Can you eat raw beets?

In this paper, I will answer the question: “Can you eat raw beets?” and explain the difference between raw and cooked beets. I will also list the tremendous benefits of these highly nutritious root vegetables.

Can you eat raw beets?

Yes, you can eat raw beets. In comparison to cooked beets, raw beets have more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The longer you cook beets (particularly in water), the more of the colored phytonutrients leach out of the food and into the water. A study showed that there was a 60% loss of color, and 30% loss of dietary folate of beets processed under typical commercial processing conditions. However, the antioxidant activity remained constant despite an 8% loss of vitamin C. There was a slight but significant 5% increase in phenolic content of processed beets (1).

Beets’ beneficial nutrients can be preserved by roasting or sautéing them instead. Alternatively, lightly steam them for a few minutes.

What makes beets red?

Beetroots are red due to the presence of betanin, a natural pigment that belongs to the betalain pigment family. It is a mixture of red betacyanin and yellow betaxanthin pigments. Because of their pharmacological activity as an antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, anti-lipidemic, and antibacterial agent, betalains, especially betacyanins, play a significant role in human health. In addition, beets are a good source of fibers and folate (1). 

What are the benefits of beet?

Beetroot has the following health benefits: 

  • Anti-cancer action: beetroot includes the molecule betacyanin, which can detoxify the body of harmful substances and prevent tumor growth. This molecule has been shown to have a significant impact on cancers such as lung, skin, leukemia, breast, testicular, and, most notably, stomach cancer. Beet extract is considered to be an efficient chemopreventive agent and should qualify it to be considered as a natural chemopreventive food product (2). In addition, dietary folate and its synthetic counterpart, folic acid, is a vitamin B complex that plays an important role in cardiovascular diseases and cancer prevention. Folic acid has an antioxidant activity value twice the activity of vitamin C (1). 
  • Cell damage prevention: beets contain a pigment that is known to be anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and antioxidant. This protects the cells from DNA damage and free radical scavenging, as well as reducing oxidative stress, which is becoming more prevalent in the younger generation. The chemopreventive properties of the betalain pigments of beet may depend on its betanin content as well as its antioxidant capacity to act as a free radical scavenger in quenching radical oxygen species and preventing them from causing tissue damage (2)..
  • Improving digestive health: Beetroot can help with issues like fat digestion and metabolic changes. Beets also contain a great amount of dietary fibers, which improve the digestive functions and prevent constipation (3).
  • Birth abnormalities prevention: due to its high folic acid concentration, beetroot is extremely advantageous to pregnant women because it prevents birth abnormalities. It also helps with tissue growth and spinal cord development. It also exhibits antioxidant activity, and plays an important role in prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer (1).
  • Good for the eyes: beetroot contains a group of health-promoting substances called carotenoids, which are beneficial to the retinal area of the eye. The easiest method to get these components into your system is to eat raw beetroot.
  • Improving physical activity: Beetroot helps to reduce the harmful effects of exercise both while and after it is performed. It boosts the body’s endurance and perseverance, which is a great source of motivation for many people.
  • Improving blood flow: a single glass of beetroot juice improves blood flow to many sections of the body, which helps to avoid diseases such as dementia. Beetroot accomplishes this by expanding blood arteries and lowering muscle oxygen consumption during physical exercise. This effect is related to the nitrate-induced vasodilation of beet. Following oral consumption, nitrates (NO3−) are absorbed by the intestine. Following uptake from the blood, nitrates are concentrated in saliva via an active transport system. Once secreted in the oral cavity, commensal bacterial anaerobes, located predominantly in the crypt of the tongue, bioactivate nitrates and reduce them to nitrites (NO2−) in saliva. Once swallowed, salivary nitrites are converted to nitric oxide (NO) in the stomach acid, but some of the nitrites are absorbed to increase circulating plasma NO2− concentrations. Beta vulgaris nitrates, being bio-converted to nitrite and nitric oxide, are responsible for lowering blood pressure and vasoprotective effect (3).
  • Lowering blood cholesterol level: Extract of pomace of red beets containing polyphenols and dietary fiber stimulates intestinal excretion of cholesterol and cholesterol metabolites (3).

What is the best way to eat beet?

Here are some tasty and unique ways to incorporate more beets into your diet:

  • Salads: Grated beets give a punch of flavor and color to salads. Raw beets can be thinly sliced and added to a salad as a raw ingredient. Because raw beets are tough, they must be cut or shredded very thinly to be crispy and tasty. 

Spiralizing raw beets is another option. The beet is spiralized into long, thin strands that are chewy and crunchy. Raw beet noodles can be served with a simple vinaigrette or a creamy dressing.

  • Smoothies: Making smoothies with antioxidant-rich fruits like raspberries and blueberries is a popular method to eat raw beets. 
  • Juice: Fresh beetroot juice is usually preferable to store-bought varieties, which can include a lot of sugar and only a tiny proportion of beets.  You can prepare delightful beverages by mixing whole beets with sweet and spicy items like apple and ginger.
  • Roasted beets: Roasting beets brings out their sweeter side and concentrates their flavor. Place them in a 400° oven for 40–60 minutes, after washing them and wrapping them in aluminum foil. Allow the beets to cool before placing them in one hand in a paper towel and rubbing the skin off with the other.

Beets can be roasted whole or chopped. You can also incorporate them into your roasted root vegetable mixture.

  • Steaming: Steaming beets is a healthy cooking method since the beets keep the majority of their vitamins and minerals compared to the boiling method, and remain quite colorful. In addition, steaming tiny beets or beet quarters is quick and simple.

Other FAQs about Beets that you may be interested in.

How to preserve beetroot

Can we eat beets on a keto diet?

Can you eat beet skin?

Conclusion

In this article, I answered the question “Can you eat raw beet?” and I described the health benefits of this superfood and the different methods to eat it.

Please let me know if you need further details about this subject.

References

  1. Jiratanan, Thudnatkorn, and Rui Hai Liu. Antioxidant activity of processed table beets (Beta vulgaris var, conditiva) and green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). J Agri Food Chem, 2004, 52, 2659-2670.
  2. Kapadia, Govind J., and G. Subba Rao. Anticancer effects of red beet pigments. Red beet biotechnology. Springer, Boston, MA, 2013. 125-154.  
  3. Babarykin, D., et al. Red beet (Beta vulgaris) impact on human health. J biosci med, 2019, 7, 61-79.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.