The beet is the most intense of vegetables. ~ American author Tom Robbins
The beneficence of beets has been appreciated since antiquity. The roots and leaves have long been used in folk medicine. Hippocrates advocated beet leaves for binding wounds.
Beetroot was a Roman treatment for fever and constipation, among other ills. Beet was also considered an aphrodisiac.
Following the Doctrine of Signatures, the red-purple of beetroot inspired Middle Age physicians to favor beets for blood conditions.
The sea beet (aka sea spinach) begat all cultivated beets. Sea spinach is a perennial that grows along the seashores of North Africa, Europe, and western Asia.
Some beets are grown for their leaves (chard), others for their tuberous roots. Sugar beets are a commercial source of refined sugar, especially in Europe, providing 20% of world sugar production.
Root beets have vitamin B, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Chard adds vitamins A, C, and K. Both roots and leaves are rich in phytonutrients, notably antioxidants. The nutrients in beetroot regulate cell metabolism and improve cardiovascular function – medieval doctors made a good guess.