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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 its 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, avoid overdosing on beetroot in concentrated form, such as in juice, and instead focus on grating raw beetroot into a salad or try a healthy borscht, a classic beetroot soup or try the delicious beetroot and sweet potato mash below!
Beetroot and Sweet Potato Mash (Serves 2-3)
3 medium sized sweet potatoes
3 cooked beetroots
Add the sweet potatoes in the microwave for 10-12 minutes or cook in the oven until inside is soft. Peel of the skin and mix in a food processor with the beetroots until you get a creamy consistency. Serve as a side or on its own.