Can you eat beetroot raw? (+5 health benefits)

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat beetroot raw?” with an in-depth analysis of the health benefits and side effects of eating raw beetroot, and whether cooking changes the nutritional content of beetroot.

Can you eat beetroot raw?

Yes, beetroot can be eaten raw. Beetroot is rich in various vitamins and minerals, dietary nitrates, and antioxidants, which are beneficial for your health. However, it’s worth noting that the texture of raw beetroot may be firm and crunchy and the flavor can be earthly and intense (1,2). 

What are the health benefits of raw beetroot?

Beetroot is a great source of essential minerals and vitamins, including folate, potassium, and vitamins C, A, E, K. Beetroot has important content of B vitamins (like B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12). These vitamins contribute to overall health and well-being (2).

Beetroot is a vegetable with low fat content but rich and carbohydrate, starch, soluble fibers and protein (2).

Improve muscle function

Beetroots are rich in dietary nitrates, which have been shown to enhance cardiovascular health by promoting vasodilation, thereby improving blood flow and blood pressure regulation. These nitrates convert to nitric oxide, which relaxes and widens blood vessels, a process known as vasodilation (1,2,3).

Lower blood pressure

The effects of beetroot-derived nitrates on vasodilation have shown promising results in reducing blood pressure in both healthy individuals and those with hypertension (3).

Regular consumption of beetroot juice or supplements has been shown to reduce blood pressure levels. Additionally, the consumption of nitric oxide from beetroot can enhance cardiovascular health and exercise before incorporating it into your diet, especially if you have specific health conditions (4).

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

Beetroot contains potent antioxidants such as betalains and betacyannins, which help reduce oxidative stress, and inflammation, and protect against chronic diseases (2,5).

The betalains in beetroots have been particularly studied for their anti-inflammatory properties. They have shown potential in reducing markers of inflammation in the body and may help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis (6).

Studies have suggested that regular consumption of beetroot may contribute to a lower risk of conditions such as heart disease. Certain types of cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease (7,8).

Boost Exercise Performance

Consuming beetroot can also boost exercise performance and stamina due to its potential to increase oxygen utilization and enhance muscle efficiency. The dietary nitrates, that we mentioned above, can help improve the delivery of oxygen to the muscles during physical activity (2,4).

Studies have shown that beetroot juice supplementation can improve time-to-time exhaustion during high-intensity exercise and enhance performance in activities such as running, cycling, and swimming (9-11).

Digestive Health

The dietary fibers present in beetroot promote digestive health, aiding in maintaining regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and providing nourishment to beneficial gut bacteria (2,12).

What are the side effects of consuming raw beetroot?

In general, consuming raw beetroot is safe, but it is important to note that some people may show certain side effects. For example, if you have a history of kidney stones or are at risk, it is advisable to moderate your intake of raw beetroot because it contains oxalate, which contributes to the formation of kidney stones (13).

Since beetroot is high in fiber, there is a possibility to sometimes cause digestive discomfort such as bloating, gas, or changes in bowel movements, especially if you consume it in large amounts (12). 

Pesticide residues can also be present when you consume raw beetroot. Pesticides can potentially pose health risks if consumed in excessive amounts over a long period. For that reason, before consuming raw fruits or vegetables, make sure to wash them properly to minimize that risk (14).

When you consume raw beetroot, there is a potential risk of mold o bacterial contamination, similar to other raw vegetables. Raw beetroot can harbor bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella, which can lead to foodborne illness if ingested. When it comes to mold presence, it can occur if raw beetroot is stored in damp or humid conditions. Gray mold is one of the most common decay caused by Botrytis cinerea (15). 

How can you safely eat raw beetroot?

To safely enjoy raw beetroot, begin by choosing fresh beetroot without any signs of mold or damage. Give a thorough wash under running water, scrubbing off any dirt. If you prefer, you can peel off the outer skin (16).

When consuming raw beetroot, it’s recommended to do it within a reasonable time or store it in the refrigerator. Keep an eye out for any signs of mold, discoloration or mushy texture, and if you notice any, it’s better to discard the beetroot (15).

That said, you can consume raw beetroot, add it to your salads, thinly slice it to use in sandwiches or wraps, or blend it into smoothies or juices. These preparations allow you to consume beetroot in its raw form, retaining its nutritional content.

Beetroot juice is a good option for you to get many nutrients. It can be enjoyed on its own or mixed with other fruits or vegetables. It is commercially available, but you can also prepare it at home using a juicer or blender (9,11).

Does cooking change the nutritional content of beetroot?

Yes. When you cook beetroot, there are some changes in its nutritional value. Cooking can cause certain losses in water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and some B vitamins, as well as reduce heat-sensitive antioxidants like betalains. However, cooking can also have positive effects by increasing the release of antioxidants from cell walls and improving the absorption of dietary nitrates (17,18). 

According to studies, the impact of cooking on the nutritional value of beetroot depends on factors such as the cooking method, time, and temperature used. So, it’s best to choose cooking methods like steaming that minimize water and cooking time while avoiding excessive heat (18,19).

How to store beets at home?

To store beetroot, the first tip is to avoid washing before storage, as moisture can promote decay. Then you can store your beetroot in a cool and dark place or the vegetable crisper of a refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 32 to 40 °F (0 to 4 °C) and above 98% relative humidity. Under these conditions, beetroot can last for up to 2 weeks (15).

Freezing is also a good method to preserve beetroot longer. By freezing, you can extend its shelf life to 8–12 months (20).

Conclusion

In this short article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat beetroot raw?” with an in-depth analysis of the health benefits and side effects of eating beetroot, and whether cooking changes the nutritional content of beetroot.

References

 

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References

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hen T, Qian B, Zou J, Luo P, Zou J, Li W, Chen Q and Zheng L. Oxalate as a potent promoter of kidney stone formation. Front. Med. 2023,10:1159616. 

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