Borscht, or beet soup, is today’s topic. Some of you may have never tasted this soup, but in many Slavic and eastern European countries it is the “soup du jour.” It has also become popular in the United States.
There is a great deal of variation as to how borscht is made, and it frequently depends upon old family recipes. Contents can include beets, cabbage, potatoes, meat, fish, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, garlic and spices. It is served either hot or chilled, often with sour cream.
Years ago, there was also the “Borscht Belt” that was a popular resort area in the Catskills Mountains in upstate New York. It was given this name because the majority of vacationers were Jewish, and borscht soup was very popular with this ethnic group. It was at the Borscht Belt resorts that many Jewish comedians got their start.
But let’s get back to borscht and what it has to do with health.
The results of a recent report indicated that ingesting beet or borscht soup or beet juice can result in lowering high blood pressure. Beets are sources of nitrates, and after they are ingested they are converted into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates or widens the blood vessels and this is associated with lowering high blood pressure.
Two groups of 32 individuals with high blood pressure were studied. One group received beet soup on a daily basis for four weeks, and the other did not. Results showed a significant lowering of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the treated or beet soup group. These changes were noted within the first week. There were no changes in the blood pressures of the non-beet juice participants.
An accompanying editorial pointed out that the study was not long enough to support claims of long-term blood pressure control, but it does show promise.
From a nutritious point of view, borscht is not a high-caloric food, although it certainly depends upon all the ingredients that are added.
So, for all of you borscht lovers, at least from this study it looks as if you can not only enjoy your favorite soup, but as an added benefit, it may even lower your high blood pressure.
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases. More Content Now