New research suggests a compound in the vile root might protect against Alzheimer's disease, which could be an acceptable reason to eat it despite its revolting flavour, texture, and general je ne sais quoi.
"Our data suggest that betanin, a compound in beet extract, shows some promise as an inhibitor of certain chemical reactions in the brain that are involved in the progression of Alzheimer's disease," said Dr Li-June Ming, a professor of chemistry at the University of South Florida, in a statement.
The precise cause of Alzheimer's isn't known, but one of the prime suspects is a protein called beta-amyloid that builds up in the brain.
According to Ming, these beta-amyloid peptides midfold and bind together in clumps when they attach themselves to metals like iron and copper — and these clumps can inflame, oxidise and ultimately kill surrounding neurons.
His team found that betanin, which lends beetroot its distinctively hideous colouration, appears to block the effects of copper on beta-amyloid in laboratory studies.
"We can't say that betanin stops the misfolding completely, but we can say that it reduces oxidation," said Ming's colleague Darrell Cole Cerrato.
"Less oxidation could prevent misfolding to a certain degree, perhaps even to the point that it slows the aggregation of beta-amyloid peptides, which is believed to be the ultimate cause of Alzheimer's."
The team, who presented their research at the annual meetings of the American Chemical Society on March 20, say the discovery could be used to develop drugs that alleviate the effects of Alzheimer's.
Past research suggests beetroot and its juice improves blood flow around the body — which could boost athletic endurance and improve the health of your brain. Which are great, but the trade-off is that you have to regularly consume a nasty vegetable.