and the red dye won’t end up staining everything. It’s also worth remembering that nutrient-rich beetroot leaves can be dressed like chard or spinach for a delicious side dish. The leaves also have the benefit of counteracting garlic breath.  

But be careful: they don’t agree with everyone.

Unfortunately, not everyone can stomach beetroot. People suffering from gout or rheumatism can’t tolerate the oxalic acid that they contain. In this case, you should avoid eating the leaves, as their oxalic acid content is much higher than that of beetroot itself. Oxalic acid bonds with the mineral calcium, making this much harder for the body to absorb, so that calcium cannot be broken to pass through the intestine. Beetroot contains less oxalic acid if it has been boiled. As such, you should only eat raw beetroot in moderation, in the occasional salad or smoothie.

Other important tips:

  • From September, you can find fresh beetroot in supermarkets, farmers’ markets and organic food shops.
  • Beetroot should be firm to the touch and the skin should be intact.
  • Larger beetroot can be woody in texture. It’s best to opt for small beetroot, as they’re more tender.
  • Fresh, uncooked beetroot will keep in the fridge or a cold pantry for up to two weeks.
© NGV mbH, Photo: TLC Fotostudio
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