The Role of Beetroot for Healthy Living
The Role of Beetroot for Healthy Living

Betalain- What is It?

The Definitive Guide And Amazing Benefits Of Betalains!

betalain and beetsFirst and foremost, let’s get one thing straight – betalain and beetroot are not the same thing. Beetroot is the taproot section of the beet plant, while betalain is a type of natural pigments derived from plants.

Even though they’re two different things, beetroots actually contain betalain and that’s what gives them the reddish color. But the advantages of betalains found in beetroots are far from being merely cosmetic. They have powerful antioxidant potential and much more!

And that’s precisely the central theme of this post. Get comfortable and read on because we’re diving into the depths of beetroot, namely its betalain content and how it can have a positive impact on your health.

What exactly is betalain and how is it related to beetroot?

Betalains (a.k.a. beet pigments) are a group of bioactive pigments that falls into two separate categories:

  • Betacyanin pigments (giving the red color of beetroots)
  • Betaxanthin pigments (these are more orange/yellowish)

An interesting fact about betalains is that by consuming them, you may find your urine (and even excrements) colored in red. However, don’t freak out because that’s perfectly normal and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have blood in your urine, although it could potentially mask certain conditions like rhabdomyolysis.

Beetroot and betalains go hand in hand due to the high betalain content of beets. That’s also the reason why most of them are dark red-violet, although particular types of beets are even yellow, such as the golden beets.

What foods contain betalains (other than beets)?

Obviously, beets are arguably the perfect source of betalains, although other foods contain this pigment as well:

  • Chard (or colored swiss chard)
  • Rhubarb
  • Amaranth
  • Cactus fruits (prickly pear and Nopal cactus

Keep in mind you might be consuming betalains without even knowing it. It’s a very popular natural food colorant that can be found in anything ranging from generic ice cream to processed meat.

Now, moving onto the exciting part about how betalains affect our health.

What are the benefits of betalains – are they as beneficial as claimed to be?

Spoiler alert – yes, betalains can be very beneficial to your health. We’re going to focus only on proven and scientifically-validated data in the coming paragraphs to show you that this pigment is truly amazing.

Firstly though, let’s have a look at the key benefits associated with betalains:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Cancer-fighting
  • Detoxing

All of these supposed benefits have a scientific backbone and you’re about to find exactly what science has to say about the perks of betalains.

Betalains’ antioxidant properties were first discovered in 2001

A study conducted by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry had the task to analyze how specific antioxidant nutrients extracted from fruits and veggies affected the oxidative mechanisms that lead to particular degenerative diseases.

Eventually, in the course of the study, they discovered a brand new type of dietary antioxidants in no other than red beets. The effective antioxidants found in beets were indeed betalains, and in particular the most effective of them – betanin.

Researchers even examined the bioavailability of betanin, as they gave red beet juice to several individuals. Though only a small amount was actually absorbed (only around 0.5-0.9%), there was more than enough evidence pointing at the antioxidant capabilities of betalains.

Subsequently, that study concluded that the consumption of red beets on a regular basis might lower oxidative stress and thus help with certain conditions associated with oxidative stress.

A separate scientific review from 2015 validates the incredible benefits of betalains

Researchers from Nutrients (an open-access scientific journal) reviewed relevant studies to find proof that betalains are indeed a useful tool for battling inflammation, oxidative stress and even cancer.

They discovered that betalain is the main reason why beetroot is considered to be a powerful antioxidant. This scientific review observed numerous relevant studies that showcase the same thing:

  • Betalain pigments found in beets are shown to offer protection from oxidative stress

And on top of that, betalains provide potent anti-inflammatory properties. These researchers also point out that chronic inflammation (inflammation that’s persistent) is linked to the growth of malignant tumors (cancer). Betalain has the potential to suppress that and it can be used as a potent anti-inflammatory agent.

This scientific review concludes that while betalain is responsible for battling oxidation and inflammation, the overall synergistic effect of the various components of beets shouldn’t be ruled out.

Yet another study supports the antioxidant activity of betalain

In a study conducted by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers decided to examine how red blood cells incorporate betalain from dietary sources and what’s the supposed oxidative protection for these cells.

Eventually, they discovered that thanks to the betalain effects, red blood cells were more resistant to oxidative hemolysis. Or in other words, they act as an antioxidant.

As a result, this study concluded that their findings support the thesis that betalain pigments can indeed provide adequate protection of cells against oxidative stress.

Wrapping it up

It’s safe to say that dietary betalains are incredibly beneficial to one’s health, without a shadow of a doubt. They not only make for excellent food colorants but the undeniable evidence points at they sheer effectiveness when it comes to certain conditions such as:

  • Oxidative damage
  • Inflammation

That’s yet another excellent reason for you to add beetroot to your regular diet because beets are literally jam-packed with betalain pigments. I mean – you can tell just by looking at them, that’s why they’re so red (for the most part).

Now don’t forget to leave a comment. I’d love to what’s your personal take on betalains and how you’re using them. Are you using them as food colorants, or you’re enjoying their incredible health benefits by consuming them in the form of beets? Let me know in the comment section below!


  1. Betalains–a new class of dietary cationized antioxidants –
  2. The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease –
  3. Distribution of betalain pigments in red blood cells after consumption of cactus pear fruits and increased resistance of the cells to ex vivo induced oxidative hemolysis in humans –