In a recent study asking more than 1,000 registered dietitians what 10 superfood trends they expected to see in 2019, there were plenty of the obvious ones – avocados, seeds, blueberries, coconut products. But then, on spot seven, perched above nuts and non-dairy milk, was the humble, unassuming beet.
This root vegetable has witnessed a boom in the last few years, appearing in powders and somewhat pricey juice shots. But before it was the perfect athletic enhancer (see below), it was a staple. In Russia, for example, the veggie is simmered alongside onions and cabbage in a meat broth, then topped with dollops of sour cream, to create the quintessentially Russian soup of borscht. It’s a dish that stretches across Ukrainian history (where borscht, sans beets, actually began) and Polish celebrations (where it’s often eaten at Christmas due to its red colour). The Soviets embraced it and cosmonauts took freeze-dried borscht packets into space. Even today the dish is immensely popular; Ukrainian restaurant chain Puzata Hata sells over a tonne of borscht daily.
Yet the beet has moved beyond borscht. Olympic athletes gulp down ounces of juiced beet in an effort to improve their performance. Runners who took a beet shot before racing shaved 1.5 per cent from their time, noted a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Another study noted that after drinking approximately 500ml before cycling, people could ride 16 per cent longer than before. And a study of 23 other beet juice studies revealed the stuff can improve cardiovascular performance overall. The health benefits are all linked back to the nitrate level of beets, which basically helps your body process oxygen better!