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Juicy red beets (chukandar) are in season and here are four reasons why you should make them part of your diet.

Essential for overall health. The high dose of manganese and betaine in beets are essential to overall health as they promote the optimal functioning of the nervous system. The presence of betalain – the anti-oxidant that give beets their red colour – and vitamin C (the ultimate immunity booster) ward off illness and inhibit the formation of cancer causing cells. Regular consumption of beets helps detoxify the liver, while reducing the severity of diseases such as food poisoning, hepatitis and jaundice.

Help you relax. After a stressful day, consider having a cup of steaming beet-steeped tea. This contains high levels of tryptophan which relaxes nerve cells and endings and triggers the release of hormones that create a sense of well-being and relaxation.

Regulate blood pressure. A glass of undiluted and unprocessed beet juice – chockfull of nitrates – every morning is believed to reduce blood pressure, a blessing if you suffer from hypertension. The juice also acts as a powerful solvent against those inorganic calcium deposits in the arteries which cause them to harden, thereby reducing your vulnerability to cardiovascular disease.

Ensure healthy mothers. Gynaecologists advise regular intake of raw beets (cooking or steaming depletes their nutritional reserves) to expectant mothers; their high folate content prevents neural tube defects. Beets are high in iron which regenerates red blood cells and supplies fresh oxygen to the body, preventing anaemia during pregnancies.

– Saba Gul Hasan
The writer is a dietician.

First published in the Health Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 14, 2014.