Beetroot and Cancer: The Healthy Connection

Aditi Shenai

May 15, 2022

Beetroot is a tuber with many surprising benefits. Beetroot is called a beet in many countries and Beta vulgaris scientifically. The root belongs to the amaranth family. It is widely grown for its edible leaves and its taproot. The beetroot leaves are known as beet greens, as they are green in colour with a pink outline.

Beetroot can act as a holistic, health-promoting functional food potentially beneficial in cancer. In addition, beetroot supplementation can help manage cancer-related fatigue or treatment-related side effects due to its rich dietary nitrates, flavonoids, and polyphenols content. The potential chemopreventive properties of the phytochemical components present in red beetroot look promising.  

Nutritional Composition of Beetroot

The nutritional value of 100 grams of beetroot is as follows: 

  • Calories: 43 Kcal
  • Protein: 1.61 g
  • Fat: 0.17 g
  • Carbohydrate: 9.56 g
  • Fibre: 2.8 g
  • Sugar: 6.76 g
  • Calcium: 16 mg
  • Iron: 0.8 mg 

The nutritional value of 100 grams of beetroot leaves is as follows: –

  • Calories: 22 Kcal
  • Water: 91 g
  • Protein: 2.2 g
  • Fat: 0.13 g
  • Carbohydrate: 4.33 g
  • Fibre: 3.7 g
  • Sugar: 0.5 g
  • Calcium: 117 mg
  • Iron: 2.57 mg
  • Magnesium: 70 mg

Beetroot as a Cancer Protective Tuber

Despite its sweet flavour, beetroot is a nutrient-dense vegetable with a low-calorie content. Beetroot is high in folate and B vitamins, which are healthy for your heart and have anti-cancer properties due to their DNA production and repair function. The red hue in the vegetable derives from a food pigment called betalain, which is related to heart and cancer protection. Beetroot decreases carcinogen formation and stimulates the generation of immune cells and body enzymes that aid in the battle against cancer growth in animal studies. Beetroot supplies a variety of nutrients, including potassium and vitamin C, whether cooked, canned, or raw.

Traditional Persian therapy uses beetroot to prevent and manage the metastatic progression of cancer. It is also widely used in other medicinal systems, including ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, and Arab medicine. According to a clinical study, juiced or blended beetroot is a popular functional food among colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer patients. Functional foods are foods that offer health benefits beyond their nutritional value. 

The Connection Between Beetroot and Cancer

Beetroot is high in micronutrients and bioactive elements with health benefits, and it is becoming more popular as a health-promoting functional food. It contains water-soluble betalains such as betaxanthins and betacyanins, flavonoids, polyphenols, and saponins. As per chemoprevention studies, betanin pigments in beetroot have cytotoxic and growth inhibitory properties against various cancer cells. In addition, beetroot has a lot of flavonoids and polyphenolic components, which support its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

Extracts of beetroot provide betalain pigments that help reduce cancer. In addition, the red beetroot juice with betalain helps eliminate pre-cancerous lesions. Alternatively, the anthocyanins in the red beetroot plant, the anthocyanins are all antioxidants that restrict carcinogenesis. 

In yet another study, the anti-proliferative nature of beetroot shows beneficial results in managing cancer proliferation and its spreading. The health-beneficial compounds in beetroots, betalains and betaine inhibit hepatocellular carcinoma proliferation. They inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and induce their death but have limited effects on normal cells.

Beetroot for Breast Cancer

Beetroot comes from the same family as sugar beets. In a recent study, betavulgarin, isolated from sugar beets, suppressed the growth of breast cancer cell lines, migration, colony formation, and mammosphere formation. In addition, it inhibits aggregated cancer cell proliferation seen in breast cancer stages. The purified betavulgarin from beets might serve as an anticancer agent against breast cancer cells and breast cancer stem cells. Interestingly, betavulgarin kept cancer mutated breast cells in an inactive stage to prevent further cell cycle progression.

Other Benefits of Beetroot 

Protects the Liver 

Beet juice or beets added to your diet regularly enhance the level of detoxifying liver enzymes. In addition, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, and iron are all present in beet juice. These nutrients safeguard the liver from inflammation and oxidative stress while also improving its capacity to eliminate toxins. 


The health benefit of beetroot is its high nitrate content, which improves muscle power, especially that of the heart. According to a study, drinking a glass of beetroot juice enhanced muscle power in patients with heart failure.

Beetroot Can Help You Exercise for Longer

Beetroot might assist you in exercising for extended periods. We may again credit these nitrates when it comes to better workout performance. It helps us perform at a higher level for more extended periods because of the enhanced oxygen flow to our muscles.

Reduces Blood Pressure 

Beetroots include nitrates, which help our bodies produce more nitric oxide which causes the blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood to circulate and decreasing blood pressure. According to research, drinking one glass of beetroot juice (or consuming an equal amount) will lower systolic blood pressure by 4-5 mmHg. 

Improves Bone Strength

Beetroot can meet 6% of your daily magnesium needs, which helps maintain our bones. These nutrients, along with copper and folate, also found in beets, help your bones develop stronger and improve bone density, hence, preventing osteoporosis. 

Improves fertility 

Beetroots can help you have a healthy pregnancy. 100g of beetroots can provide 20& of the daily folate requirement. As per studies, a healthy amount of folate consumption during pregnancy minimises the risk of birth abnormalities in the baby.

Helps with digestion 

The greens and roots of beets are high in fibre that aids digestion by populating our stomach with beneficial microorganisms. This increase in dietary fibre can also help with digestive problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and constipation prevention.

Weight Loss

Because of their high levels of fibre, eating beets can leave you feeling fuller. And due to the low-calorie content, this makes the food a healthy addition to a weight-loss diet. In addition, beetroot offers a healthy dose of magnesium, which promotes muscle growth. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so retaining them will help you lose weight.

Healthy Recipes for Beetroot

Beetroot Cutlets

It is a healthy blend of beets, potatoes, roasted peanuts, and spices that can serve as a healthy appetiser or tea time snack for your kids of all ages. In addition, you can have them as patties for burgers or appetisers at parties and get-togethers.

  • Serves – 4
  • Preparation time – 10 minutes
  • Cooking time- 40 minutes


  • One big grated beetroot: 1.25 cup
  • Two cooked and grated medium potatoes: 1 cup
  • crumbled roasted peanuts: 1/4 cup
  • breadcrumbs, cornflour, rice flour, or sooji (Rava): 3 tablespoon 
  • grated ginger: 1 teaspoon
  • finely chopped green chillies: 2
  • finely chopped coriander leaves (cilantro): 2 tablespoon 
  • garam masala or powdered mixed spices: 1/2 teaspoon 
  • powdered chat masala: 1 teaspoon
  • lime juice (optional): 1 teaspoon
  • amchur powder (optional): 1/2 teaspoon 
  • Salt to taste

Method of Preparation

  • Boil the potatoes in a pressure cooker or pan with some salt and water for 3-4 whistles
  • Grate the potatoes using a grater
  • Squeeze off the excess juice from the beets after peeling and grating it
  • Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. You can use maize flour, rice flour, or Rava (sooji) instead of breadcrumbs as a binding agent. If the mixture is too wet, add more bread crumbs (Do not include water.)
  • Grease your palm with a teaspoon of oil.
  • Please make a small lemon-sized ball, flatten it between your palms, and shape it into round cutlets or Tikki.
  • Repeat with the remaining ingredients to produce more roundels.
  • Shallow fry them in a frying pan or air fry the roundels.

Beetroot Smoothie Bowl

The vibrant and lovely beetroot smoothie is rich in protein and fibre and packed with minerals. Increase the liquid and pour it into a large glass with a straw to enjoy as a smoothie bowl with your favourite toppings.

  • Serves – 2
  • Preparation time – 10 minutes


  • protein powder per serving: 30 g 
  • frozen sliced strawberries: 140 g
  • diced beetroot: 100 g
  • chopped zucchini, fresh or frozen: 75 g
  • plant-based milk/low fat milk: 250 mL
  • Banana: ½ 

Toppings (try to add one from each category)

  • Fresh fruits like slices kiwis or bananas or apples or berries.
  • Chia, hemp, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Almonds and cashews.
  • Whole Wheat Cereal, multigrain cereal  or granola
  • Nibs de cacao

Method of Preparation

  • In a blender, combine all of the ingredients.
  • Blend on low and gradually raise the speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and top with your favourite toppings.  

Tossed Beetroot

With this Tossed Beetroot dish, turn this tuber into an exquisite appetiser! It contains honey and balsamic dressing with perfectly roasted beets and luscious pomegranate seeds. It is naturally gluten-free and vegetarian.

  • Serves – 2
  • Preparation time – 10 minutes
  • Cooking time- 30 minutes


  • beetroots: 4
  • extra virgin olive oil: 2 tablespoons
  • coarse salt: 1 teaspoon
  • Pomegranate seeds: 1/2 cup
  • Honey: 1 tablespoon 
  • balsamic vinaigrette: 1 tablespoon

Method of Preparation

  • Wash and cut the beets in half, then slice each half into 3-4 slice
  • Place on a sheet pan. Season with 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt
  • Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, or until fork-tender, depending on the size of the beetroot
  • Combine the remaining oil, honey, and balsamic vinegar in a mixing bowl. Set aside
  • Place the roasted beets in a bowl. Stir in the pomegranate seeds and the dressing.

Beetroot Salad

With this Beetroot salad, get your fibre quota filled.

  • Serves – 2
  • Preparation time – 10 minutes
  • Cooking time – 10 minutes


  • beetroots: 2, small
  • Lettuce: 8 leaves, chopped
  • chia seeds: 2 tablespoon
  • extra virgin olive oil: 1 tablespoon
  • lemon juice: 1 tablespoon
  • coarse salt: 1 teaspoon
  • pepper: 1 teaspoon

Method of Preparation

  • Wash the beetroots and add them to a cooker with minimal water. Cook for 3-4 whistles.
  • Once the beets cool, remove the skin and chop or cut into strips.
  • Add into a bowl and add chopped lettuce. Top with chia seeds. 
  • Mix oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. 
  • Add the dressing to the veggies and toss well. 
  • Serve immediately or after chilling. 


People who have a kidney problem or suffer from stones anywhere in the body should not consume beetroot. It is very high in potassium, not making it suitable for consumption for people with kidney stones. Beetroots should be consumed with restriction for people with diabetes, as it has a medium glycemic index of 61. In addition, it reduces blood pressure due to the presence of nitrates. Therefore, people suffering from low blood pressure problems should not consume beetroot.

The dose of beets is based generally on their nitrate content. The ideal range is between 6.4 and 12.8 mg per kg of beets. One cup (136 grams) of beets is good daily. If you are fond of beetroot juice, take not more than 200 ml per day.  


Beets have a long list of health benefits. It is an excellent addition to a nutritious, well-balanced diet. People with cancer can greatly benefit from consuming this red tuber. It has anti-carcinogenic effects. Beetroot might be a holistic means to prevent cancer and manage undesired effects associated with chemotherapy. However, it is not a replacement for medications and intensive cancer treatments. 

Beetroot adds colour, flavour, and vitality to the plate. It can be tossed, baked, or blended and added to the diet. There is concern that beets might cause kidney damage and worsens stones. However, beetroot is safe for most people when taken by mouth in moderate amounts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is beetroot good for cancers?

A. Yes, it is suitable for cancer. Beetroot juice contains betaxanthins and betacyanins. Additionally, they contain flavonoids and polyphenol. All these components prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress damages cells and the substance within like cell membrane and DNA. Prolonged oxidative stress results in chronic health issues like cancer. 

Q. Who should not take beetroot?

A. People who have kidney problems or suffer from stones anywhere in the body should not consume beetroot. It is very high in potassium, not making it suitable for consumption for kidney problems. Additionally, it reduces blood pressure due to the presence of nitrates. Therefore, people suffering from low blood pressure problems should not consume beetroot.

Q. Why is beetroot not good for health?

A. Beetroot is not suitable for health for people with stones and low blood pressure. Beets are rich in oxalate, which can cause kidney stones in high doses. It can also hinder the absorption of calcium. In addition, excess intake of beets may harm during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

Q. How much beetroot should I take a day?

A. You can consume one small beetroot in a day. It will provide all essential vitamins and minerals. It will also give you fibre for proper digestion. However, too much of a good thing can be harmful. Drinking around 200 ml of beetroot juice is enough for a day. 

Q. What is the best time to eat beetroot?

A. There is no particular time for eating beetroots. You can eat it along with lunch or dinner or any time of the day. The best time to eat beetroot is mid-morning as a smoothie, a smoothie bowl, or a salad. 

Q. Is boiled beetroot good for health?

A. The longer you cook beets (especially boiling in water), the more of the beneficial phytonutrients leach out into the water. As a result, it loses water-soluble vitamins. Therefore, it is better to pressure cook or lightly toss beetroot in some oil to preserve most nutrients.

Q. Is beetroot good for chemo patients?

A. Yes, it is suitable for chemo patients. Beetroot has anti-proliferative and chemopreventive properties. In addition, Betanin, a prominent betacyanins component in beetroot, has cytotoxic and growth inhibitory properties against various cancer cell lines. Beetroot can also manage undesired effects associated with chemotherapy.

Q. What foods should you avoid while on chemotherapy?

A. Foods to avoid while on chemotherapy are hot and spicy foods, fatty, oily, or fried, strong-smelling foods or spicy foods (it may result in vomiting), and carbonated beverages. A person undergoing chemotherapy should avoid eating undercooked or raw food. 

Q. What vitamins are in beetroot?

A. Vitamins A, C, E, and K are the vitamins present in beetroot. These make the beetroot profile highly anti-oxidative. They even build their nutritional profile and help in preventing various vitamin deficiencies.

Q. Can we eat raw beetroot daily?

A. Yes, you can eat raw beetroot daily. It will provide all essential vitamins and minerals. It will also give you fibre for proper digestion. And serving them up raw means they don’t lose any water-soluble nutrients.  

About the Author

M.Sc in: Dietetics and Applied Nutrition from Manipal University. Worked: All over India and have been involved in helping set up nutrition departments in start ups. Interested in lifestyle based nutrition. Mantra: A healthy lifestyle isn't a choice to be made or discarded, it's a way of life!

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