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Food in focus: Beetroot

Beetroot, it’s the veggie that makes burgers “special” and is a must have in a salad at any summer barbeque. But there’s much more to the humble beet.

The veggie that dates back to the Roman times has long been used in traditional medicine, and by herbalists, to treat a wide range of conditions from a fever to gas.

Modern science is now catching up with research finding links between beetroot and numerous health benefits, including reducing blood pressure and supporting digestion.

New areas of research are also looking at the power of beetroot to boost performance of elite athletes, particularly cyclists. Studies have shown drinking beetroot juice can improve the amount of oxygen that muscles absorb during exercise and among cyclists this has been shown to boost performance and reduce race times.

Is beetroot good for you?

Beetroot belongs to the same plant family as spinach and just like spinach, it is packed with nutrients. It contains vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and fibre - one cup of raw beetroot provides 5.1g of dietary fibre.

Beetroot is also a source of nitrate, which may be how it boosts athletic performance. Nitrate is converted by the body into nitric oxide, which helps blood vessel dilation, muscle contraction and transmission of nerve signals. These benefits are particularly important for the heart.

What’s healthier - canned or raw beetroot?

Fresh is always best and enables beetroot to be used in a broader variety of dishes from cakes to one-tin bake trays. When it comes to buying cooked beetroot, vacuumed sealed packs or canned are an ideal and convenient option. Read our article on processed foods and whether they’re actually bad for you.

How to cook beetroot?

Cooking beetroot is often considered messy and can be daunting. Roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook beetroot…just wash, then dice into small pieces and place evenly in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and some seasoning, and bake in a hot oven until tender. This brings out the natural sweetness of the beetroot. Eat hot out of the oven with your dinner meal, or let it cool and serve over a salad.

If you would prefer to boil the beetroot, here’s a quick 4 step guide to make it fuss free.
  1. Trim leaves and cut the stem leaving 3cm. TIP - this small section of remaining stem will help to stop colour from leeching out of the beetroot.
  2. Clean the beetroot and add to a pot of boiling, salted water.
  3. Cook for 30 minutes and then check with a skewer to see if it’s tender. Drain and run under cold water.
  4. Put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your skin from stains and carefully peel the beetroot skin.

A word of warning on pink pee from beetroot

Eating a lot of beetroot can turn your urine and stools a shade of pink, purple or red. It’s nothing to be worried about and is so common doctors even have a name for it, “beeturia”.

Why not try some of our favourite beetroot recipes:

Chocolate beetroot squares

A gluten-free and moist brownie alternative that takes 10 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake. Using simple ingredients, it's a great dessert with hidden veg that will have you coming back for seconds. See the recipe here.

Beetroot hummus 

We all know of and love the humble hummus, but what about changing it up a bit and making beetroot hummus instead? This vibrant and delicious recipe is great as a dip or a high fibre spread on your favourite sandwich or wrap. See the recipe here.  

Butter bean and beetroot salad

You can't have a barbecue without beetroot, and this salad featuring the purple vegetable is the perfect accompaniment to any dining feast. It's nutritious, and has all the right flavours that work wonderfully together to bring you a heart salad. See the recipe here