Guest post by Bastyr Nutrition Studies Student Amber Lagerwey
 
America loves food, this we know. With over 40,000 grocery store products available to the consumer, our continuous need for more options is obvious. Equally, America loves waste and we throw away an average of 40% of food purchases every year. One theory for this ridiculous phenomenon is the fact that as food becomes increasingly cheap to produce, consumer respect for such products depreciates, resulting in an apathy that threw away an equivalent of $165 billion worth of food in 2012. With food waste only viewed in monetary terms, it appears that America’s obsession with ignoring nutrition has led us to forget the real purpose behind food consumption: nourishment and support. 
 
Beets: Ironically, the word “beet” conjures the appropriate image, a vibrant red root vegetable that is infamous for staining. Yet, this is not the form of beet that Americans prefer to eat.  In fact, our favorite is the sugar beet, a white beet that is modified to specifically produce sugar. Americans produced a total of 29 million tons of beet sugar in 2011. The sucrose obtained from sugar beets is indistinguishable from cane sugar and is used primarily in baked goods, beverages, confections, and as a dairy enhancer.  Real beets? They happen to be a rich source of thiamin, riboflavin, B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and selenium. And that rich red color that the sugar beets lack? That is due to a compound called betalains, which has been correlated with protection against cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and Type 2 diabetes; the opposite correlation found with added sugar consumption.
 
With resources and water supply becoming an increasingly desperate situation, American consumers should be mindful of ensuring that every inch of soil used for food production yields nutritious whole foods that protect our health, not work against it.
 
References:
1.)  Food Marketing Institute. Supermarket Facts 2013. http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts
  
2.) The Washington Post:  “How the U.S. Manages to Waste $165 Billion in Food Each Year”. 
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/22/how-food-actually-gets-wasted-in-the-united-states/
 
3.) Environmental Protection Agency: “Major Crops Grown in the United States”. http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/cropmajor.html
 
4.) USDA: Corn. http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn/background.aspx
 
5.) Self-Nutrition Data: Yellow Corn Nutritional Profile. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5687/2
 
6.) NIH Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
 
7.) Medical News Today: “What are the Health Benefits of Beetroot?”
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/277432.php
 
8.) Agriculture Marketing Resource Center: “Sugar Beets”. 
http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/grains__oilseeds/sugarbeets/
 
 9.) Sugar Industry Biotech Council. http://www.sugarindustrybiotechcouncil.org/sugar-beet-faq
 
 10.) Harvard Health Blog: “Above-Normal Blood Sugar Linked to Dementia”. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/above-normal-blood-sugar-linked-to-dementia-201308076596