Thursday, November 8, 2012
Can't Be "Beet"!
After asking him whether he was wearing lipstick or not, my cycling-crazed, mountain climbing friend Steve, responded, "Noooo, it's my newest thing: beetroot juice to improve my time on the bike"!
You see, Steve tries everything he can to have an advantage over me up the mountain and has a distinct habit of taking complete advantage of my naivety. So, despite the fact that, as a naturopath, I've been drinking beet juice and eating beets for years, there was a cynical part of me that imagined Steve feeding me pints of liquid beet and laughing all the way up the mountain, as I suffered on the side of the road from beet-induced (red) .. shall we say .. digestive distress!
Beetroot juice for athletic performance, Yay or Nay? This is how it works: beetroot has high levels of nitrate (NO3). When ingested, NO3 reduces to NO2 (nitric oxide) and can decrease the need for (inhaled) oxygen for muscle contraction and efficiency. Because there is an increase in oxygen in the blood as a result of the reduction of NO3 to NO2, muscles are necessarily supplied with more oxygen, thus reducing the perceived, necessary amount of inhaled oxygen for optimal muscle efficiency. In essence, when tested on rats, the rats that received a dose of beetroot juice before exercise had improved blood flow and increased O2 delivery to fast twitch, type-II muscle.
Studies were conducted initially out of the Netherlands and have been repeated since with varying results: some favourable, some inconclusive.
Regardless of improving muscle efficiency and performance, we should all be eating beets anyway: they are an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, including B's, and minerals including iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and manganese. In addition, beets contain glycine betaine which lowers homocysteine levels in the blood. High homocysteine levels are associated to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Eat the green tops to maintain vision, which is high in vitamin A!
Cooking is easy: the roots can simply be baked in foil in the oven. After baking, you can remove the tough, outer skin before eating (I don't bother)!
The greens can be steamed and eaten as a side, put in soup, or lightly sautéed as a salad topper.
Whenever possible, try to buy organic!