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Make My Burger with Beetroot, Please

Beetroot may help make healthier burgers

Burgers are one of the most popular and commonly recognized foods around the world, yet typically not a healthy food, and its fat content is one reason. A team of nutrition experts have proposed that adding beetroot to burgers may stop the body from absorbing unhealthy fat from this food.

I’ll have a burger with beetroot, please

Billions of burgers are sold at fast food restaurants every year, while others are sold at other restaurants and frozen ready made at supermarkets. These burgers are part of an enormous processed foods market that makes up a growing part of people’s diet.

Experts at the University of Aberdeen would like to help make burgers, and eventually other processed foods, healthier, and according to Professor Garry Duthie from the University’s Rowett Research Institute of Nutrition and Health, beetroot may be an answer.

Duthie noted that he and his team “are looking to identify if adding a vegetable extract to processed food can actually protect the body from absorbing the ‘bad’ fats which exist in these types of products.” When people consume these bad fats (e.g., saturated fats, trans fats) in processed foods, the fats are transformed into potentially harmful substances through a process called oxidation and absorbed by the body.

The Aberdeen researchers “believe that adding a vegetable extract such as beetroot, which contains antioxidants compounds, will stop this oxidation of fat in the gut, and prohibit the body from absorbing the bad fat.” Because bad fats are associated with serious health risks, such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke, interfering with their activity could result in significant health benefits.

Beetroot studies reveal health advantages
Previous research into beetroot and beet juice has uncovered several health advantages. A recent study from the University of Reading, for example, reported that less than 4 ounces of beet juice can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure in normotensive adults.

In a study from Wake Forest University, the investigators reportedly were the first to find a link between beet juice and an improvement in blood flow to the brain among older adults. After consuming beet juice, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show an increase in blood flow in the areas of the brain associated with dementia in older volunteers.

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Yet another study found that the high nitrate levels in beet juice (the substance that helps open up blood vessels and improves blood flow) may improve performance among athletes. Cyclists who drank beet juice with nitrates experienced enhanced endurance and better power output than those who drank beet juice from which the nitrates had been removed.

The upcoming turkey beetroot burger study
Professor Duthie and his team will be conducting a study in which healthy males aged 21 to 60 will consume turkey burgers both with and without beetroot. The team chose this combination because they found it both looks and tastes good.

All the participants will be monitored to determine which compounds their body absorbs. Duthie pointed out that “If we can identify that using a vegetable extract such as beetroot in processed food stops bad fat from being ingested, this could not only have significant health benefits for the public but also benefits for the processed food industry.”

The benefit for the food industry would be a longer shelf life for food items that contain beetroot. That’s because the antioxidants in beetroot would slow the oxidation process and thus extend the length of time a food item could remain viable.

Of course, there is another way to enjoy healthier burgers: veggie burgers, which are available composed of various meat substitutes or alternatives, including soy, vegetables, grains, mushrooms, and beans. According to a July 2011 survey on burgers released by Technomic, 23% of consumers ages 18 to 34 say it is important for vegetarian burgers to be available on restaurant menus.

But if you’re waiting for healthier meat burgers, you may need to be patient. At this point, there’s no word on when you might expect to be saying, “Make my burger with beetroot, please.”

Hobbs DA et al. Blood pressure-lowering effects of beetroot juice and novel beetroot-enriched bread products in normotensive male subjects. British Journal of Nutrition 2012; doi:10.1017/S0007114512000190
University of Aberdeen

Image: Wikimedia Commons