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Beets—also known as beetroot, garden beets or table beets—are the beautifully colored taproots of the Beta vulgaris plant. Originating from southern and eastern Europe and northern Africa, beets were first cultivated around 4,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region, primarily for their leaves (which are still edible and serve as flavorful greens!). This plant was grown by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, though following the introduction of spinach, beet greens lost much of their popularity. It’s believed that the Ancient Romans were the first to cultivate beet roots for use as food.
Beets have had a long and varied history. Since ancient times, this veggie has been used for dyes, teas, and in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. The Romans thought of beets as an important health food and even considered them an aphrodisiac! Food shortages in Europe following World War I caused great hardships, including illnesses as a result of eating only beets!
Other types of beet include swiss chard, cultivated specifically to have flavorful, edible leaves and stems, in addition to sugar beet, which produces about 30% of the total sugar used worldwide! Today beets are consumed and grown globally, with Europe ranking first in beet production. In recent years, this once universally hated veggie, has started to gain popularity owing to its superfood status!
Nutrivore Score for Beets – 2013
Beets have a Nutrivore Score of 2013, making them a super nutrient-dense food! Plus, they are a low-carb and low-calorie-density food; the calorie count of beets is just 58 calories per cup!
Per serving, beets are a best source (>50% daily value) of betalains; an excellent source (20-50% daily value) of polyphenols and vitamin B9 (folate); and a good source (10-20% daily value) of copper, fiber, and manganese.
Beet Nutrition Facts
One serving of beets is standardized to 1 cup or about 136 grams (4.8 ounces). For reference, one beet (2″ in diameter) is roughly 82 grams. When you cook beets, they reduce in volume: 1 cup raw beets is equivalent to a little over 3/4 cup boiled beets.
|Beets, raw||Nutrivore Score: 2013||Nutrient Density: Super!|
|Serving Size: 1 cup (136 grams)||Protein: 2.2 grams||Net Carbohydrates: 9.2 grams|
|Calories: 58||Total Fat: 0.2 grams||Dietary Fiber: 3.8 grams|
|Vitamin A||2.7 μg RAE||0% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||42.2 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||54.4 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.5 mg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.2 mg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||91.1 μg||5% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||0.0 mg||0% DV|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||148.2 μg||37% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin C||6.7 mg||7% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.1 mg||0% DV|
|Vitamin K||0.3 μg||0% DV|
|Choline||8.2 mg||1% DV|
|Calcium||21.8 mg||2% DV|
|Copper||102.0 μg||11% DV|
|Iron||1.1 mg||6% DV|
|Magnesium||31.3 mg||7% DV|
|Manganese||447.4 μg||19% DV|
|Phosphorus||54.4 mg||4% DV|
|Potassium||442.0 mg||9% DV|
|Selenium||1.0 μg||2% DV|
|Sodium||106.1 mg||5% DV|
|Zinc||0.5 mg||4% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Beet Nutrition Varies With Cooking And Processing
The Nutrivore Score of beets varies depending on processing and the method of preparation – any way you enjoy them is a great way to consume beets! Not only are beets a superfood but their greens are even more nutritious!
|Beet greens, raw||3259|
|Beets, canned, drained solids||1998|
|Beets, canned, no salt added, solids and liquids||1990|
|Beets, canned, regular pack, solids and liquids||1985|
|Beets, cooked, boiled, drained||1978|
|Beets, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt||1978|
Health Benefits of Beet Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 1-cup serving of beets and see how they benefit our health.
Beets Provide 245.7 mg of Betalains
Beets are the best food source of betalains, providing an astounding 245.7 mg of betalains per 1-cup serving!
Betalains are a class of red to yellow pigments found in certain plants, including beets (in which they were first identified), chard, amaranth, cactus pear, pitahaya (dragon fruit), and some species of wild mushrooms. Betalains demonstrate a variety of health-promoting biological activities, reducing risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, with emerging evidence of benefit to neurodegenerative diseases as well. Learn more about betalains here.
Beets Provide 326.4 mg of Polyphenols
Beets are an excellent source of polyphenols, containing 326.4 mg of polyphenols per 1-cup serving!
Polyphenols play a huge role in protecting against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases, and other conditions associated with oxidative stress. In fact, a major reason foods like red wine and olive oil (as well as diets rich in both, such as the Mediterranean diet) show up as so beneficial may be due to their high polyphenol content! Along with chronic diseases, supplementing with polyphenols has been shown to protect against infections and reduce the signs of aging. Polyphenols exert their most potent effects by acting as antioxidants—preventing cellular damage by neutralizing hazardous oxygen radicals and improving cellular health as a result (which, in turn, benefits virtually every system in the body). As a result of their antioxidant properties, polyphenols also boost the immune system and protect against both chronic and acute diseases. In addition, polyphenols can help regulate enzyme function, stimulate cell receptors, modulate the functions of inflammatory cells (including T and B lymphocytes, macrophages, platelets, and natural killer cells), alter adhesion molecule expression, affect nerve cells and cardiac muscle cells, and exert antiviral effects. Learn more about polyphenols here.
Beets Provide 37% DV Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Beets are also an excellent source of vitamin B9 (folate), providing 37% of the daily value per 1-cup serving!
Vitamin B9 (folate) is an essential B vitamin that plays roles in blood cell production, the formation of genetic material (including DNA), and cell growth and function. It’s particularly important during pregnancy, when folate demands increase due to the rapid creation of new cells and DNA. Along with helping protect against fetal development problems, folate can support cardiovascular health, potentially protect against certain cancers, and reduce the risk of cognitive and neurological disorders later in life. Learn more about vitamin B9 here.
How Much Beets Should We Eat Per Day?
With their vibrant burgundy color and their distinctive ‘earthy’ flavor, beets are one of those veggies people seem to love or hate but when it comes to nutrition, this veggie can’t be beet and is definitely a worthy addition to our diet.
Every serving of fresh, whole vegetables or fruit we eat daily reduces the risk of all-cause mortality by 5% to 8%, with the greatest risk reduction seen when we consume eight or more servings per day. In fact, consuming 800 grams of vegetables and fruits daily reduces all-cause mortality by 31% compared to eating less than 40 grams daily. A 2017 meta-analysis showed that 2.24 million deaths from cardiovascular disease, 660,000 deaths from cancer, and 7.8 million deaths from all causes could be avoided globally each year if everyone consumed 800 grams of veggies and fruits every day.
Eating vegetables and fruit in abundance lowers risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and bone fragility fractures (including hip fracture), cognitive impairment and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), neurodegenerative diseases, asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, depression, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory polyarthritis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, acne, seborrheic dermatitis, and lowers markers of inflammation. Learn more in Importance of Vegetables and Fruit.
Covering half of your plate with a variety of vegetables (and three quarters of your plate if your starchy food is a root vegetable or winter squash) at each meal is a simple way to easily achieve the goal of 800 grams daily (about 5 to 8 servings depending on the vegetable).
Studies show that, for every 100 grams per day increase in root vegetable intake, there was a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality! It’s always best to mix up the veggies you eat day to day (aiming for a wide variety of different vegetables and fruits throughout the week), and beets definitely deserve a place at the table.
Expand to see all scientific references for this article.
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Frida Food Database. National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark: Beet, red, raw
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USDA Food Central Database: Beets, raw