Beetroots boost blood
Beetroot is an acquired taste thanks to its earthy undertones and vibrant colour. But there's more to it than meets the eye, as it provides plenty of health benefits thanks to the nitrates it contains.
Nitrates have already been linked to the lowering of blood pressure thanks to nitric oxide, a natural gas which is carried through the blood and expands vessels. Now it's claimed they fight off diseases and improve your overall wellbeing too.
Researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland have discovered we have large amounts of nitric oxide under our skin and that blood cells are extremely reliant on it.
Beetroot is packed full of nitrates and, thanks to our normal bodily functions, the ions are converted into nitric oxide.
Lead researcher Jonathan Stamler explained his findings to Good Health.
"Cardiologists have always assumed that if your blood was carrying a normal amount of oxygen, the gas would automatically get into cells. Now it looks like that was wrong," he said.
"What we've discovered is that the oxygen carried in blood cells can't be delivered into the body's cells unless it comes with nitric oxide. When you put red blood cells and blood vessels together in the lab, the blood vessels close up. We eventually worked out that the cells were missing nitric oxide. It was lost when you took the blood cells out of the body."
So Jonathan predicts a lack of nitric oxide could affect blood flow, leading to problems such as heart attacks, strokes and damage to kidneys.
This research also brought up some issues with transfusions, as blood kept in storage loses nitric oxide and could lead to a transfusion failing to deliver oxygen to the cells.
"Transfusions do help when there's been massive blood loss, but in most cases there is only modest blood loss. Cardiologists have long been puzzled by how patients could have enough oxygen in the blood, but lack it in the cells. Now we have the answer," he added.
Beetroots are so versatile, so adding them to dishes is easy. Salads are a great place to begin, whether you want raw or cooked beetroot to add texture, or why not add it to a smoothie for a natural sweetness?
It also comes in powder form for those of you who can't get around the texture and the great thing about this is that a tiny amount contains all the benefits of a whole plant.
More of a sweet lover? Incorporate them into brownies, chocolate cake or transform them into a Tarte Tatin for a healthy take on dessert.