Saturday, February 5, 2011

The nutritional value of beets - Part 2

 Phyto-nutrients: betaine


Beets, the original source of betaine

In the USDA National Nutrient database it is found that 100 g. (about ½ cup) of fresh, raw beet root contains a generous amount of betaine: , 128.7 mg.

Why should you care? What's in it for you? And what is betaine anyhow? 

Betaine was first identified in sugar beets in the 1800s. It is an amino acid. The betaine about which I write, i.e., the one found in beets (often called beet root or red beets) is now usually called glycine betaine to distinguish it from all the other betaines subsequently found in other sources. For this article, I'm sticking with 'betaine' just to simplify matters.

The proper name of the betaine found in beets is trimethylglycine, indicating that it is formed of three methyl groups plus a sugar. It functions by donating a methyl group to another molecule during biosynthesis processes in our bodies, thereby becoming dimethylglycine.

Betaine is a critical factor enabling fundamental processes to function in our brains, processes that include the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as melatonin, dopamine and serotonin. Melatonin helps us to sleep. Dopamine, which is released from the hypothalamus, is an important regulator of basic biological needs. It is present in those areas of the brain that are related to motion, emotion and motivation; dopamine is believed to be essential to learning and behavioural adaptation. At the cellular level, serotonin helps wounds to heal and, in the nervous system, it creates feelings of well-being; it is sometimes called the 'happiness hormone.' These characteristics in themselves substantiate the elevated nutritional value of beets.

But wait. There's more.

Betaine also is active in our organs, specifically in the kidneys and liver where it enables the mobilization of fats. This is useful in the treatment of a condition that is known as fatty liver, a liver disease that is common to alcoholics (and those who aren't but who simply imbibe too much booze).

You're teetotal? Betaine will help you in other ways.

Betaine protects cells, enzymes, and proteins against damage from what might best be called environmental system conditions, such as too much salt, extremes of temperature, and too little water.

The health benefits of beets were indicated by a report on betaines in the journal of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences (133:1291-1295, May 2003) which documented the efficacy with which betaines inhibit inflammatory responses that can lead to heart, liver and vascular disease.

And that's why you should care.

Eat beets. Drink beet juice. And be merry.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The nutritional value of beets : Part 1- Beets, fresh, raw

Here is where I get up on my soapbox to begin a discussion of the nutritional value of beets: the good stuff, the bad stuff, the right stuff and the just plain wrong stuff that has been published and/or believed about beets. 


Beets: fresh, raw, velvety, and full of goodness


 A chart of the common factors that are measured in food laboratories is a useful tool at this juncture. I chose to use the United States Food and Drug Agency (FDA) Nutritional Nutrient database, a source which is easily accessed and to which common reference can be made.

From this data, we observe that beets are found to have nutritional values that are generous in folates, manganese and Vitamin C, and in carbohydrates and dietary fibre, as well as the phytonutrients Carotene-B and Betaine. In future posts, these factors and related subjects will be explored.

Another source, the IFAfitness.com book ( http://www.ifafitness.com/book/USDA-RDA.htm ), has been used for the percentage of Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA-RDI), for additional information.  It is as accurate as I could manage to find at this time.

Data in the IFA tables are categorised by age and gender. These data listed below are for adult females (generalised). For adult males (generalised ), the percentages of RDA (not listed here) are lower. The RDA for some elements is not available simply because either I haven't located a reliable source or there is no published general agreement upon what that allowance should be. For precise data, please visit the IFA site and check the entries for your gender and age. 


Beets (beta vulgaris) 
Nutritional value per 100g (approximately ½ cup) of fresh, raw beet root
Source: USDA National Nutrient database






Principle
Nutrient value
Percentage of RDA*
Energy
43 kcal
2
Carbohydrates
9.56 g
7
Protein
1.61 g
1
Total fat
0.17 g
0.5
Cholesterol
0 mg
0
Dietary fibre
2.8 g
7
Sugars
6.76 g




Vitamins


Folates
109 mcg
27
Niacin
0.334 mg
2
Pantothenic acid
0.155 mg
3
Pyridoxine
0.067 mg
5
Thiamin
0.031 mg
2.5
Riboflavin
0.040 mg
4
Vitamin A
33 IU
1
Vitamin C
4.9 mg
8
Vitamin E
0.04 mg
0.5
Vitamin K
0.2 mcg
0



Electrolytes


Sodium
78 mg
5
Potassium
325 mg
7



Minerals


Calcium
16 mg
1.5
Copper
0.075 mg
8
Iron
0.80 mg
10
Magnesium
23 mg
6
Manganese
0.329 mg
14
Phosphorous, P
40 mg

Zinc
0.35 mg
3%



Phyto-nutrients


20 mcg
- - 
128.7 mg
- - 
*RDA : Recommended Daily Allowance
See the following posts for more information on the health benefits of beets: