Super Food of the Week: Beets

Beets became popular thanks to all those legendary Russian centenarians. Beets, which are frequently consumed either pickled or in borscht, the traditional Russian soup, may be one reason behind their long and healthy lives. These colorful root vegetables contain power nutrient compounds that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.

The most striking fact about beets is not the fact that they are rich in antioxidants, but it is the unusual mix of antioxidants that they contain. We’re used to thinking about vegetables as rich in antioxidant carotenoids (for example beta-carotene), but in beets the claim to fame antioxidant is actually not beta-carotene. Beets contain two different antioxidant carotenoids in addition to obtaining their red color from a different antioxidant that most red vegetables do. Research on the antioxidants found in beet are still in the early stages there is evidence that beets provide special benefits for eye health and overall nerve tissue health. Beets also contain a significant amount of anti-inflammatory benefits, which can help with heart disease and arthritis. Beets have also been noted for providing detoxification support.

There are to other areas of potential health benefits associated with beets: anti-cancer benefits and fiber-related benefits. The combination of anti-inflammatory molecules in beets makes this food a highly-likely candidate for risk reduction of many cancer types. Beet fiber has also been a nutrient of increasing interest in health research. While many may limp all food fiber into one single category called “dietary fiber”, there is evidence that suggests that all dietary fiber is not the same. Beet fiber may provide special health benefits, particularly with the health of our digestive track and our cardiovascular system.

When shopping for fresh beets choose small or medium-sized beets whose roots are firm, smooth-skinned and deep in color. Raw beets do not freeze well since they tend to become soft upon thawing. Freezing cooked beets is fine as they will retain their flavor and texture. It also should be noted that beet juice can satin your skin, so wearing kitchen gloves is a good idea when handling beets. Should your hands become stained during the cleaning and cooking process, simply rub some lemon juice on them to remove the stain.

Fit Tip of the Week: Girl Power

It is no secret that many preteen and teen girls struggle with negative body image, eating disorders and inactivity. With the media constantly promoting distorted images of beauty (often in an unhealthy sense) it has become increasingly harder for girls (and even grown women) to grow to love and accept themselves. So, how can you foster self-esteem in girls and encourage them to lead healthy lives? These are a few suggestions in ways you can help girls incorporate fitness and self-esteem building activities into their lives.

1. Recognize that many girls have low self-esteem. According to a study conducted by Vagisil Women’s Health Center, teen girls who seem to know it all may actually be struggling with low self-esteem. In the study, health educators working with teenage girls reported that while they were more independent than their parents were as teens, today’s girls have less self-confidence and a weaker self-confidence and self-image.

2. Realize that fitness and sports can improve self-esteem. Authors of a report commissioned by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports found that exercise and sports participation can enhance girls’ mental health. It works just the same in girls as in adults by engendering a positive body image; improving self-esteem; offering tangible experiences of competency and success; and increasing self-confidence. Just as physical activity can help adults reduce stress and depression the same happens among girls.

3. Encourage girls to get active. If girls show any interest in sports, do what you can to help them participate. They will benefit greatly from being part of a team, learning to be good winners and losers, and taking risks. If they don’t like sports then steer them toward other empowering fitness activities. Ask them about their interests and suggest ideas such as kickboxing, circuit training, stepping, hip hop, Nia and yoga.

4. Look for girls’ programming. Search for girls-only exercise classes or fitness clubs within local fitness facilities. Girls may feel more comfortable sweating when boys are not present! If a nearby facility doesn’t offer girls’ programming, then invite your daughter (s) – or girls you know-to attend fitness classes with you.

5. Focus on wellness behaviors. Share information on topics like healthy eating and nutrition, smoking prevention and healthy body image. Discussing these issues works well in tandem with exercise.

6. Focus on achievements, not appearance. Unfortunately, girls are often harshly judged by other girls, as well as written off boy boys, if they don’t fit within the bounds of our society’s narrow definition of beauty. To help a girl develop a healthier self-image, complement her for her achievements, thought and actions. Also help girls to criticize the media as young people often think media images represent perfection. Help them to look for positive ads in publications.

7. Look for further resources. Check out organizations such as Melpomene Institute (www.melpomene.org), which features sports and fitness resources for girls; and the Women’s Sports Foundation (www.womenssportsfoundation.org), which offers a quiz to help girls find a sport that will be a good fit for them. Also, taking girls to women’s sporting events helps to provide exposure to active female role models.

Until next week…
KinkySheaPT

G. Nicole Shea, BS, ACSM-CPT
ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer
Zumba® Fitness Instructor