Obviously, beets have been around since the beginning of time. But did you know that their history does not just take place on the dinner plate? Beets are everywhere; even places you won't expect! Spoiler alert- beets are priceless, especially when it comes to health and natural cosmetics.
Originally, beets evolved from the wild sea beet, which has the native lands of Europe, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia. Sea beets are considered to be the granddad of all beets. The closest common vegetable in resemblance to the sea beet would be that of the carrot. This is due to the elongated fat root, which ironically, was rarely consumed in early days.
Beets go by many names. Their official classification name is Beta Vulgaris. They however, are abundant in names such as beets, beetroots, garden beet, chard, Swiss chard, sugar beet, red beet, Blood Turnip. This list is endless.
Beets in History:
The first civilization to actually grow and harvest the beet was the Ancient Romans. The Ancient Romans actually used the beets for two reasons. This first was medical. Hippocrates promoted the use of the beet leaves as bandages for injuries. The second use of beets was for food. The leaves were often used as the green of salads. The beet leaf salad was then dressed with olive oil, vinegar and mustard. During the Ancient Roman times, the beet root itself crossed both the medical and nutrient lines and was used by the Romans as a medicinal broth for ailments including fever and constipation.
From there, the beet truly spread through northern Europe from believe or not, the tribes that invaded Rome. They are the ones who embraced the beet for a brand new purpose- domesticated livestock feed. But, it did not take long before more cultures started to consume the beet again for both nutrients and medicinal reasons. Beets were commonly used in both the Renaissance and Medieval periods.
By the early 1700's, beetroots once again were all the buzz because they were found to be a very concentrated source of sugar. As a matter of fact, beets actually contain the highest sugar content out of all the vegetables. However, it was not until the year 1747 that a process was invented to extract the sugar out. Even longer yet, it was not until about 100 years later that commercially speaking beet sugar was produced.
The country was Poland. The problem was the British. They had barred all access to sugar cane, which was the main source to sugar for everyone. What then ensued was Napoleon's quest to use sugar beet as a replacement for sugar cane. The United States was also on the hunt for a sugar source and had already started eyeing up beet sugar as well. By the year 1880, sugar beet plants were already being cultivated in several states. The problem was well into the resolution stage.
However, due to the new increase of popularity in sugar beet, the areas exporting sugar cane, which were located in the tropics, were in desperate need of demand. This set the stage for the same political altercations that are still occurring today.
Beets In Ancient Mythology:
Long said "to be worth their weight in silver", beets were often offered to the gods of Mythology. Specifically there are two Greek gods that thoroughly enjoyed and loved beets.
Let's start with the goddess Aphrodite, the exciting and beautiful goddess of love and beauty. She accredited her powers of beauty and love to the beetroot. Because of her love affair with beets, it was believed in early history that consuming beets could enhance your beauty and your sexual power. It was also believed that eating and sharing a single beetroot with your lover would forever bond you in love. In fact, during this era, beetroot was eaten as well as often used as rouge and lipstick, not only adding color to a woman's face, but also tapping into the sexual aura of the beet.
Next, is the god Apollo. Apollo was the most famously worshipped among all of the deities. The Greek god Apollo is the god of sun, light, music, medicine and healing. To Apollo and his followers, the much sought after beetroot juice was considered an aphrodisiac.
Beetroot also has a significant worth with the Talmud. They used this vegetable mainly in two ways. The first was to ward off any diseases. The second was as homage to God. It has long been stated by rabbis to live a long and healthy life, one must be "eating beet root, drinking mead, and bathing in Euphrates".
Besides eating and drinking beets in favor of the gods, some cultures even used beets to color hard boiled eggs before consuming. This was thought to have been eaten by people to please the Sun god, who then in return would reward them with prosperity and good health.
Finally, another god that was partial to beets was KVASIR. He was the Norse god of Inspiration. Slav and Nordic people drank Kvas in his honor. This was a staple drink which was made using fermented beet juice.
Beets in Health:
Beets are fabulous for everyone. No matter if you are a man, woman, pregnant woman, or child, beets love to help everyone. There are over 80 different nutrients in beets that our bodies just love. They are a healthy source of Vitamin B folate, B1, B2, B6, B12, and Vitamin C. Beets also offer a wide variety of nutrients such as: niacin, flavonoids, amino acids, iodine, iron, manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, magnesium, copper, mineral boron, and phosphorus. They are also rich in antioxidants. The beet leaves when consumed also offer Vitamin A, Vitamin C, protein, iron, fiber, calcium, and beta carotene.
Now, let's get into a beet health breakdown. Beets have been known to correct the body's ph balance, and they even help the body to access an additional uptake of oxygen. Beets have been linked to have medical benefits for certain illness too.
Cancer- Because beetroot contains the pigment betacyaninis. This is a cancer counter agent. Beets have the power to inhibit the cancer (cell mutation). Consecutively, beet juice has also been linked to inhibit the development of tumors as well. Beets have the capability to repair chromosomes in the body on the cellular level. Red Beets are the most capable of all foods to repairing DNA of the human body. In fact, in Germany, beetroot juice rated one of the most popular alternative cancer treatment among patients with cancer.
Blood Pressure- Drinking beet juice has been shown to decrease levels of high blood pressure. This is because ingesting beets helps to lower the amount of triglycerides and LDL in the blood.
Cardiovascular- Beets contain a very healthy amount of betaine. This compound has the capabilities of lowering plasma homocysteine. This is a naturally occurring amino acid in blood plasma. Although not directly linked yet, plasma homocysteine is considered to be a risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease. Links of plasma homocysteine have also been tied to Dementia and Alzheimer's.
Liver- Betaine, a compound present in beets, also multitasks as amazing for the liver too. Beets are considered a liver cleanser. When a person has a protein deficient diet, has diabetes, or has an alcohol abuse problem, their body produces a buildup of fatty deposits. This is called steatosis, and it occurs in the liver. Betaine helps to promote a healthier liver function which in turn helps the body break down these fats. Additional bonuses to having a healthy liver function are weight loss and energy.
Kidney and Gall Bladder- Because beets contain potassium, they are the perfect answer to feeding your kidney just the right nutrients to take on its daily functions. The chlorine present in beets also helps to naturally cleanse the kidneys.
Human sex hormones- Beets are hands down super rich in a mineral called boron. This nutrient plays a vital role in the production of sex hormones in humans.
Healthy bones, skin, nails, and hair- Beets have a high content of silica which is perfect for our bodies to use to strengthen these components of our human bodies. As well, beets also contain high amounts of magnesium... which all ladies should love because this helps to prevent osteoporosis.
Cataracts and Macular Degeneration- Since beets contain Beta-carotene (the same nutrient in carrots); beets are able to help prevent both cataracts and Macular Degeneration.
Capillaries- Since beets also contain flavonoids and Vitamin C, they are able to help strengthen and keep the structure of capillaries from becoming frail.
Birth Defeats- If you are pregnant, beets should be your new best friend. Beets contain Vitamin B folate which in turn aids in the development of the baby's spinal column, DNA, and RNA. Vitamin B folate is also extremely vital to all normal tissue growth. One cup of beets contains 136 grams of folate, and amazingly only 75 calories; now that is a whole lot of healthy going on! A little tid bit of gossip: After both of her pregnancies, actress Catherine Zeta Jones became addicted to beets and all of their health benefits.
Respiratory Issues- Beets have been linked to help prevent asthma symptoms.
Jaundice, Nausea and Vomiting: Consuming beets is nothing but a positive for your digestive functions especially when it comes to dysentery or diarrhea.
Immunity: Beetroot has the capability to help renew damaged cells in the immune system. Additionally, they can be used to help purify and improve blood circulation in the body. The American Heart Association claims that beets can also help fight anemia.
Menstruation: Hey, all your ladies out there... consuming beets on a regular basis helps to regulate your menstruation flow.
When supplementing your diet with beets, you need to be aware that an excessive consumption of beets can cause a condition called methemoglobinemia, which can reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of blood cells. In addition, eating large amounts of beets is not recommended for individuals with kidney problems due to the high oxalate content.
Beets A Cultural Staple:
Although beets have not always received the greatest reviews from consumption, some cultures use beets as a beloved staple of their diets. For example Eastern Europe makes a traditional beet soap called borscht. It is one of their most cherished dishes and it comes served with sour cream.
In Australia, beetroot is a common ingredient for hamburgers. It is added in slices, much like we Americans do with lettuce and tomato. It is also common for fast food chains like McDonalds to include beetroot on their burgers for Australian consumers. These are considered Oz-style burgers!
And to whom do we owe gratitude of thanks for introducing beets to common cuisine... the French. French culinary totally knocked beets out of this world in the early 1900's. They were able to fascinate, intrigue, and dominate our taste buds as well as increase our bodies health, all with the assistance of one vegetable!
Today, beetroot in the kitchen is one of the most versatile ingredients we can get our hands on. Beets can truly be used from start to finish. No matter is it is appetizers, soups, main courses, desserts, or even beverages, beetroots are quite the all purpose go to. They help the flavor, texture, and the addition of color!
Beets in Science:
Alright, this one is going to blow your mind. You can actually use beetroot juice to measure the acidity of a substance. When beetroot juice is added to a substance that is acidic, it turns the solution pink. If beetroot juice is added to a substance that is alkali, it will turn the substance yellow. Now, that is one cool fact!
Feeling out of whack: Beetroot can be used to alkylate the body. This is all done through the beets super rich source of carotenoids, flavonoids, beyacyanin, folate, silica, and the other various minerals and nutrients that the great beet contains.
Beets- more than just a food:
Beets the hero super food can be eaten of course. But, beets can also be used to make foods redder. Items like tomato paste, gravy mixes, sauces, jams, and yes, you're not going to believe this one ice cream all use the Betanins to deepen the red color too! In addition to coloring, beets are also used to flavor other certain vegetables juices like carrot and celery. And as an added treat, beetroot has the same chemical that is present in chocolate. This feel good chemical is tryptophan.
In the food category, beetroot powder can be eaten directly, mixed in a beverage, or even sprinkled on food like salads or meats. Even when used in small amounts, for all of the healthy benefits that beets are able to provide, it was not necessarily affect the flavor. When preparing food with beetroot powder, one teaspoon is equivalent to one beet, nutritionally speaking.
Beetroot is also used in the wine industry because the addition of this ingredient makes a wine that tastes very similar to port. Beetroot can also be used to make homemade wine. Wine producers use beets because it is so easily distilled.
Besides using beets in food and makeup for coloring purposes, beets can also be used as a natural dye for clothing. It is believed that beets are a perfect substitute for red dye. And, unlike the red dye, beets used as coloring will not cause any allergic reactions. In fact, Victorians used beets to dye their hair.
Beets in Cosmetics:
Beets are an extremely interesting herb to include in your cosmetic recipes. Besides all of the health benefits that beetroot has to offer, you do not necessarily have to consume the beet in order to get on the healthy track. By just incorporating the addition of beetroot powder as an ingredient, your skin and body is able to enjoy beetroot benefits. Are you looking for an additional bonus? Any time that beetroot powder is used in a cosmetic or body product recipe, beets also double as a natural colorant.
Sugar Scrubs- Beetroot Powder can be used in sugar scrub recipes to allow your skin all of the luxurious benefits that can be had. For a great sugar scrub recipe that highlights the use of beetroot powder, check out our emulsified beet sugar scrub recipe. Your skin will be so soft and glowing; this sugar scrub will become part of your daily routine.
Hair- This is one way to add a little color to your hair without using all those chemicals. Beetroot juice when mixed with regular henna powder can actually be used to add a light chestnut color to your hair. Look at that, a little color with the bonus of truly healthy, beautiful, not striped hair.
Facial Soaps and Facial Masks- Beetroot works great for skin blemishes and acne. In fact using a facial mask with the addition of beetroot powder has shown a decrease in mothers mask and blemishes when used on a regular basis. This is due to your facial pores receiving iron and vitamins from the beetroot. Besides helping to fade away blemishes and reducing acne, beetroot in a facial mask will leave a healthy pinkish color to your face. If you are interested an amazing facial recipe click on our beet root facial soap recipe. Your face will thank you! Please note, when adding beetroot powder to soap, it will eventually turn yellowish brown in color due to the alkalinity of the soap. Although beetroot powder does discolor in soap, it still provides nutrition to the skin.
Blush- Are you looking to add a little hue to your checks? Using beetroot powder as a blush is an amazing natural option to store bought blushes. And, even better yet is the fact that Natures Garden has a Natural Beet Blush recipe that literally only contains 3 ingredients! All natural, all healthy, and all beautiful!
Lip Glosses- With a little elbow grease, beetroot powder can be added to your lip gloss recipes as a natural colorant. With the addition of flavoring, a beetroot lip gloss is just as effective even better then commercial lip glosses. You can conquer two things: great glossy lips and a healthy pout to boot. For a link to one of the greatest natural lip gloss recipes on the internet check out our Natural Beet Root Lip Gloss Recipe. When making lip gloss colored with beetroot powder, it is important that the beetroot powder is not clumpy when added to the recipe. We also found that whipping the lip gloss mixture to incorporate the beetroot is necessary to get the beetroot properly suspended in the lip gloss oils/butters.
Bathing Products- You can use the addition of beetroot powder in your bath products too! Whether you are using your beetroot powder to color your soaps or lotions, or including beetroot powder because of its nutrients for the skin, it can be done. For a super great bath product recipe, look at our Rose Violet Bath Melts recipe. The rich and vibrant color is achieved using nothing more than beetroot powder. Just in case you are wondering...NO, this bath melt recipe will not stain your bathtub.
Once we uncovered what a key ingredient beetroot powder can be for bath and body products, the creative wheels just began cranking wildly. We have been testing beetroot powder in various bath and body recipes for some time now. Some of the most enlightening facts that we would like to share with you are:
Beetroot Powder has a tendency to clump. If you are using beetroot powder for a body product, it is vital that you break up any clumps. In doing so, you will find a nice even distribution of the beetroot powder among your mixture.
When working with beetroot powder and recipes that contain polar (water loving) components, we have found that "wetting" the powder in vegetable glycerin works wonders for incorporation, especially when you are using the beetroot powder as a natural colorant. Please note: If you are making a non-polar (oil based) product that does not have any polar (water loving) ingredients, vegetable glycerin should not be used for wetting. Vegetable glycerin will settle out of recipes that are strictly non-polar. However, this "wetting" procedure works wonders in emulsified scrub recipes that contain an emulsifying wax, and in lotion recipes.
Beetroot Powder used in soaps will oxidize, turning the soap into a tanish brown color.
Obviously because beets can dye, there may be some hesitation when using beets in your cosmetic recipes. But, have no fear of accidently dying your fingers a pink color. The color (dye) of beetroot powder is water soluble. Using lukewarm water and soap avoids any possible stain. Another tip to remove the pink fingers is to rub lemon juice and salt on your fingers before you wash them with soap and water. If beetroot has stained a fabric, try using a freshly sliced raw pear, rubbing the stain first before washing.
Beets contain a high nutritional value. It is also these nutrients that are highly sensitive to air and light exposure. Beet root powder should be stored in an air tight container. This container should be in a dark, dry, cool place. Although refrigeration and/or freezing is an option for beet root powder, it is not necessary.
Note: Natures Garden sells our herbs for external use only. We do not sell them as food items. (The information we provide is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration). Keep all herbs out of reach of children and pets. Special care should be taken by pregnant and/or lactating women when handling herbs. Natures Garden accepts no responsibility (written or implied) for any products you make with our herbs. All testing is the responsibility of the customer.