Of all the nutritious produce that can be fermented and turned into a delicious health drink, the Russians chose beets (Beta vulgaris), and for good reason.
One entire beet contains a range of essential nutrients, including 266.50 milligrams (mg) of potassium, 89.38 mg of folate, 32.80 mg of phosphorus, 18.86 mg of magnesium, 13.12 mg of calcium and 105.5 mg of betaine, an amino acid hailed for its beneficial effects on the heart, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
On top of these nutrients, betalains, the red-purple pigments responsible for the distinct color of beets, double as potent antioxidants capable of fighting inflammation, protecting against cellular damage and reducing the risk of cancer.
Recent human studies also report that beet supplementation can reduce high blood pressure, combat oxidative stress and boost blood circulation for better heart health, according to a 2015 article published in the journal Nutrients.
Furthermore, if consumed in the form of a juice supplement, beets can also protect lipids, proteins and genetic materials from cellular damage, as demonstrated by many in vitro studies.
If left to ferment into kvass, beets become all the more nourishing and beneficial for the gut. This is due to the process of fermentation, where microbes transform sugars into acids that help enhance digestion.
Like other fermented foods, beet kvass is also abundant in live microorganisms called probiotics. But unlike the pathogenic microorganisms that can cause infection, probiotics are beneficial bacteria capable of protecting the intestines from harmful microbes.
Probiotics are becoming increasingly important in medicine because of their reported effects on human health, according to a recent article published in the journal BioMed Research International.
For instance, in addition to inhibiting the proliferation of pathogens, probiotics also strengthen the gut barrier to protect it from inflammation. The latter can result in gastrointestinal conditions, such as constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, colitis, peptic ulcers and even colon cancer, among others.
Also, probiotics can strengthen immune cells, including dendritic cells, macrophages and natural killer cells, against pathogens and other harmful biological agents that attack cells, tissues and organs outside of the gut. (Related: Probiotics improve cellular immune function in elderly.)
Together, these health benefits all contribute to the promotion of optimal gut health and, in turn, better protection against digestive diseases.
Neither beets nor kvass is popular in the U.S., but making beet kvass is simpler than it sounds.
To make this nutritious health drink, rinse, peel and chop organic beets, then toss them into an airtight container.
Next, add four teaspoons of sea salt and about 64 fluid ounces of filtered water. Close the container and let the beets ferment at room temperature for three days or more.
Once the taste is strong enough, strain the fermented liquid and refrigerate it. It can then be consumed as-is or diluted to make healthful smoothies or detox drinks.
Take note that it is better to make beet kvass at home instead of purchasing it at the supermarket to avoid over-processed ones or ones that contain added sugars or other artificial ingredients.
Beet kvass is an incredible superfood for gut health. Start drinking it as part of a balanced diet to boost digestion, maintain adequate amounts of good gut bacteria and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders.
Read more articles about the health benefits of beet kvass and other fermented foods at FoodIsMedicine.com.