Beetroot is a widely popular vegetable, and one that can be consumed and utilized in numerous different ways – ranging from salads, to various cooked recipes all around the world.
But this begs the question: does beetroot need to be cooked, or can you consume it raw?
What Is Beetroot?
What most people might not know is that beetroot is actually the consumable root section of the beet plant.
This might seem obvious from the name, but we often take for granted things that we regularly come into contact with.
Known as ‘beets’ in the United States, and beetroot in other locations around the world, beetroot has a history that can be traced back to the Ancient Egyptians – who domesticated the taproot of the plant to create an edible food source.
However, during this period they were mainly consumed for their greens, with people not consuming the roots themselves until the time of Ancient Rome some centuries later.
Can Beetroot Be Eaten Raw?
Like many plants and vegetables, beetroot can indeed be eaten
raw – and this has been a common method throughout the plant’s history.
Raw beetroot actually has a pleasant taste and is laden with nutrients – however most experts recommend thoroughly washing beetroot before consuming raw.
This is due to the various pesticides used in farming, and other forms of bacteria that they could have been exposed to during production and cultivation.
How Else Is Beetroot Consumed?
As well as being eaten raw, beetroot has a long history of being cooked – appearing in various recipes and dishes from around the world.
Beetroot has historically been boiled, but they can also be roasted – something widely seen in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.
What Are Some Notable Beetroot Dishes?
Around the world there are numerous different recipes that include beetroot as a main ingredient.
In the western world, as well as in the Mediterranean, beetroot is consumed raw or pickled – usually as part of a salad dish with other leafy garden vegetables.
Perhaps the most famous beetroot dish is borscht – a popular beetroot soup consumed throughout eastern Europe, especially in Poland and Ukraine.
This is a hot soup combined with spices and other winter vegetables throughout these regions.
With widespread immigration, the dish has also become popular all around the world.
Beetroot is also used around the world in a number of sauces – usually to be combined with meat and cold cuts.
One such sauce is chrain – a spicy horseradish/beetroot sauce that is consumed in Ashkenazi Jewish, Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, and Ukrainian cuisine.
Is Beetroot Healthy?
Beetroot is considered a healthy part of anyone’s diet, and can be used in many ways to introduce vegetables into meals.
Its unique taste also means that it can be incorporated into many dishes to create a richer, unique flavor.
Does Beetroot Have Health Benefits?
Perhaps surprisingly, beetroot has long been used to cure various ailments – both in modern and traditional forms of medicine throughout Europe.
As such, beetroot has long been associated with providing health benefits.
Improving Blood Pressure
It is also thought that regularly consuming beetroot can help to lower and level off the blood pressure – something that can help prevent more serious conditions like heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
While beneficial for both forms of blood pressure, it seems to have the most impact on the systolic blood pressure – likely due to the high levels of nitrates within the root vegetable.
Dietary nitrates are transformed into nitric oxide within the body, which in turn can cause the blood vessels to dilate, and the blood pressure to drop as a result.
Improve Athletic Performance
The nitrates within beetroot also appear to have distinct effects on the physical performance of individuals.
This is because they can improve the cell efficiency of the mitochondria – the components used for improving cellular energy.
This suggests that beetroot could delay feelings of exhaustion associated with exercise, thus making athletes more able to perform greater feats before becoming fatigued.
There is also evidence to suggest that beetroot has anti-inflammatory properties.
Beetroots contain a pigment known as betalains, and these possess anti-inflammatory properties that can be good for all manner of bodily ailments.
This means those with chronic illnesses, arthritis, joint pain, and numerous other conditions could potentially experience some pain relief by regularly consuming beetroot.
Improving Digestive Health
There is also some evidence to suggest that beetroot could improve digestive health – something that we now know to be incredibly important to the health of the entire body.
This is because beetroot is a good source of fiber, which is bypassed by the digestion process, and absorbed into the body – traveling to the colon where its friendly bacteria uses it to bulk out the stools.
This can help to keep you regular, and avoid conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
Supporting Brain Health
Our brains naturally decline with age, but there are some things we can do to make sure this change is as minimal as possible.
One such method could be eating beetroot, which is thought to support and bolster the health of the brain.
This is through the dilation of the blood vessels, which in turn allows more blood to flow to the brain.
Could Fight Cancer
Various compounds within beetroot – such as betaine, ferulic acid, rutin, kaempferol, and caffeic acid – are all known to have noted benefits on cancer cells.
Although more research is needed, this could mean there is hope for those suffering with the disease.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about beetroot, and whether or not you can eat it raw.
It’s true that beetroot is a popular and delicious vegetable, and one that has many uses within the culinary world.
However, even the nicest food, when prepared wrong, can turn into an absolute nightmare.
- serving platter
For The Salad
- 800 g baby beetroot tinned or jarred, drained and halved
- 200 g soft feta like Danish feta
- ½ cup walnuts crumbled
- ¼ cup mint leaves fresh
For The Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- salt and pepper to season
- Put the halved baby beets on a serving platter.
- Add soft feta in tiny bits.
- Crumble in the walnuts and top with the mint leaves.
- Shake the dressing ingredients in a small jar until completely mixed.
- Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad.