I heart beetroot
With the Christmas sound of little drummer boys only around the corner, you may want to think about getting your own beat in check before the party season.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is on the rise globally. This is not helped by salty western diets and stressy lifestyle choices. According to the NHS one in four people now suffer with high blood pressure which is linked to stroke and heart disease. That’s one beer in every four pack across the country. That’s a lot.
Blood pressure is recorded with a number that measures the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body, against the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels – a bit of a mouthful there but it’s good to know what it actually means. The NHS reckon anything over 140/90mmHg is bad and a figure between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg is what we’re aiming for.
So, if we are feeling the pressure and the numbers don’t look great, what can we do about it?
Well you'll be happy to hear there's loads you can do. Nutrition, exercise & lifestyle can improve blood pressure dramatically. Cutting back on salt and stress top of the leader board for this, but did you know beetroot is a bit of a bad ass when it comes to cardiovascular health?
Time and time again in research we're finding that these purple (sometimes white) power houses are brimming with health benefits. In 2013 the University of Exeter ran a study which concluded beetroot can enhance cardiovascular health and exercise performance in young adults and further studies have proven it can aid with sport endurance - nice.
The mighty beetroot comes from the chenopod family, which also counts Swiss chard and spinach as members. Beetroot's unique source of betalains mean they are anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants and fab for detoxification. But for the purpose of this read it’s the nitrates we're interested in.
Beetroots are one of the most nitrate accumulating veggies out there. It’s important for blood pressure as the body converts nitrate into nitrite (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO) and it’s the nitric oxide that relaxes blood vessels, thus dropping the pressure.
In a 2012 study at the University of Reading blood pressure was measured over a 24 h period following consumption of beetroot juice and bread enriched with beetroot. Those who had consumed beetroot demonstrated a significant drop in blood pressure, even when processed within the bread.
Many other studies over the last few years are concluding with similar findings that beetroot juice reduces blood pressure. The evidence points directly to those dietary nitrate-rich vegetables as having blood pressure lowering effects. How great is that.
So it's time to embrace the beets people. Juice them, grate them into salads, roast them with carrots, add a chunk to your smoothie. We heart beetroot.
#1 The first sugar factory was built in Poland in the 19th Century after it was discovered that beetroot were a concentrated source of sugar
#2 Betacyanin, the pigment that gives purple beetroot its rich colour, is also an antioxidant.
#3 If your wee turns purple - don't be alarmed, it's just the betacyanin