How Can This Ayurvedic Food Make You Feel Great?
Despite their nefarious look, beets' blood-red color and earthy complexity give rise to numerous health benefits. The pleasing sweetness and warm satisfaction of beets have earned them a sentimental role in the traditional meals of Eastern Europe.
Beets are sweet with an earthy, bitter aftertaste. When taken raw, they are sharper, hotter, more fibrous and astringent. Raw beets are tougher and more feverish overall. One of our students noticed this quality, reporting, "My heartbeat increased almost immediately after I ate beets. Twenty minutes later my face turned red".
When cooked, beets become more mellow. Sweet and less astringent, the flesh becomes soft and "easy to chew".
Earthy and sweet, beets are the perfect cleansing and nourishing option for early spring. Those with a heat-imbalance or depleted digestion could benefit more from cooked beets.
About The Plant
Red beetroot originated from Beta Vulgaris, a native plant of Southern Europe. It is an easy-to-grow root which doesn't fall victim to many pests. This, and the fact that beetroot only takes about 55-65 days to be ready for harvest, explains the popularity of beets in tougher climates.
Part of the amaranth family, beets were domesticated in the ancient Middle East, and were grown by the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians. Though they were initially cultivated for their leaves, rather than their roots.
The use of the vivid, red roots did not begin until the Roman era and the medicinal use of beets only gained popularity from the Middle Ages. They were specifically prized for helping digestive and blood conditions. The deep red hue also made beets popular for coloring wine at this time!
Today a wide, and beautifully colorful, variety of beets are available - from the well-known red, to golden yellow, to candy-stripe pink. Every variant is packed with nutrients and a good source of iron, fiber and folate. They also contain manganese, potassium and VitaminC.
Beets' red color is commonly used as a food dye, while white beets are the main source of table sugar!
Footnote: The information for this article was in part gathered from a 2022 study and survey of 19 students of Ayurveda who experimented with beets. During the study, students ate beets for 3 days and journaled the pharmacological effects. This study was sponsored by the Joyful Belly School of Ayurveda, and specifically the Mastering Ayurvedic Digestion & Nutrition certification course.
Boosts Oxygen, Blood Flow, and Athletic Endurance
During digestion, nitrates in beets are converted to nitric oxide, which improves oxygen delivery and can increase endurance. As a 2017 study reported, "those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise longer, showing increased cardiorespiratory endurance." (Source: Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-Muñoz JL, et al. Effects of beetroot juice supplementation on cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes. A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(1). doi:10.3390/nu9010043)
11 participants in our study reported having more energy after eating beets, while only 1 had less energy. "I noticed the beets make me feel more alert, like I have more blood running through me". Another participant noted, "They give me energy. They make me feel strong", and "I felt active and fit, the energy levels were higher".
A reason for this effect could be because nitric oxide improves blood flow to the muscles, brain and other organs by dilating blood vessels. This is a key action in improving endurance.
In fact, nitric oxide is one of the most crucial molecules for the health of our blood vessels. It reduces blood pressure, strengthens the internal lining of the heart and vessels (endothelial function) and acts as a blood thinning cholagogue.
Students felt this improvement in blood flow through their bodies, commenting there was "more blood running through me" and "spreading heat in my body". Others remarked, "I seem to have more blood in this menstrual period." Another said, "my blood feels nourished".
Detoxifies Liver / Improves Blood Quality
Beets have a cholagogue effect, flushing hot, sharp bile from the liver. This action helps keep the organ and, in turn, the blood cool. The release of bile draws toxins and oily fats out of the liver and blood leaving both refreshed. Beets' mild bitter taste and ample fiber point to this quality. The cooling effect can often be felt as a refreshing feeling in the eyes.
Not only do beets help clear the liver, they can also nourish it. Beets contain several nutrients beneficial to the liver. One cup of beets delivers 19% RDA manganese, 37% RDA folate and is high in iron. Not to mention other B vitamins, calcium, betaine and antioxidants, which are all healthy for the liver.
Beets are predominantly sweet, which is a building, nourishing taste. Their deep red color is blood-like in appearance, which speaks to their blood-building nature. They are iron-rich, an essential mineral for the transport of oxygen in the red blood cells. This makes beets useful for those with anemia.
Beets blood & liver nourishing quality may be supportive to those recovering from COVID, but more studies are needed. COVID is not just a respiratory, it also destroys the quality of the blood. This can be seen in a yellow tongue coating a few days after infection, indicating a stressed liver. COVID also significantly impair iron metabolism at the cellular level. Beets alleviate liver and blood conditions and may help bring the system back into balance.
Beets & Improved Eyesight
As the liver is nourished and cleansed, and the quality of blood improves, the eyes benefit. Biocharacteristics medicine sees the eyes, blood and liver as being closely linked. Both highly vascularized, the liver and eyes are highly susceptible to blood changes. Sore, tired eyes are a common symptom of heat (Pitta) aggravation. In these cases, vitiated blood dilates the pupils and reduces the eyes' ability to focus.
One student noted, "my vision became clearer", and another reported, "my eyesight improved this week". This is a natural consequence of beets' blood cleansing, liver cleansing and anti-inflammatory nature. Our founder, John, notes that he clears the liver whenever he notices he is having a difficult time focusing.
The phytochemicals in beets support the health of the eye and nerve tissues. Beta-carotene helps calm an inflamed liver and is a precursor to Vitamin A, which further supports the eyes. Beet also contain an antioxidant called lutein. This acts to protect the eyes against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
Beets contain a number of antioxidant compounds, which reduce allergic and inflammatory reactions. 100g of beetroot delivers about 10% RDA of antioxidant Vitamin C. This is an important nutrient for skin health and overall immune function.
Betanin, aka 'beetroot red', is responsible for the strong red color of the root and also acts as an antioxidant. It scavenges for free radicals and supports healthy elimination. It's also what causes the stool or urine to take a reddish color!
Beets are high in flavonoids, which contribute to their vibrant hue. These compounds support healthy reactions in the body and the cells. This can include anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticancer activity.
The body tries to get rid of bioflavonoids soon after they are consumed. It does this by activating enzymes that also help clear mutagens and carcinogens. This aids in overall cleansing.
Laxative that Cleanses the Bowels
After eating beets the urine and stool will turn a reddish color - this is not a sign of bleeding! It is a harmless occurrence and beets actually support healthy bowel movements.
The cholagogue effect of beets encourages the release of bile from the liver and gallbladder. This bile is hot and irritating to the GI, stimulating quicker elimination. This bile dumping effect, combined with beets' soluble fiber (14% RDA), gives rise to the laxative effect of beets.
Our experiment participants saw this effect in action. Reporting on stool frequency, 8 of 11 students reported more frequent elimination saying they had the, "urge to eliminate within an hour or two of eating the beets". 15 noted that their stool was softer, as opposed to only two who reported harder. 12 students noted faster overall digestion speed, as opposed to two who reported slower.
Essential for Cleansing in February
Seasonally, beets are most useful in February, just as they come into season in many areas. February is a month of liver congestion as the body prepares for Spring by releasing winter fat stores into the blood. This can lead to a congested liver and thick, rich blood.
The cholagogue effect of beets helps to flush these excess oils and cleanses the blood. This is very helpful in late Winter when the blood has become stagnant due to cold winter. This is the reason beets are an essential ingredient of John's February cleanse routine.
Students echoed the cleansing effects of beets. 9 respondents reported less tongue coating after eating beets, versus 3 who saw more. Ayurveda uses tongue coating to assess the overall health of the GI and to look for presence of toxins (ama). The reduction in coating testifies to beets cleansing effect.
Grounding, Relaxes the Nerves
The sweetness of beetroot causes higher blood sugar levels which leaves the body feeling relaxed and satisfied.
Alongside this, the cleansing effect of the root reduces toxins in the system. This allows the nerves to feel more at ease and less jittery. One experiment participant noted, "my tongue trembled less", which was the case for six students. Only 2 noted that their tongue trembled more.
The vasodilating effect of beets increases blood flow and warmth in the body. This combines to relax the muscles and reduce tension, "I noticed a feeling of clarity and released tension. I stopped clenching my jaw". In our study, 6 participants reported less muscle tension (one reported more), while 9 noted less anxiety and none felt more - "nerves are calm, blood feels nourished".
The improved transportation of oxygen in the system helped participants feel more alert, without becoming anxious, "I do not feel any discomfort or anxiousness, or hyperactivity when I eat beets, but I do feel slightly more alert". Another student noted, "my mental clarity seemed slightly better".
Warming, Relaxing Aphrodisiac
Beets were used as an aphrodisiac in Roman times. They improve blood flow and their relaxing, energizing nature is perfect for getting in the mood and warming up desire.
The amino acid tryptophan, the chemical boron, nitrates and glutathione all support this aphrodisiac effect. Studies have shown that beets can be helpful in cases of erectile dysfunction.
By improving blood flow, beets have a warming effect on the body. This was seen by many of our students who reported experiences like a "warm, full sensation that left me feeling grounded and satisfied", "I feel warmth on my tongue and in my belly, as satisfaction" and "cool texture in the mouth but warm inside the belly".
The overall nourishing and moistening quality of beets led one student to exclaim, "the cracks seemed less deep and fewer cracks on my tongue"! Cracks on the tongue are a signed the tongue is 'deflating' due to lack of moisture. A reduction in cracks means the moisture in the body is improving. This moisture can be important for the libido.
Nitrates -Good for you?
Some people believe nitrates are harmful and can cause cancer. Others argue that the risks are more associated with the specific nitrites in processed meats.
The research shows that diets rich in nitrites and nitrates can have positive health effects. These include a decreased risk of many diseases. They have also been shown to support cardiovascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting the inner membranes of heart and vessels (endothelium). They can strengthen the heart muscle (myocardium). They can also slow the metabolic reactions linked to plaque forming inside blood vessels (atherogenesis) and other cardiovascular diseases.
The body can convert dietary nitrates, like those from beets, into nitric oxides. These oxides travel through the artery walls and send signals to the tiny muscle cells around the arteries. These signals tell the vessels to relax and dilate. This improves circulation and allows the blood pressure to drop.
Effects of Each Body Type (Dosha)
Effects on Deficient (Vata) individualsThe blood building, sweet, warming biocharacteristics of beets reduces deficiency characteristic of Vata. Beets should be well-cooked for Vata-dominant individuals. Raw or undercooked beets can be too difficult for them to digest.
Effects on Fiery (Pitta) individualsThe sweet and bitter tastes in beets support and soothe an fiery Pitta liver, and Pitta's corrupted blood. However, beets have one quality that could potentially aggravate Pitta - warmth. 12 students noted they felt warmer after eating beets, as opposed to 2 who felt colder. One student noted, "it warmed me up, so it has a hot biocharacteristic". Another said, "my chest felt warm". However, this warmth is more than tempered by the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, liver-restoring and laxative effects of beets - all of which serve to reduce Pitta dosha.
Effects on Stagnant (Kapha) individualsThe bitter, hot and liquid nature of beets can reduce the stagnation of Kapha dosha. By improving blood flow and detoxifying the liver and blood, slow, stagnant Kapha is reduced.
Simple sugars (glucose, fructose) make up 70%-80% of the carbohydrates in raw and cooked beets respectively. This sweetness of beetroot could lead someone to conclude that beets aggravate Kapha, in excess. But it is generally considered safe, and potentially even helpful, when trying to balance sugar levels. Beets have an overall medium glycemic index score and, more importantly, a very low glycemic load. This is because the phytochemicals in beets help control the blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. In 2014 a study on effects of beetroot juice on blood glucose levels, after eating, was carried out. It showed that drinking 225 milliliters (almost 1/2 cup) beetroot juice significantly reduced post-meal glucose levels.
Beets nourish and improve the quality of the blood. In fact, they are nourishing and satisfying in general. As well as this, beets cleanse the blood, liver and bowels. Beets ability to both nourish and cleanse makes them unique.
Beets can improve circulation, by relaxing the blood vessels and improve circulation. This can help reduce blood pressure and warm the body. The warmth, circulation and nourishing benefits of beets improves athletic endurance and make beets a useful aphrodisiac. Altogether, these qualities relax the body while improving alertness.
BUYING & PREPARATION
It's important to remember that beet greens are heating and Pitta provoking. Because of this it might be necessary to cook the greens in a separate pot.
COOKING BEETSBrowse Recipes
Beets are a versatile root that also work well when juiced, pureed, boiled in soup or pickled.
For a sweeter, smoother experience of beets, try cooking them for 3 hours, causing the fibers to break down and conversion of starches to sugar.
Chopped beets can be difficult for Vatas to digest. If this is the case, blending with warming spices before cooking is a great option. Beets pureed with cloves and black pepper is an oozing, easy-to-digest choice for weaker systems.
Beet soups, such as borscht, are common in Eastern Europe. Slavic peoples often combine beets with horseradish, which is then served alongside cold cuts or sandwiches. This stimulating blend is also commonly added to a meal of meat and potatoes. In Serbia, beets play a role in winter salads and meat dishes, seasoned with salt and vinegar to drive out the seasonal chill.
Nordic countries use chopped, or grated, beetroot in their meatballs and burgers. While in Northern Germany, beets are mashed with beef in a dish called 'labskaus'. Further East, in India, beets are chopped, cooked and spiced to make a common side dish.
ContraindicationsUncooked beets are high in oxalic acid, which can be irritating to the kidneys in excess. In the body, this combines with calcium and/or vitamin C to form oxalates. This can progress into kidney stones.
This is particularly important when juicing beets, where it is easy to take excessive levels of oxalic acid. It is recommended that you avoid if you are experiencing a UTI or have a history of stones.
Cooking completely destroys the oxalic acid, rendering it harmless.
WHY EAT AN AYURVEDIC DIET?Eating Ayurvedically makes you feel nourished and energized. An Ayurvedic diet is tailored to your individual body type and the specific imbalances you are working with at any given time. Ayurveda shows you your specific body typeâ€™s needs and what should be favored in your Ayurvedic menu. Watch as you eat less but feel more satisfied because what you are eating truly nourishes you. Since Ayurveda believes all disease begins in the digestive tract, food is your first medicine. By eating a healthy diet thatâ€™s ideal for your body, you experience optimal health.
Are Beets Good for My Ayurvedic Diet?
SERVING SIZE: 1/2 c
SPECIES: Beta vulgaris
AYURVEDIC MEDICINAL BIOCHARACTERISTICSWhat is the biocharacteristic theory of medicine?
Experiences are PersonalExperiences vary according to the person and constitution. Individual results may vary. The list of herbal-actions below has not be approved by the FDA and should not be used to treat a medical condition.
Here are the herbal actions of Beets:
GENERAL-LAXATIVEPromotes a bowel movement. General laxative is an umbrella term that refers to several different types of laxatives...
STIMULANT-LAXATIVEStimulant laxatives induce bowel movements by stimulating peristaltic movement (the contraction of smooth muscle in the intestines). They are effective when used on a short-term basis. On a long-term basis, they can create dependency. Aka irritant laxativ
STOOL-SOFTENERAn herb that softens stool that is hard and difficult to pass. They are the safest and most gentle type of laxative. Some foods are even stool softeners, such as warm milk with ghee.
DETOXICANTAn herb that decongests, dislodges or improves metabolization of toxins from the body, transforming or altering fluids to a more healthy state.
GROUNDINGEncourages feelings of stability and heaviness. Makes you feel settled, mentally relaxed. Mildly sedates the nervous system to ease stress. Can bring a spacey or anxious person back to earth.
RELAXES-EYESEases tension in eye muscles, so the eyes feel less strained, often by supporting the liver.
ANXIOLYTICHerbs that help people suffering from anxiety or panic. They promote a state of calm and often improve sleep. Most anxiolytic herbs are also nervines.
SATISFIES-STOMACHProvides a sense of gratification and fullness in the stomach.
STIMULATES-ENERGYThis category groups thyroid and adrenal stimulating herbs.
NUTRITIVEAn herb that is strengthening and nourishing.
BLOOD-THINNERHerbs that thin the blood. Helpful for people with heart disease or clogged circulation.
VASODILATORA vasodilator is an herb that widens the blood vessels by the relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls, thereby increasing circulation systemically or to a local area.
VESSEL-TONICAn herb that improves the tone and integrity of blood vessel walls. This is helpful in easy bruising.
ALTERATIVERestores the proper function of the body by cleansing the blood and balancing blood chemistry. In Ayurveda terms, they pacify Pitta in rakta. They were traditionally used to revitalize and detoxify after a long winter.
BLOOD-TONICAn herb that produces more blood cells in the body, or otherwise improves blood cell quality or hemoglobin content. Helpful for anemia and other types of deficiency.
OPTHALMICBenefits the eyes, vision tonic.
CHOLAGOGUECholagogues stimulate the release of bile from the gall bladder for improved digestion.
LIVOTONICAn herb that strengthens the liver. It is helpful for people with a history of substance abuse, chronic liver issues from hepatitis and hemolytic anemias. Generally, liver tonics are oily, cool, sweet, mildly sour, or has beta-carotene.
Joyful Belly is a recognized school of biocharacteristics medicine.
Compare Beets with these Foods
Dandelion Leaves has these Actions in CommonBlood-thinner, General-laxative, Stimulant-laxative, Alterative, Cholagogue, Irritates-kidney, Stimulates-energy, Anti-inflammatory, Detoxicant, Livotonic
Apple (cooked) has these Actions in CommonDetoxicant, Livotonic, Stool-softener, General-laxative, Nutritive, Warms-abdomen, Cholagogue, Grounding, Relaxes-eyes
Pomegranate has these Actions in CommonAlterative, Cholagogue, Nutritive, Anti-inflammatory, Detoxicant, Opthalmic, Blood-tonic, Livotonic, Skin-tonic
Carrot has these Actions in CommonCholagogue, Livotonic, Skin-tonic, Alterative, Detoxicant, Nutritive, Blood-tonic, General-laxative, Opthalmic
Buckwheat has these Actions in CommonBlood-thinner, Muscle-relaxant, Vessel-tonic, Blood-tonic, Nutritive, Warms-abdomen, Grounding, Satisfies-stomach
Almonds has these Actions in CommonBlood-tonic, Muscle-relaxant, Skin-tonic, General-laxative, Nutritive, Stimulates-energy, Grounding, Satisfies-stomach
Tahini has these Actions in CommonBlood-tonic, Nutritive, Stimulates-energy, General-laxative, Satisfies-stomach, Warms-abdomen, Grounding, Skin-tonic
Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe Vera Juice has these Actions in CommonAnti-inflammatory, Detoxicant, Stimulant-laxative, Blood-thinner, General-laxative, Alterative, Cholagogue, Skin-tonic
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe Vera Gel has these Actions in CommonAnti-inflammatory, Detoxicant, Stimulant-laxative, Blood-thinner, General-laxative, Alterative, Cholagogue, Skin-tonic
Grape has these Actions in CommonAnti-inflammatory, Livotonic, Stool-softener, Blood-tonic, Nutritive, Alterative, General-laxative, Opthalmic
Compare Beets with these Herb Supplements
Amalaki has these Actions in CommonOpthalmic, Relaxes-eyes, Alterative, Skin-tonic, Anti-inflammatory, Stimulates-energy, Blood-tonic, Stool-softener, Detoxicant, General-laxative, Nutritive
Holy Basil Leaf (Tulsi)
Holy Basil Leaf (Tulsi) has these Actions in CommonMuscle-relaxant, Stimulates-energy, Vasodilator, Anti-inflammatory, Anxiolytic, Blood-tonic, Detoxicant, Grounding
Bhumyamalaki has these Actions in CommonAlterative, Anti-inflammatory, Cholagogue, Detoxicant, General-laxative, Livotonic, Skin-tonic
Triphala has these Actions in CommonAlterative, Detoxicant, General-laxative, Opthalmic, Skin-tonic, Stimulant-laxative, Stool-softener
Goldenseal has these Actions in CommonDetoxicant, General-laxative, Opthalmic, Vessel-tonic, Alterative, Anti-inflammatory, Cholagogue
Manjistha has these Actions in CommonVasodilator, Alterative, Anti-inflammatory, Blood-thinner, Blood-tonic, Detoxicant, Skin-tonic
Yarrow has these Actions in CommonBlood-thinner, Detoxicant, Livotonic, Vasodilator, Vessel-tonic, Alterative, Anti-inflammatory
Eleuthero Ginseng has these Actions in CommonBlood-tonic, Detoxicant, Grounding, Muscle-relaxant, Stimulates-energy, Anti-inflammatory, Anxiolytic
Bhringaraj has these Actions in CommonLivotonic, Opthalmic, Skin-tonic, Vessel-tonic, Anti-inflammatory, Blood-tonic, Cholagogue
Punarnava has these Actions in CommonAlterative, Anti-inflammatory, Blood-tonic, Cholagogue, Grounding, Stimulates-energy, Vasodilator
Abhayrishta- Colon Tonic
Abhayrishta- Colon Tonic has these Actions in CommonMuscle-relaxant, Stool-softener, Warms-abdomen, Detoxicant, General-laxative, Grounding
HEALTH & WELLNESS PRACTITIONERS!
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HOW DOES EATING AYURVEDICALLY MAKE YOU FEEL?Eating Ayurvedically makes you feel nourished and energized. Food digests with ease when right for your body type (dosha). Healthy digestion is seen as the cornerstone of well-being in Ayurveda. Healthy digestion generally prevents illness. If you do get sick, a strong digestive fire reduces the severity of illness and increases your resilience. It also improves your mood. Once you begin eating Ayurvedically, you will feel refreshed, vital and strong.
View Other Ingredients for SpringBeets is recommended for Spring. Check out these other Spring foods here.
Comments & Impressions of 'Beets'Do you like 'beets'? Why or why not? What makes it unique? Is there something you'd like to know about 'beets'?
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Beets are high in blood building iron.
I have heard that the nutrients in beets are more bioavailable when fermented, so I often cut them up and use a lactobacillus brine. Does Ayurveda use pickled vegetables?
TRADITIONALLY INDICATED FOR THESE SYMPTOMSBeets may be beneficial for these symptoms. The suitability of any food for a condition is highly dependent on the individual. Please see your doctor before using this food to treat a medical condition.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.