Beetroot may help reduce blood pressure but is it really a miracle cure?
Pass a packet of wine gums around, and everyone takes the red one. Confectioners know that colour sells – it always has, long before sweets were invented. Cherries, raspberries, blackcurrants and grapes have always been irresistible.
But, if Mother Nature made healthy foods red in order to encourage us to eat more of them, where did she go wrong with beetroot? One glimpse of it haemorrhaging its juice over the hard-boiled egg and iceberg lettuce in a salad is enough to make most people sick. Most of us swore undying hate for it after that first vinegary bite. Did they pickle it because they couldn't sell it? I swear the same pack has been sitting on the shelf in our local greengrocer for three years.
Beetroot is just a bit too red for its own good; deeply, overpoweringly red. "Far too bossy a vegetable" was cookery writer Jane Grigson's description (the best ever). Its colour pushes itself embarrassingly everywhere. Even into your pee. Why eat it, then? Because it is good for you, obviously.
I don't want to use the term "superfood". Superfoods were invented to feed an obsession with finding a miracle cure for cancer. More than anything we want to believe that eating a single fruit or vegetable containing a certain chemical will zap a diseased cell. But it isn't that simple. New EU guidelines are about to ban the word superfood as a selling pitch, unless it is backed up with science. The new rules come as something of a relief because it will force food manufacturers to pay for proper independent research – and to tell the truth.