Beetroots brighten up any meal and their earthy yet sweet taste is the perfect accompaniment for many dishes. But this root veg also packs a serious nutritional punch. They are excellent sources of folic acid, fibre, manganese, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and nitrate.
The high nitrate content is linked to improved exercise performance - endurance athletes often drink beetroot juice 60 minutes before competing (what a healthy and legal way to dope!). Scientific studies have seen that beetroot consumption produces faster finishing times and increases time to exhaustion. One study looking specifically at running saw that beetroot consumption improved 5km running performance – I know what I’m having before my next Park Run!
The science: dietary nitrates increase the efficiency of your mitochondria (a part of your cells which are responsible for releasing energy). When consumed, our bodies convert the dietary nitrates to nitric oxide. This travels to your artery walls and signals them to relax. They breathe a sigh of relief, blood pressure is lowered and blood flow improves. This increased oxygen flow means your heart and lungs don’t need to work so hard during exercise.
Even if you’re not signed up for your next marathon, beetroots still offer many other health benefits. The high fibre content protects against constipation and provides a food source for your gut bacteria. They protect against certain cancers, reduce inflammation and help your liver eliminate toxins.
Warning: take care when preparing and don’t wear a white top. The pink colour looks great but can make your kitchen look like a crime scene!