Beetroot is one of the most surprising superfoods I eat.
I have always loved beetroot since I was a child for no other reason than the colour and taste. Understanding that it is a superfood is a bonus, especially since preliminary research has revealed some potentially enormous health benefits and increased endurance for athletes. It only gets better!
The beetroot is the taproot portion of the beet plant, usually known in North America as the beet. Other than as a food, beets have use as a food colouring and as a medicinal plant for hundreds of years. It is an amazing food fast gaining popularity and now available in a variety of forms including drinks, powder, crisps & crackers, and pickled etc. It can be used in a wide variety of recipes from all over the world. See my selection below.
Raw beetroot is 88% water, 10% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and less than 1% fat. In a typical 100 gram serving provides 43 calories. Raw beetroot is a rich source (27% of the Daily Value, DV) of folate and a moderate source (16% DV) of manganese, with other nutrients having insignificant content.
Beetroot increases endurance
In preliminary research, beetroot juice (which is now commercially available from Amazon and the larger supermarkets) reduced blood pressure in hypertensive animals  and so may have a beneficial effect on mechanisms of cardiovascular disease.  New evidence has found that dietary nitrate supplementation such as from beets and other vegetables results in a small to moderate improvement in endurance exercise performance  making it a popular choice for endurance sports.
Like all these amazing superfoods there can be a downside if you consume too much, and you’d be wise to monitor just how much you’re having. As it turns out, despite its numerous benefits there can be side effects if you overindulge. Check them out on this link.
Beets contain betaines which may function to reduce the concentration of homocysteine,  a homolog of the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine. High circulating levels of homocysteine may be harmful to blood vessels and thus contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. As of 2008, this hypothesis is controversial as it has not yet been established whether homocysteine itself is harmful or is just an indicator of increased risk for cardiovascular disease. 
Usually, the deep purple roots of beetroot are eaten boiled, roasted or raw, and either alone or combined with any salad vegetable. A large proportion of the commercial production is processed into boiled and sterilized beets or into pickles. In Eastern Europe, beet soup, such as borscht, is a popular dish. In Indian cuisine, chopped, cooked, spiced beet is a common side dish. Yellow-coloured beetroots are grown on a very small scale for home consumption.
The green, leafy portion of the beet is also edible. The young leaves can be added raw to salads, whilst the adult leaves are most commonly served boiled or steamed, in which case they have a taste and texture similar to spinach.
1. Parsnip beetroot gratin
- unsalted butter for greasing
- 500 g parsnips
- 500 g beetroots
- 300 ml double cream
- 200 ml crème fraîche
- 4 cloves of garlic
- ½ a bunch of fresh rosemary
- 2 oranges
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6 and grease a 1.5-litre baking dish.
- Scrub the parsnips and beetroots, thinly slice (you can use a mandolin, but remember to use the guard!) and layer up in the baking dish.
- Put the cream, crème fraîche, whole unpeeled garlic and rosemary sprigs in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Take off the heat, finely grate in the orange zest and season with 1½ teaspoons of sea salt and a big pinch of black pepper.
- Pour the cream over the veg, pressing them to submerge in the liquid and arrange the rosemary sprigs on top. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the veg is almost tender.
- Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes, or until set on top and browning at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
2. Beetroot and halloumi sliders with chilli jam
- chickpeas 400g tin, rinsed and drained
- ground cumin 1 tsp
- hot green chilli 1-2, finely chopped
- raw beetroot 250g, peeled and grated (wear gloves to avoid staining your hands)
- parsley chopped to make 2 tbsp
- fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs 50g
- egg 1
- olive oil
- halloumi 4 or 6 slices, each halved
- rocket a handful
- small buns (brioche if you can get them) 8 or 12, split and cut side toasted
- chilli jam to serve
- Put the chickpeas in a bowl and mash them roughly, add the cumin and chilli and mash again. Add the beetroot, parsley, breadcrumbs and egg and plenty of seasoning. Mix well and form into 8 or 12 small patties.
- Heat about 1 cm of oil in a frying pan and fry the patties on each side until they are crisp and brown. Drain on kitchen paper. Fry the halloumi briefly until it starts to brown a little.
- Put a few rocket leaves on the base of each bun, add a patty and a slice of halloumi followed by a spoon of chilli jam then put the lid on. A cocktail stick will hold the lot together. Serve 2 or 3 per person.
3. Beetroot, green bean and feta salad
- 50g/1oz green beans
- 100g/3½oz cooked beetroot
- 25g/1oz baby spinach
- 40g/1¾oz lighter Greek-style cheese, crumbled
- Simmer the green beans in water for 4–5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water until cool.
- Toss the beans with the beetroot and spinach in a small bowl. Top with the cheese and serve.
The red colour compound betanin is not broken down in the body, and in higher concentrations may temporarily cause urine or stools to assume a reddish colour. Although harmless, this effect may cause initial concern due to the visual similarity to what appears to be blood in the stool.
- Lundberg, J.O.; Carlström, M.; Larsen, F.J.; Weitzberg, E. (2011). “Roles of dietary inorganic nitrate in cardiovascular health and disease”. Cardiovasc Res. 89(3): 525–532.
- Hobbs, D. A.; Kaffa, N.; George, T. W.; Methven, L.; Lovegrove, J. A. (2012). “Blood pressure-lowering effects of beetroot juice and novel beetroot-enriched bread products in normotensive male subjects”. British Journal of Nutrition. 108(11): 2066–2074.
- McMahon, Nicholas F.; Leveritt, Michael D.; Pavey, Toby G. (6 September 2016). “The Effect of Dietary Nitrate Supplementation on Endurance Exercise Performance in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”. Sports Medicine. 47 (4); 735-756.
- Pajares, M. A.; Pérez-Sala, D (2006). “Betaine-homocysteine S-methyltransferase: Just a regulator of homocysteine metabolism?”.Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 63 (23): 2792–2803.
- Potter, K.; Hankey, G. J.; Green, D. J.; Eikelboom, J. W.; Arnolda, L. F. (2008). “Homocysteine or Renal Impairment: Which is the Real Cardiovascular Risk Factor?”.Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 28 (6): 1158-1164.