Beetroot (beta vulgaris) is one of the vegetables that I’m slowly learning to use. Apparently, I adored it as a baby (who knew?!) but have strangely had an aversion to them after a taste test during my childhood. Poor Grandma fed me canned beets–blech! The real deal is much better, and it helps that my hubby loves them. Hence my careful journey into the culinary cuisine called beets.

 

Nowadays, beets can be found nearly year-round, though being a taproot they are best harvested in the summer and fall (June-October is the peak season) for organic produce. The main reason, I believe, that beets are found in abundance in grocery stories these days is because they are often used to produce sugar. In fact, the sugar beet accounts for as much as 20% of the world’s sugar production.

 

Beets, posted to Wikipedia (linked)

Beets, posted to Wikipedia (linked)

That being said, beets are highly nutritious. Belonging to the same family as chard and like greens, both the root and the greens can be eaten. The greens are bitter whereas the root, which could come in white, gold or the popular red-purple hues, is often sweet due to its high sugar content. The roots can be eaten raw but are more often steamed or boiled. When selecting beets in a store, make sure the greens are fresh-looking, but if they are slightly wilted, you can restore freshness by placing them in water in the refrigerator; if they are past freshness, simply cut them off and discard. (I made the mistake of cooking old greens once–newbie mistake, I know–and the amount of dirt we ate was incredible. We got our peck of dirt for the year!) Beets can be stored with the greens attached in the fridge for 3-5 days, but if the greens are removed they’ll keep 2-4 weeks. When removing greens, cut about two inches above the root to prevent “bleeding” and store greens in a separate perforated plastic bag (they’ll keep about four days). If freezing, cook the beets beforehand so they retain their texture and flavor.

 

Beet greens have higher nutritional value than the beetroot, containing calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C, though beetroot is full of folic acid, fiber, manganese and potassium. Both are sources of magnesium, phosphorous (good for calcium absorption), iron and vitamin B6. One 3.5-ounce serving of greens contains 27 calories and three grams of fiber. The same serving of the root provides 44 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate, predominately sugars.

 

Having long been used for medicinal purposes, beets help stimulate liver detoxification processes. Studies suggest that beets have anticancer properties connected with their reddish-purple color, caused by betacyanin. Combined with fiber, betacyanin may be responsible for protecting against colon and stomach cancers. Researchers also suggest that the betaines in beets may help reduce the risks associated with heart disease and will reduce blood pressure for hypertensive patients. Furthermore, they have a favorable effect on bowel function.

 

Some people who eat beets may see red or pink discharge in their urine or stool, called beeturia. This is created by betanin, or beetroot red, a harmless compound that cannot be broken down by the body.

 

Below are a couple of interesting recipes I hope to try soon:

Can’t Beet This Juice!

Sneaky Beet Brownies

 

Resources

Murray, Michael N.D., Pizzorno, Joseph, N.D., with Pizzorno, Lara, M.A./L.M.T. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY, 2005; p. 164-166.

Margen, Sheldon, M.D., and editors of UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. Wellness Foods, A to Z: And Indispensable Guide for Health-conscious Food Lovers. New York, NY, 2002; p. 192-193.

Wikipedia (articles linked above)

I hope this shortest of months is bringing us some results on our health, wellness, and fitness goals. Remember, it takes at least six weeks to really start seeing sustained results for weight loss, strength gains, flexibility increases, and so forth. Patience is the key!

 

Here are some articles on how to maximize your workout and diet regimens, and some healthy recipes, some of which are chocolaty–yummmm–to savor during this cold, snowy (in many areas) February. Wishing you a very happy Valentine’s Day!

 

The Link is What You Think

The Physiology of Fat Loss

Upper-body Causes of Pain and How to Fix Them

Training Glutes for Form and Function

When Money is Tight, Weekly Yoga Can Do the Trick

Exercises for Fibromyalgia

4 Cardio Mistakes to Avoid

5 Exercises to Include in Every Workout

6 Workout Rules to Ignore

Supercharge the Ab Crunch

5 Full-body Exercises that Challenge You

Look Better in Leggings Workout

6 Detox Yoga Pose Sequence

10 Ways to Detoxify Your Body

Breakfast as a Weight Loss Strategy Off?

Avocado Curves Appetite

A Magnesium Primer

Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Aioli

Warming Winter Soup Recipes

Raspberry Custard Tartlette

Secret Ingredient No Bake Macaroons

Allergen-free Valentine’s Day Desserts/Treats

How to Store Ginger

Roasted Sunflower Seed Butter

Just Beet It Muffins

A pregnant woman’s body undergoes a lot of changes. The demands placed upon it by the relaxin and progesterone, the hormones responsible for opening up the body in preparation for birth and hence the reason why so many women see increased flexibility, can place joints in danger of destabilization and muscles as risk of imbalance. An extreme example of such things happening is a woman who has never been particularly flexible in the past going into a yoga class and discovering that she can bend and twist herself into any shape her heart desires, only to find postpartum that she needs physical therapy because the ligament structures around her joints have overstretched. (Ligaments do not shorten back up like muscles do.)

 

With that said, there are ways of maintaining strength around the joint capsule to balance the increased range of motion that accompanies pregnancy hormones. Here are a few that I used while pregnant. Try to do at least 10 per day. The more, the merrier!

 

Abdominal Scoops: Sit in a chair or on a stability ball with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Slowly hollow out the belly on an exhale as though you were trying to scoop ice cream out of the cavity, or trying to pull on pants that are extremely tight. Release on the inhale. NOTE: This is not like a crunch, which can exacerbate the stretching and/or separation (in extreme cases) of the linea alba (the tendon that runs down the middle of the rectus abdominus) potentially leading to a hernia; nor will it harm the baby if done gently and with control. The idea is to lift the pelvic floor, zipper the abs and lower ribs closed, and feel supported throughout the lower back and pelvis, areas into which we crunch when we are carrying added weight. (With pregnancy, the pelvis will shift, increasing the pressure.) Also, ensure that you are sitting as tall as possible, with shoulders lined up directly over the hips.

 

Planks: From an all-fours position, place elbows directly beneath the shoulder girdles and step one foot at a time out into plank. If in need of a modification, once feet are in place, drop the knees to the floor to prevent sinking into the lower back. Push into the heels (if on the feet), lift through the abs (again, think “scoop”) while lengthening the tailbone toward the back wall, and open the collarbones by rolling the shoulder blades back and down the spine, thereby giving space for the neck. Keep the gaze slightly forward rather than down. Hold for 30 seconds per plank, doing as many as is comfortable (up to 10). Rest in Child’s Pose. NOTE: If you feel pressure in the lower back come out of the exercise and rest before trying again. The focus should be on supporting the back and pelvis rather than holding for expended periods of time. If you need someone to help you get into the correct position, ask a trusted friend or gym trainer to help with corrections. The goal is to look like a table upon which you could serve your favorite meal without sagging or peaking at the hips and low back.

 

Open-legged squats, also known as moonflowers: Stepping wide and pointing the toes toward the corners of the room (about 45 degrees), reach the arms up into a high-V, fingers spread. Take an inhale. On an exhale, sit into a squat, making sure you can see your big toes, coming no lower than a 90 degree angle with the knee. Inhale return to standing. Do as many as you like. NOTE: think of yourself as an elevator, sliding up and down a building. Try to maintain a nice neutral spine while doing so, without the bottom sticking out or the chest collapsing forward. Also try to keep the knees from caving inward past the big toes. This will put huge stress loads on the medial ligaments supporting the joint and can eventually lead to repetitive use injuries. Contract the gluts slightly and feel the thighs wrap around the outside of the leg in order to prevent this.

 

Close-legged squats, also known as flowing chair: With feet slightly wider than hip-width for balance support, exhaling and reach the hands out in front of you (or keep them at the heart, pressed together) and sit back into the heels as though you were going to sit into a chair. Perhaps you start by using a chair until you feel capable of doing it without it. Inhale back to standing. Do as many as you like. This exercise is great for the pelvic floor. See if you can feel a gentle lift in the perineum muscles. NOTE: Knee collapsing is also a problem in this exercise; to avoid this, make sure the toes are in line with the ankle and knees in line with the toes. Again try to also keep the chest lifted.

 

Chest lifts, also known as flowing half forward bend: With feet far enough apart to supply room for your growing belly, bend the knees and place hands on the shins, a pair of yoga blocks or anything that will support you in this low position so you aren’t loading the spine. Inhale deeply. Exhale and use the back muscles only to lift the chest away from the floor, letting arms dangle for added weight or resting hands lightly on the thighs (above the knees) for support while ensuring that they do not assist in the lift. Inhale and return to starting position. This exercise is great for correcting poor posture resulting from pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as the daily slouching we do while sitting. NOTE: At the initiation of the lift, feel as though the shoulder blades are sliding down the back into your back pants pockets, and from there the muscles of the upper and middle spine will work. Also, there is a great temptation to look forward toward a wall rather than keeping the gaze on the floor. Try to avoid this, as the head is a natural weight that challenges and strengthens your back muscles without putting too much strain on them. Keeping the neck in a neutral position will also avoid straining its muscles and crunching into the delicate cervical vertebrae.