Why are Beets Red?

Sharon S asks: Why are beets red?

Now You KnowBeets contain a pigment known as betalain, which incidentally is Latin for a certain type of common beet (Beta vulgaris).  It was this type of beet that the betalain pigment was first extracted from. (It is contained in many different types of plants)

Depending on which type of betalain pigment and the concentration that is in a particular type of beet, it can vary in color from red to purple or even yellow to orange.  In the former case, these are known as betacyanins betalain pigments; for the yellow to orange, these are known as betaxanthins betalain pigments.

Besides occasionally turning people’s urine and poop a different color (for those whose body can’t break down the pigment, so it passes through), betanins are thought to act as a natural fungicide, which helps protect the plant.  In addition to this, they also are natural antioxidants and often used as a food dye.

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