Beetroot, the Blood Turnip

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Beet (Beta vulgaris) is a root vegetable plant, which belongs to the Amaranthaceae family. Beetroot is the taproot portion of a beet plant. Though not an indigenous plant, the plant is commonly grown in Jos, Northern Nigeria. Common names for the beet include: beetroot, chard, European sugar beet, red garden beet, Harvard beet, blood turnip, table beet, garden beet, red beet, dinner beet, golden beet, maangelwurzel, mangel and spinach beet. Beet is called gwoza in hausa, biiti in Igbo, and oyin in Yoruba.

Constituents

Beetroot contains protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre. Other nutrients in beetroot are iron, sodium, folate, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, anthocyanins such as betacyanin, ferric acid, ruin, kaempferol and glutamine.

Preparations

Beetroot may be eaten raw, boiled, roasted or infused. It may be blended and taken as smoothie or juice. It is sometimes used as a component of salad and some fruit drinks.

Pharmacological actions and medicinal uses:

Beetroot is rich in protective antioxidants. It may have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure lowering and weight fighting properties. It may improve exercise performance and digestive health, support energy levels, brain health and reaction time. It may protect the gut and relieve symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon.

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Betacyanin, the powerful plant pigment that gives beetroot its rich colour, is also thought to help  suppress the development of some types of cancer, including bladder cancer.

Some research suggest that betalains, the family of natural colour pigments that betacyanin belongs to, may help reduce the symptoms and markers of inflammation, thus potentially relieving discomfort of inflamed joints, such as knees.

Beetroot contains nitrates which help to improve blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels, which potentially lowers blood pressure. Studies suggest that nitrate-rich foods, like beetroot, may also help in heart attack survival.

Studies suggest that when athletes add beetroot juice to their regime, it may support exercise endurance and improve performance. When muscles are in a resting state after exercise, the nitrates in beetroot help to bring more oxygen to the muscle cells promoting an efficient recovery.

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Beetroots are rich in fibre, which support bowel function, helps promote a healthy environment in the gut, and contain betawains which help increase the production of short chain fatty acids by the beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut. These SCFAs are linked with a number of positive effects on health.

Glutamine, a nutrient in beetroot, is an amino acid essential to the maintenance of our gut lining; glutamine may play a role in protecting the gut lining from injury and stress.

A study examining the effects of beetroot juice demonstrated improvements in blood flow to the thumb and forearm as well as a reduction in blood pressure and inflammation. These actions are useful in relieving the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon which include pain, numbness and pins and needles.

Adverse effects

Eating beetroot may induce beeturia, a red or pink colour in the urine or stool. This condition is harmless, though. Beetroot also contains high levels of oxalate, which is implicated in the formation of nephroliths (kidney stones). So it is considered to be a health concern in patients predisposed to kidney dysfunction.

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Economic uses and potentials

Beet costs about ₦300 per bulb, ₦1,700.00per kg, 750/500g. Nitrate-rich beetroot supplements, prepared through methods such as freeze-drying to prolong shelf life and maintain biological activity, have recently entered the market. Among them, pseudoplastic beetroot gels and beetroot chips are the most recently formulated functional forms of beetroot supplements. Beetroot has great opportunities in agriculture, pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries, through cultivation, transportation, processing and sales.

References

Williams J. (2023). Top 10 health benefits of Beetroot. Goodfood. Retrieved on January 30, 2024 from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-beetroot

By Pharm. Ngozika Okoye MSc, MPH, FPCPharm

(Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency)

Email: ngozikaokoye@yahoo.com

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