The website lovebeetroot.co.uk says the vegetable became popular in Roman times and it was used to treat fever, constipation, wounds, skin problems – and was used as an aphrodisiac. Most beetroot on sale is round and red, but yellow, white and stripy versions are available.
The beetroot taste is described as sweet, earthy and tender to eat. It is grown in the ground and is related to turnips, swedes and sugar beet. Beetroot has featured in recipes from top chefs including Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal.
Researchers have known for some time that juice may help lower blood pressure, but in 2010 UK researchers revealed that nitrate is the special ingredient in beetroot which lowers blood pressure and may help to fight heart disease.
In a Queen Mary University of London study, healthy participants had to drink a glass of beetroot juice while others had a dummy (placebo) drink. Others took nitrate tablets. Blood pressure was lowered within 24 hours in people who took nitrate tablets and those who drank beetroot juice.