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Diet & Nutrition

Why beetroot really can't be beat

According to the Oxford Companion to Food, when introduced in the 17th century to Britain, the red beet was described as 'the most excellent and delicate salad'. This humble root vegetable is now making its way out of traditional recipe books and onto the menus of the hippest restaurants in town. And with interesting new nutrition research supporting its strong health benefits, it seems that a regular serve of beetroot is just what the doctor ordered.
Pigment power
The scarlet colour of beetroot is thought to be a combination of the naturally occurring yellow (betacyanin) and purple (betaxanthin) pigments. These vibrant pigments are potent phytochemicals and antioxidants that work to protect damage to body cells from free radicals. Research shows that the more vibrant coloured fruits and vegetables offer the greatest protection from lifestyle diseases like heart disease and certain cancers. Prolonged cooking can cause these pigments to leach out, so it's advisable to leave the skin on when boiling beetroot.
Mood food
Beetroot has also been the focus of some interesting mood into mood enhancement. Along with being rich in phytochemicals and soluble fibre, beetroot contains a nitrogeneous compound called betaine that is thought to relax the mind. In the diet, betaine rich foods are pharmacologically active and have been shown to promote the synthesis of the mood enhancing chemical serotonin. Legumes, broccoli and spinach also contain betaine, however the levels are not as high as those found in beetroot. So it sounds like a vibrant, roasted beetroot salad is a hard option to pass over this winter.
Serve it up
Most people think of beetroot as a few slices of a juicy addition to a salad sandwich, but there are so many ways to enjoy it. You can eat it raw, hot or cold, which makes it very versatile. Try beetroot in soup, grated in a salad, or served up as whole roasted wedges. For an instant snack, look for vibrant and tangy beetroot dips as well as the traditional canned staples.

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