Making Carbs Count Beetroot

Beetroot slicesA big, fat, red root, beetroots have a bounty of benefits. Although beetroot has one of the highest sugar contents of any vegetable. Up to 10% of beetroot is sugar, but it is released slowly into the body rather than the sudden rush that results from eating chocolate. Beetroot contains betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used in other forms to treat depression. It also contains tryptophan, which is also found in chocolate, and contributes to a sense of well-being.

It’s about 10g of carbs per 100g of beetroot.

Beetroots come in all shapes and sizes but the most common is round and deep red in colour. Other varieties are yellow, white, and even candy-striped (with red and white concentric circles). Beetroot is sweet, earthy and tender to eat (when cooked) and related to the turnip, swede and sugar beet.

Beetroot was popular in Victorian times, when its dramatic colour brightened up salads and soups.  It was also used as a sweet ingredient in cakes and puddings. Beetroot can be made into a wine that tastes similar to port. There are many herbs and spices that go well with beetroot including balsamic vinegar; bay leaves; citrus; chives; garlic; horseradish; mustard (recommended by the Roman writer, Pliny!); peppercorns and thyme.

If you’re handling beetroots, to cure the inevitable ‘pink fingers’, rub with lemon juice and salt before washing with soap and water.

The dramatic redness means that Since the 16th century, beet juice has been used as a natural red dye. It has other uses though; you can use beetroot foR an improvised but accurate simple Litmus test (measure acidity). When beetroot juice is added to an acidic solution it turns pink, but when it is added to an alkali it turns yellow.


Health boosts

Basic chemistry tests aside, beetroot has a bunch of health benefits. It’s great for boosting stamina and making muscles work harder, it also contains potassium, magnesium and iron as well as vitamins A, B6 and C, and folic acid. Beets also contain carbohydrates, protein, powerful antioxidants and soluble fibre.

Three baby beetroot equal one of your recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. So a handful of beets can give you these health boosts:

1. The high content of nitrates in beetroot produce a gas called nitric oxide in the blood which widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. A daily dose of 250ml of beetroot juice or 1 to 2 cooked beetroot (approx. 100g) can help dramatically reduce blood pressure and its associated risks.

2. Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beetroot its colour, is also an antioxidant. Antioxidants are believed to help reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, in turn protecting artery walls and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

3. Beetroot contains folic acid which is essential for normal tissue growth. Beetroot also contains iron, so it’s particularly great for ladies during pregnancy.  Beetroot’s iron content means it’s good for those with anaemia and fatigue.

4. Beetroot contains the mineral silica. This helps the body to utilise calcium, which is important for musculo-skeletal health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.


Beetroot in cooking

Beetroot is virtually fat free and low in calories. Although it has a ‘medium’ GI (Glycaemic Index) of 64, It has an extremely low GL (Glycaemic Load) of 2.9 which means it’s converted into sugars very slowly and therefore helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Grated it can be used in cakes  — if that shocks you, then think carrot cake; like courgettes and carrots, when cooked in cakes these add moisture and the natural sugars are brought out. A total beetroot classic is borscht soup. Another simple and great side is to mix grated beetroot to some horseradish. You can put a slice in burgers or use in salads. It’s relatively cheap, very versatile (thought for some it is an acquired taste), it’s good for you and while carb-y, it is slow release sugars so it’s a good option for diabetics, especially if you count all the health benefits listed above.

For more recipes and information see

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