Eating Beets! Are They Bad For You?

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BY MICHELLE SMITH 

With March being nutrition month, it’s that time again to give you some knowledge. Growing up in a West Indian household beets were commonly known for its powerful punch. You can eat beets raw, roasted or boiled. The top of the beet offers great nutritional value also. You can boil and serve the greens as a tasty dish much like spinach. Beets contain numerous nutrients and vitamins that deliver multiple health benefits. Why the big hype? As more people try to find natural ways of treating illness beets has been on the #1 list for centuries. As your advocate my goal is to help you figure out the right choices for you.

Diabetes and high blood pressure remain on the rise in our community. With this in mind, one might refer you to a tall glass of beet juice. This helps to lower blood pressure. Beets are rich in natural chemicals called nitrates. Through a chain reaction your body changes nitrates into nitric oxide, which helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.  Beets are rich in valuable nutrients and fiber. Remember that a diet high in fibre will help with bowel function, weight management and cholesterol control. Beets are also high in immune-boosting vitamin C and essential minerals like potassium. Did you know that potassium is a mineral involved in electrical and cellular body functions including building muscle, normal body growth and normal electrical activity of the heart?  A lack of adequate potassium can lead to salt sensitivity causing high blood pressure. Some medications including diuretics, steroids and laxatives can decrease your potassium levels, which can have serious health consequences. If you are on such medications make sure you do blood work routinely. Beets also contain Manganese, a mineral that helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors and sex hormones, hence it’s stamina giving reputation. Beets also contains vitamin B and folate, which helps to reduce the risk of birth defects. This powerful vegetable has been regarded as a superfood with respect to decreasing inflammation in the body. With that being said, it is very useful in helping to prevent chronic illness. Traditionally, beets have been recommended for the value it has in supporting detoxification and aiding in purifying your blood and liver.

The shocking news is that beets are not for everyone. More people are popping up at their doctor’s with combined chronic illnesses. Diabetes and high blood pressure seem to be at the top of the list. So with that being said beets may not be for you.

You may be shocked at the thought of having to put a halt on your favorite beet root drink, but let me explain. Beets are not recommended for individuals with diabetes. You’ve probably heard that the glycemic index can help you make healthy food choices. For people with diabetes or at risk of developing diabetes, using the glycemic index to choose foods is one way to help manage your blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) is a scale from 1-100 that ranks carbohydrate rich foods by how much they raise blood sugar levels. Some carbohydrate foods are digested quickly and others more slowly.  White bread and glucose have been given the highest possible rating of 100 on the glycemic index because they raise blood sugar levels higher and quicker than most other foods. (as cited by Eat Right Ontario). Beets are ranked in the medium range at 64. If you need to watch your blood sugar levels, consume beets in moderation. How much to consume and what effect it will have on your blood sugar will vary. As your Advocate, I expect that you will monitor your blood sugar routinely. As a diabetic, you are expected to count your carbohydrate intake.

Quick fact, beets may cause beeturia (red or pink color in the urine or stool). Please note this is harmless. The important thing to remember is that everyone has different health care needs, there is no one size fit’s all approach to your health. Your health does not have to be complicated. The goal here is to understand what is right for you.  If you require assistance in guiding your health you can contact your Health Care Advocate . Remember you are the most important part of your Healthcare team.  

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