The scarlet color and round shape will have you confusing this little dude for a fruit. But are those the only reasons beets are not quite like their fellow veggies? Read along and find out.
Beetroots have been around for a long while, and not just as food. In the past and unlike many vegetables, they were a legit way to treat problems with the blood and digestion. Science can now explain why they treated such ailments. Among other minerals and vitamins, beets have high levels of nitrates – and here’s how they ‘treated’ blood problems.
After you’ve consumed beets, the nitrates turn into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide loosens up your blood vessels, making them stretch a bit. This stretch makes your blood flow much easier; which is what we now call lower blood pressure. Beets can help people with high blood pressure – you don’t see that often with other vegetables!
Let’s not forget the one major difference beets have over their counterparts. Ever wondered what makes the red beet ‘red’ or ‘purple’? It’s their pigment called betalain, which varies in amounts depending on the type of beet. For the individuals whose body can’t break down the pigment, you’re in for a surprise – it turns your poop and urine red, but there is no need to panic.
Interestingly, the pigment acts as a sort of fungicide for the plant for protection. They also contain lots of antioxidants that are great for your health. The red pigment is a favorite among lots of cooks too, specifically because it makes the beets a natural source of food dye.
Wait, there’s more?
The variety in the beetroot family sets this root vegetable apart as well. The red beet is what we are most familiar with, but there are plenty more where it came from, and they have different colors!
- There are striped beets, and they almost look like candy. This variety is called Chioggia or Bassano, and their uses are more or less the same
- Golden beets are making their way into the limelight. Unlike the red beets, they are yellow or gold and have a milder but sweeter flavor
- Unlike the round versions, Cylindra beets are long, cylindrical, and look like carrots. They are also softer
- Sugar beets are on the whiter side, and their conical shape makes them look like turnips. As the name suggests, they have high levels of sucrose. In fact, so much higher than the other beets that they grow for their sugar. They produce 20% of the world’s sugar
- On the heavier side, there are the mangold beets. Think of a heavy beet-carrot, and you have the Mangold. Gardeners love to mix this species up and have even heavier or tastier varieties
Most people are only familiar with canned beets. For most of us, that was our only experience with beets as children, and it wasn’t delightful. Don’t let that be your only memory with beets. Try them straight from the garden and enjoy the varieties – you will change your mind!