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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

How Far Will You Go To Satisfy That Craving?

How Far Will You Go To Satisfy That Craving?

Obesity (defined by the World Health Organisation as having a BMI greater than 30), is highly related to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer. In 2014, more than 2 in 3 adults in the US were considered to be overweight or have obesity. Our choice of food does not merely affect the joy and pleasures that we get from our tastebuds, but also affects our health and physical body in the long run.

After hearing about a lawsuit against McDonald’s from two girls, accusing the restaurant chain for contributing to their obesity, Morgan Spurlock decided to film a movie about his experience following a 30-day period, during which he ate only McDonalds. The documentary titled Supersize Me was nominated for the academy award, and six weeks after the film’s debut, McDonalds dropped their supersize portions, showing the influence of the film.

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    Spurlock started his experiment eating a McDonalds meal three times a day, consuming every item on the menu at least once. For every day, Spurlock consumed an average of 5,000 kcal (equivalent to 9.26 Big Macs) during the 30-day period. The film documented radical effects on Spurlock’s well-being, physically and mentally.

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    The ugly truth

    During the 30-day program, he consumed as many McDonalds meals as most nutritionists say the ordinary person should eat in 8 years, including 30 pounds of sugar and 12 pounds of fat within 30 days. The most startling part of the documentary was a school cafeteria scene showing how kids eat junk food when parents are not around, and school administrators pay no attention.

    The movie ends with the question “Who do you want to see go first, you or them?” Leaving room for viewers to reflect on their dietary habit and how it affects their body. This documentary is not exactly a storytelling, plot-twisting film, yet it is real and thought-provoking, when we see so many of us, who chose to live in a fast food nation, poisoning our own bodies, knowing perfectly well the effect fast food has.

    Watch Supersize Me in iTunes

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    More by this author

    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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    Published on April 8, 2021

    6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

    6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One)

    Beetroots are vegetables rich in nitrates, antioxidants, and polyphenol compounds that have a role in improved cardiovascular function and exercise performance.[1] However, beetroot juice has limitations with storage and taste preference, and so other more convenient forms have been investigated. One of these forms is beetroot powder.

    What Is Beetroot Powder?

    Beetroot powder is made by dehydrating or drying out thin slices of beetroot (to remove all the moisture) and then grinding them into a powder. If you don’t like the earthy taste of beetroot, then beetroot powder might be an alternative since it is more concentrated than fresh beetroot but with a relatively neutral taste. One fresh beetroot is the equivalent of approximately one teaspoon of beetroot powder.

    Powdered beetroot can be added to sauces, smoothies, pasta, gnocchi, curries, cakes, muffins, or anything you choose to add nutrients and color to. Watch out that your urine may change color too! Due to the natural sugars in beetroot, it can also be used as a natural sweetener. Beetroot powder is even used in natural cosmetics.

    Beetroot Powder VS. Other Beetroot Products

    One study looked at the total antioxidant potential, phenol compounds, sugars, and organic acids in beetroot juice, cooked beetroot, powder, and chips. They found higher amounts of total antioxidant potential and organic acids in the chips and powder compared with the juice and cooked beetroot.[2] However, it’s important to consider that it is a lot easier to take larger quantities of beetroot when powdered or juiced than just eating it and this means ingesting much more sugar.

    6 Health Benefits of Beetroot

    While beetroot may have potential health benefits, it’s not clear if these are temporary or have long-term effects. More research is needed to answer this question and what the optimal dose is. Most studies have focused on beetroot juice, with only a handful of studies investigating beetroot powder. There hasn’t been evidence so far to support the benefit of beetroot powder on blood flow.[3]

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    Despite that, beetroot contains several different compounds with different properties. Here are the six health benefits of beetroot powder.

    1. Beetroot Powder Is Rich in Nitrates

    Firstly, beetroot powder is rich in nitrates. Nitrates have important roles related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction.[4] By causing relaxation of the smooth muscles that encircle arteries and veins, nitrate leads to the dilation of these blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. Nitrate medications are used for people with high blood pressure, angina, and heart disease to relax blood vessels, widening them to allow greater blood flow.[5]

    A meta-analysis that combined 22 different trials and analyzed the results together found that additional beetroot juice significantly decreased blood pressure.[6] However, there isn’t evidence to support the long-term effects.[7]

    2. Beetroot Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

    Secondly, beetroot contains antioxidant polyphenol compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants are molecules that have the ability to neutralize free radicals and protect against cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases. Eating a diet high in antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease.[8] Different polyphenol compounds are different colors, that’s why you will often hear about eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.

    3. Beetroot Has Anti-Cancer Effects

    Beetroot also contains betalains that have been found to have anti-cancer effects in cellular models in the laboratory.[9] Clinical trials are now needed to assess if there are potential anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and the nature of these effects. While the anti-cancer effects of beetroot in humans aren’t known yet, including them in your diet may help and is unlikely to risk harm.

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    4. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Vitamins C and Folate

    Beetroots are also a great source of vitamins C and B9 (folate). Vitamin C and folate have many important roles in our bodies. Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, which acts as a scaffold in the skin and ligaments. It is also has a role in wound healing and protein metabolism. Folic acid is vital for the production of healthy red blood cells, and cellular growth. Inadequate intake of vitamin C over a 3 month period can lead to scurvy, and smoking can further reduce the bioavailability.[10]

    5. Beetroot Contains Essential Minerals

    Beets also contain the minerals iron, manganese, and potassium. Iron has a vital role in the transportation of oxygen by healthy red blood cells. Over 40% of children worldwide have iron deficiency anemia and women of childbearing age are also at increased risk because of menstruation.[11] Potassium may actually prevent the harmful effects of eating excess salt (sodium chloride). Manganese has several roles including metabolism, bone formation, and the immune system. Beetroots are a great way of including all these micronutrients in your diet.

    6. Beetroot Powder Is a Great Source of Fiber

    Fiber is such an important component of our diet, with most of us needing to eat much more to reach the recommended daily amount of 30g. For every 10g of fiber you eat a day, you may decrease your long-term risk of bowel cancer.[12]

    Fibre also acts as a pre-biotic, providing food for the friendly micro-organisms in your gut called the microbiota. There are trillions of micro-organisms in your gut that are now known to play a key role in inflammation and both mental and physical health. Eating beetroots can help to increase your fiber intake and support a healthy gut community.

    It’s clear that for relatively few calories, beetroot contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, nitrates, and antioxidants. For these reasons, beetroot is labeled as a “nutraceutical” and supplementation has become increasingly popular.[13] While most studies have looked at the effects of beetroot on blood vessel dilation, there are still many unanswered questions about other potential benefits.

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    How to Choose a Beetroot Powder

    Like all other supplements, there is very little regulation. Therefore, it is very difficult to be sure exactly what is included in the supplement or assess the quality. My recommendations for choosing a supplement are to check for a product license and always buy from a reputable company.

    There are, however, no agreed benchmarks for quality or efficacy. How much and how often are also unknown at this time. Try to avoid powders that have added preservatives, sweeteners, or artificial flavorings. Consider whether an organic powder is worth the extra money to you. I would avoid powders that have added silica to avoid clumping. Some supplements now use 3rd party companies to verify the contents.

    There isn’t an agreed dose of nitrate or beetroot powder, so while some powders do contain nitrate content, it is difficult to know exactly what this means in practice. The higher the nitrate content, the more likely it is to have a beneficial effect on raised blood pressure. But if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s difficult to know if more nitrate is beneficial.

    In summary, look for:

    • organic beetroot powder
    • tested for quality by a 3rd party company
    • is free from preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavorings
    • avoid powders containing silica
    • buy from a reputable company
    • look at the nitrate content

    How to Make Your Own Beetroot Powder

    First, wash, peel, and grate your beetroots by hand or using a food processor. Then, place them on a tray, spread them out, and cover them with parchment or grease-proof paper to protect them from direct sunlight.

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    Leave to dry until there is no moisture left and shake intermittently so that it dries evenly. When it snaps instead of bending and feels dry, it is ready for the next stage.

    The drying stage can take up to four days depending on the air temperature. To speed up the drying process, you can do this on low heat in a saucepan for 15 to 25 minutes or in the oven at no higher than 180 degrees Celsius or in a dehydrator. If you use the oven or on the hob, just be careful not to burn the beetroot.

    The final step is to grind the dried beetroot using a grinder. It can then be stored in an airtight container, avoiding sun-light for up to one year.

    Should You Try Beetroot Powder?

    Beetroot is a great vegetable that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, nitrates, and fiber. The nitrates present in beets may lower your blood pressure in the short-term, but the long-term effects are not yet known. More research is needed to know about other potential benefits such as the effect on cancer.

    So, while beetroot powder may have health benefits unless taken in excess, it is unlikely to have significant side effects. Large doses of beetroot, however, are associated with an increased risk of kidney stones.

    If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking beetroot supplements is best avoided as there isn’t sufficient safety information. Beetroots do also contain fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols or FODMAPS for short. These are types of carbohydrates that are hard to digest and can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some people. FODMAPS are thought to act as prebiotics, feeding the friendly micro-organisms that live in your gut (microbiota). So, for those people who can tolerate them, they are beneficial for a healthy gut.

    More Resources About Beetroot

    Featured photo credit: FOODISM360 via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] NCBI: Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate‐nitrite‐nitric oxide pathway
    [2] SpringerLink: Comparison of total antioxidant potential, and total phenolic, nitrate, sugar, and organic acid contents in beetroot juice, chips, powder, and cooked beetroot
    [3] Maastricht University: Effects of Beetroot Powder with or without L-Arginine on Postprandial Vascular Endothelial Function: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial with Abdominally Obese Men
    [4] PubMed.gov: Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review
    [5] PubMed.gov: Nutraceuticals with a clinically detectable blood pressure-lowering effect: a review of available randomized clinical trials and their meta-analyses
    [6] PubMed.gov: The Nitrate-Independent Blood Pressure-Lowering Effect of Beetroot Juice: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
    [7] PubMed.gov: Medium-term effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
    [8] NCCIH: Antioxidants: In-Depth
    [9] NCBI: Red Beetroot and Betalains as Cancer Chemopreventative Agents
    [10] Healthline: Beetroot 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
    [11] NCBI: The impact of maternal iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia on child’s health
    [12] Cancer Research UK: Does a high fibre diet reduce my risk of cancer?
    [13] PubMed.gov: The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease

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