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Sweet and versatile, beetroot is one of the star ingredients of many autumn recipes, but it has a mind and body impact well beyond the earthy flavour.
A root vegetable with the ability to help us feel relaxed and calm, beetroot has a soothing secret called betaine. Betaine was first discovered in the juice of sugar beets in the 19th century and these days the amino acid derivative betaine is recognised as being potentially helpful in treating clinical depression. It works by increasing levels of the compound s-adenosylmethionine (SAM). This, in turn, increases the levels of the ‘feel happy’ chemical serotonin.
Another way betaine can help boost our mood is through helping support detoxification pathways in the liver. Just like some B vitamins, betaine is considered to be a “methyl donor” meaning it aids in liver function and detoxification. If your mood is low because you’ve overdone it the night before, it’s time to bring out the beetroot!
However, like most nutrients, betaine works in synergetic form and isn’t enough on it’s own. Betaine is a derivative of the nutrient choline, other words, choline is a “precursor” to betaine and must be present for betaine to be synthesised in the body. A good source of choline are eggs, so add them to your shopping basket too.
Beetroot also contains the B vitamin folate which studies show can help boost the effects of antidepressant treatment. Researchers at Melbourne University, Australia looking into whether nutraceuticals boosted the effects of antidepressants found two randomised controlled studies affirming they did.
Lastly, beetroot has also long been used to boost energy, always a good mood supporting idea, as It provides easily assimilated iron when combined with vitamin C. If you were to eat the beetroot greens alongside the beetroot bulb, you’d get both in one go.
But how much is needed? Animal studies have been shown to demonstrate the need for only low doses of beetroot extract to initiate a therapeutic effect.
As such, you don't need to drink gallons of the stuff - although beetroot, apple, carrot and ginger is a firm favourite on my retreats. Instead, you could try grating raw beetroot into a protein rich salad as it is the perfect partner to Puy lentils or organic chicken.
Raw Beetroot, Lentil and Mint Salad with Orange Dressing
1/2 medium orange
1 spring onion
1 handful salad leaves
2 sprigs fresh mint
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
80 g Puy/green lentils - cooked
2 tsp Udo's Oil
110 g raw beetroot
Orange zest to taste