Beets are one of the loveliest of veggies. From the rich red varieties to the yellow, orange and purple options, they are a fun way to add color and balance to meals. Beets do contain sugar and, in fact, sugar beets are one of the primary sources of sucrose in the world today.
You may be wondering why in the world would we be highlighting such a food on a blog for type 2 diabetes?!?
Well it turns out there is more to the story, so read on…
Interesting fact: “Beetroot” and “beets” both refer to this root vegetable and the terms are used interchangeably.
Beets Nutrition Facts
- Beetroot is moderate in calories (75 in 1 cup cooked) and considered a “medium glycemic index” food with a value of 61-64
- Beets provide 2-3 grams fiber per 100 gram serving
- Beets are an excellent source (>20%) of folate and a very good source (10-19%) of copper, potassium, and manganese
- Beetroot contains unique phytonutrients called “betalains” as well as lutein and zeaxanthin
- Beets are high in inorganic nitrates
Beets – 1 beet raw, (2″ dia) 82 g
Calories: 35 | Total Fat: 0.1 g | Sat Fat: 0.02 g | Poly: 0.02 g | Mono: 0.04 g | Total Carbs: 7.8 g | Fiber: 2.3 g | Net Carbs: 5.5 g | Protein: 1.3 g
Calcium: 13 mg | Iron: 0.6 mg | Magnesium: 19 mg | Phosphorus: 33 mg | Potassium: 266 mg | Zinc: 0.2 mg
Vitamin C: 4 mg | Thiamin: 0.02 mg | Riboflavin: 0.03 mg | Niacin: 0.2 mg | Vit B6: 0.05 mg | Folate: 89 ug | Vit B12: 0 mg | Vit A: 27 IU | Vit E: 0.03 mg | Vit D: 0 IU | Vit K: 0.2 ug
Calories: 44 | Total Fat: 0.1 g | Sat Fat: g | Poly: g | Mono: g | Total Carbs: 9.9 g | Fiber: 2 g | Net Carbs: 7.9 g | Protein: 1.6 g
Calcium: 16 mg | Iron: 0.7 mg | Magnesium: 23 mg | Phosphorus: 38 mg | Potassium: 305 mg | Sodium: 77 mg | Zinc: 0.3 mg
Vitamin C: 3.6 mg | Thiamin: 0.02 mg | Riboflavin: 0.04 mg | Niacin: 0.3 mg | Vit B6: 0.06 mg | Folate: 80 ug | Vit B12: 0 mg | Vit A: 35 IU | Vit E: 0.04 mg | Vit D: 0 IU | Vit K: 0.2 ug
Calories: 39 | Total Fat: 0.2 g | Sat Fat: g | Poly: g | Mono: g | Total Carbs: 7.8 g | Fiber: 4.2 g | Net Carbs: 3.6 g | Protein: 3.7 g
Calcium: 164 mg | Iron: 2.7 mg | Magnesium: 98 mg | Phosphorus: 59 mg | Potassium: 1309 mg | Sodium: 347 mg | Zinc: 0.7 mg
Vitamin C: 35.9 mg | Thiamin: 0.1 mg | Riboflavin: 0.4 mg | Niacin: 0.7 mg | Vit B6: 0.1 mg | Folate: 20 ug | Vit B12: 0 mg | Vit A: 11022 IU | Vit E: 2.6 mg | Vit D: 0 IU | Vit K: 697 ug
Health Benefits of Beetroot
- Fiber helps with digestion, prevention of gastrointestinal disease and chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes.
- Potassium promotes cardiovascular health including lowering blood pressure.
- Betalains have been shown to provide anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that promote healthy eyes.
- Nitrates, when converted to nitric oxide, relax blood vessels helping to lower blood pressure.
Research on Beets Specific to T2 Diabetes
- Beets have been shown to be effective at lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, reducing LDL oxidation
- They are rich in antioxidants that protect against disease and are cancer preventative.
- Beetroot juice provided to individuals with type 2 diabetes resulted in improved exercise efficiency and may help improve insulin sensitivity as well – though, being that we encourage low carb, we wouldn't recommend juicing – but it's good to know beets contain beneficial properties.
Points for Consideration
- If you’ve not had beets before this is one very important thing to be aware of. Beets are very rich in red pigmentation and also fiber. When you excrete waste, some of this pigmentation follows–in other words, when you go to the bathroom your poop may be red. This can be scary as it resembles blood.
- Beeturia is when there is red pigment in the urine, which may be indicative of iron deficiency so if you see this contact your physician to discuss.
- Additionally, beetroot (and especially the beet greens) contains oxalates, which are not problematic in small amounts, but can be toxic, contributing to kidney stones when consumed in excess.
- Finally, beets are a source of fructans, which are limited on FODMAPS diet. This is a diet that eliminates fruits and vegetables with specific sugar chains in an effort to reduce symptoms of IBS.
Beetroot and Diabetes Conclusion
Beets are a sugar-containing root vegetable with a medium glycemic index and therefore, should be consumed less frequently or in smaller amounts than non starchy vegetables such as leafy greens and other lower carb options.
But, all things considered, when the weight is taken into consideration, glycemic load of beets is only 5 – meaning it will not likely have a dramatic impact on blood glucose so long as it isn’t combined with many other carbs.
Although many low carb diets won't include beets, we consider it to be a very nutrient dense vegetable worth keeping in your diet on the odd occasion. If you pair it with proteins, fats and leafy greens – such as in a salad with nuts, it will still keep your overall carb intake quite low per meal.
Though, it is recommended to avoid the canned beets. They contain additional sugar. Opt for fresh beets and use them to add their unique sweetness and color to your meals.
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Beets in the Kitchen
Choose small or medium sized beets (about the size of a tennis ball) with firm skin and deep color. Avoid beets that are very soft or have areas that look spoiled or rotted.
Beets should be stored in a root cellar (~50 degrees) or refrigerator (wrapped in air-removed plastic) until ready to use. Do not cut beets (including cutting of the ends or the top where the stem is) until ready to use. They will keep for 3-4 weeks if uncut. Once cut, they should be used within 4-5 days.
The green leaves and stems from beetroot can be eaten as well and are often cooked down in broth, salt and pepper or can be blended into smoothies. You can use the beet greens as you would any other green leafy vegetable. They have a wonderful sweetness to them.
Beets can also be spiralized and substituted for pasta.
Boil/simmer beets for 30-40 minutes or until tender.
Roast beets in oven (350-400°F, 175-200°C) for 45-60 minutes or if cubed for around 25 minutes.
Steam beets for 15 minutes – this method seems to preserve the most nutrients.
Scrub beets well and either peel or leave skins on, which are edible.
Using a large, sharp knife, slice off ends and either grate raw (in the case of salads) or slice into circles. Chop beets into slices or small squares. Often beets are cooked whole eliminating the need for cutting.
How to dice beets demonstration
How to grate beets demonstration – note, you do not have to peel them if you wash them well. You can eat the skin, too.
How to chop beets into matchsticks demonstration
Beetroot Walnut Salad
Easy Beet Side Salad