You can’t beat this root for its health benefits

2016-01-28 06:00
Through the ages, beetroot has been recommended by doctors for women suffering from anaemia, as it has both a high folate and iron content. PHOTO: supplied

Through the ages, beetroot has been recommended by doctors for women suffering from anaemia, as it has both a high folate and iron content. PHOTO: supplied

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THE beetroot is perhaps one of the most interesting vegetables to be grown in the home garden, but there’s a proviso - if you don’t have adequate water, then don’t bother. It will simply go to seed without forming a bulb.

My interest in beetroot began with the discovery that it was the solution to a very serious constipation issue that I had. Many years ago, I discovered quite by accident that the combination of soluble and insoluble fibre in beetroot will conquer even the most stubborn constipation.

It takes a lot of energy to cook beetroot and for that reason I advocate the use of a pressure cooker. Half an hour is enough to cook beetroot if you like them really tender, and you can store in the fridge for about five days. Or pickle them in vinegar.

Beets lie in the moderate glycemic index group, and thus may be frowned upon if you’re banting strictly. Picked young they are sweet, being related to sugar beets, but I’m not a banting fan because of the banning of healthy vegetables like butternut and beetroot, and legumes because of their starch content, albeit low-GI starch. Here’s a compromise — enjoy them with a dab of butter, which might keep Tim Noakes happy.

Those with kidney or gall stones need to discuss beetroot consumption with their doctors, as they are quite high in oxalate.

The best time to grow beets is in winter. That means planting out the seed in late summer. They germinate quite quickly, but they do need to be watered regularly in dry weather.

We have started experimenting with a new variety you can eat raw, sliced thinly in a salad. Then none of the nutrients are lost in the cooking water.

The beetroot has many virtues, particularly for the eyes and in the prevention of cancer, but today I’d like to focus on the mineral iron. Through the ages, beetroot has been recommended by doctors for women suffering from anaemia, as it has both a high folate and iron content.

And, may I make a plug for the blood transfusion service, which is always in need of blood supplies. Perhaps you, like me, quit donating because the SANBS reneged on a promise that blood donors would get free blood in time of need, but eventually I realised that only hurt children with leukaemia, women in childbirth and the thousands seriously injured in MVAs would get it free.

I have a T-shirt stating: “It’s no sweat to donate blood.” I take issue with that. For some, and I am one, it’s been a great struggle to be a donor and every donation is a time of anxiety. I have come up with a few little rules that have made all the difference.

• Have plenty to drink and a honey sandwich before leaving home.

• Ask for a juice and two glasses of water before they begin the draw.

• Ask them to put the chair right back, and do not watch as they prick your finger and jab the needle in.

• Stay in the supine position for 10 minutes after the draw, with another glass of water.

• If you’re the fainting sort, as I am, have someone drive you home.

• Have a quiet day and drink plenty of water.

I won’t pretend that blood donation is a favourite activity.

It’s not, but it is one of the best utterly altruistic things you can do, with zero benefits to yourself, save that knowing that one day it could be you, or one of your loved ones who is in desperate need of clean blood.

You can donate every two months, but generally four times a year is a good target.

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