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   May 07

Boom time for beetroot, the new superfood: Sales up 20% in four years after claims root vegetable can help treat blood pressure and boost athletic performance

The humble and once unpopular beetroot has achieved superfood status

Scientists claim beetroot can help athletic performance and blood pressure

Retail analysts suggest total sales of vegetable are up by 20% in 4 years

Following decades of decline, beetroot sales are rising sharply

Served sliced and doused in vinegar, beetroot was once regarded as a rather old-fashioned addition to a summer salad.

But the root vegetable is enjoying a remarkable renaissance – being eaten fresh, added to soups and baked as an alternative to potato crisps.

Following decades of decline, beetroot sales are rising sharply and farmers have had to dramatically increase their planting to meet demand.

It has even achieved superfood status, after scientists claimed beetroot juice is capable of boosting athletic performance and can help treat high blood pressure.

Retail analysts Kantar suggest total sales of the vegetable are up by 20 per cent in four years, while Tesco reports sales of beetroot juice have surged by 50 per cent in just one year.

Beetroot is a good source of iron and folic acid. It also contains nitrates and other antioxidants, which can help lower blood pressure and the risk of cancer.

It also sells the root vegetable as an ingredient in soups, pies, crisps and in various dips and side dishes, while home cooks are even using the vegetable in sweet dishes such as cakes.

Tesco beetroot buyer Ravi Patel: ‘For years younger customers associated beetroot with the pickled variety that was enjoyed by their grandparents but all that has changed now.

‘These days beetroot has become known as a super food and its popularity has grown to record levels in the last four years.

‘There has been a lot of publicity about its health benefits, especially in helping to lower blood pressure and this has helped boost demand.

‘Perhaps the greatest coup of all has been crafty parents getting their children to like it by juicing it and adding it into delicious fruit and vegetable smoothies.’

On the back of the current sales surge more beetroot growers who have never previously grown the vegetable before are now planning to grow it.

Beetroot is a good source of iron and folic acid. It also contains nitrates and other antioxidants, which can help lower blood pressure and the risk of cancer

Mr Patel said: ‘These days people are more likely to enjoy beetroot freshly cooked in colourful, flamboyant salads, whizzed up in a revitalising health juice or served in a warming mash, than spooned from a pickling jar.’

The UK’s biggest producers, Gs, based in Ely, Cambridgeshire, have increased production by 50 per cent in the last five years and is selling more than 47 million packs of the vegetable in raw or shredded form a year.

The firm is also making a major move into selling beetroot juice as a sports drink following scientific evidence of improved performance among athletes.

Beetroot is a good source of iron and folate or folic acid, while it also contains nitrates, betalaine, magnesium and other antioxidants, which are important in preventing cancer.

It is particularly rich in nitrates, which is converted to nitric oxide in the body and is understood to lead to a modest reduction in blood pressure.

Research published last year found the high nitrate levels in beetroot juice resulted in ‘moderate improvements’ in exercise performance, while a 2010 study suggested the juice may increase blood flow to certain areas of the brain.

Beetroot originated as a coastal plant in the Mediterranean and has been used as a vegetable since early classical times, however it has also long been heralded for its medicinal qualities. In early times it was used to treat a wide range of ailments including fevers, constipation, wounds and skin problems.

In modern times the red pigment – betalaine – has been used as a natural food colouring for a wide range of foods, including frozen pizzas, tomato paste and strawberry ice-cream

Many people appear to be turning to healthy juices, including beetroot, on the back of positive medical research and the endorsement of celebrities such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Katie Price, Gwyneth Paltrow and Perrie Edwards.

The online electricals retailer ao.com reported a 47per cent rise in sales of juicing machines over the bank holiday weekend, with cold press and slow juicer models, which offer less pulp and more juice, leading the pack.

The web retailer’s Yossi Erdman said: ‘Juicing is becoming more glamorous especially with celebrities such as Elle McPherson and Nicole Richie becoming iconic juicers. You only have to look at a host of celeb magazines to find their pages filled with pictures of celebrities clutching their home-made health tonics.’

The website surveyed customers about what they are putting in their juicers. Mr Erdman said: ‘We were rather surprised, with everything from seaweed to curry powder, jalapeños and horseradish making an appearance.’

Source: Daily Mail

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