What do you love about beets? Maybe it’s their sweet crunch in a salad or maybe it’s the earthy juice. Or maybe it’s the vibrant color they add to any dish. Or maybe it’s all of the above!
You’re not the only one, though. The ancient Greeks and Romans also loved the almighty beet. This root veggie even doubled as an offering to the god Apollo at Delphi. And with its arsenal of amazing nutrients, it was certainly a worthy offering! Beets have minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and zinc. They also boast vitamins A, B, C, and folate.1
Furthermore, they’re a rich source of nitrates and phytochemical compounds like carotenoids, ascorbic acid, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. Beets also contain highly beneficial compounds known as betalains. These substances, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, are responsible for the rich color of beets.2 So let’s take a look at what you can get from this vegetable fit for the gods!
1. Boost Antioxidants
Beetroots can protect you from the ravaging effects of free radicals. These components are generated in our body through normal metabolic processes. They are also produced by lifestyle factors, diet, and stress. Free radicals can also be created when you are exposed to environmental pollutants like industrial chemicals and cigarette smoke. Unsurprisingly, they play a big role in causing conditions such as cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.3
Beetroot is a rich source of antioxidant compounds such as rutin, caffeic acid, epicatechin, and betalains. These antioxidants have the ability to combat the nasty effects of free radicals.4 As a result, oxidative damage is prevented, making beetroot one of the best foods to eat for disease prevention.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
Beets can be a powerful ally when it comes to managing blood pressure. In one study, healthy participants who consumed 500ml of beetroot juice showed a considerable reduction in blood pressure levels three hours later. This is likely due to the nitrate in beetroots being converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps dilate blood vessels. The result? A welcome drop in your blood pressure.5
3. Destroy Cancer Cells
Animal studies have found that beetroot can suppress the development of tumors of the lung and skin.6 Research has also shown that beetroot extracts can destroy human cancer cells of the prostate and breast. It is thought that betanin, a major compound found in beets, plays a significant role in the fight against cancer cells. Further research will help firm this up and also show how beetroot extracts can be used effectively.7 Until then, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to include beets in an antioxidant-rich diet.
4. Improve Athletic Performance
Did you know that most professional athletes drink a secret juice that improves their performance? A study looked at competitive cyclists who cycled long distance. After drinking 500 ml of beetroot juice, the cyclists were able to improve their performance by almost 3%. It is speculated that the high nitrate content in beetroot juice can increase the amount of power generated through exercise even while the same amount of oxygen is used.8 Now you might not be a competitive athlete, but a little beet juice can still power up your workout. Drink up!
5. Sharpen Your Brain
A diet rich in nitrates can reduce cognitive decline by increasing blood flow to the brain, as one study on older subjects showed.9 This experiment assessed a two-week supplementation of beetroot juice in people with type 2 diabetics (who often show a faster rate of cognitive decline with age). The study observed an improved reaction time among the participants, suggesting that nitrate-rich diets may be key to staying on your A-game.10
6. Protect Your Liver
The liver plays a critical role in filtering toxins from our body. However, if it is overloaded with toxins (say, due to certain medications), it could get damaged. Some beet power can protect your liver, too. In one animal study, beetroot extracts helped the liver to function normally in spite of being exposed to a highly toxic chemical. When treated with beetroot extracts, the liver also did not have excess accumulation of fat or show signs of cell death – both indicators of the protective power of beets!11
Beet Power: What Is The Recommendation?
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends consuming about 5.5 to 6 cups of vegetables that are red in color each week. And now that you know all about the benefits of beets, these root veggies should certainly have a place on your plate.12 You can make beet greens a part of your diet, too. With high levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and zinc, these also do you a world of good.13
If you’re torn between cooking beets and eating them raw or juiced, here’s some information that could help you make up your mind. When beets are cooked, the nitrate content decreases. Moreover, they also lose over 25 percent of their folate.14
When To Hold Back
Now, some people might find their urine or stool turning red or pink when they eat beets. This is a harmless condition known as beeturia and should not cause any worry. But if you’re prone to calcium-induced kidney stones, you might want to avoid these vibrant root veggies. Beets have a high content of oxalates, which can prevent the body from absorbing calcium, leading to the formation of stones.15
There is also some evidence that restricting beetroots in your diet can improve symptoms if you have irritable bowel syndrome.16
|↑1||Basic Report: 11080, Beets, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2, ↑4||Clifford, Tom, Glyn Howatson, Daniel J. West, and Emma J. Stevenson. “The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease.” Nutrients 7, no. 4 (2015): 2801-2822.|
|↑3||Lobo, Vijaya, Avinash Patil, A. Phatak, and Naresh Chandra. “Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.” Pharmacognosy reviews 4, no. 8 (2010): 118.|
|↑5||Webb, Andrew J., Nakul Patel, Stavros Loukogeorgakis, Mike Okorie, Zainab Aboud, Shivani Misra, Rahim Rashid et al. “Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite.” Hypertension 51, no. 3 (2008): 784-790.|
|↑6||Kapadia, Govind J., Harukuni Tokuda, Takao Konoshima, and Hoyoku Nishino. “Chemoprevention of lung and skin cancer by Beta vulgaris (beet) root extract.” Cancer letters 100, no. 1 (1996): 211-214.|
|↑7||J Kapadia, Govind, Magnus A Azuine, G. Subba Rao, Takanari Arai, Akira Iida, and Harukuni Tokuda. “Cytotoxic effect of the red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract compared to doxorubicin (Adriamycin) in the human prostate (PC-3) and breast (MCF-7) cancer cell lines.” Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry (Formerly Current Medicinal Chemistry-Anti-Cancer Agents) 11, no. 3 (2011): 280-284.|
|↑8||Lansley, Katherine E., Paul G. Winyard, Stephen J. Bailey, Anni Vanhatalo, Daryl P. Wilkerson, Jamie R. Blackwell, Mark Gilchrist, Nigel Benjamin, and Andrew M. Jones. “Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 43, no. 6 (2011): 1125-1131.|
|↑9||Presley, Tennille D., Ashley R. Morgan, Erika Bechtold, William Clodfelter, Robin W. Dove, Janine M. Jennings, Robert A. Kraft et al. “Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults.” Nitric Oxide 24, no. 1 (2011): 34-42.|
|↑10||Gilchrist, Mark, Paul G. Winyard, Jon Fulford, Christine Anning, Angela C. Shore, and Nigel Benjamin. “Dietary nitrate supplementation improves reaction time in type 2 diabetes: development and application of a novel nitrate-depleted beetroot juice placebo.” Nitric Oxide 40 (2014): 67-74.|
|↑11||Pal, Ranju, Kundlik Girhepunje, Hitesh Gevariya, and N. Thirumoorthy. “Hepatoprotective activity of Beta vulgaris against CCl4 induced acute hepatotoxicity in rats.” Archives of Applied Science Research 2, no. 1 (2010): 14-18.|
|↑12||ALL ABOUT THE VEGETABLE GROUP. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑13||Basic Report: 11086, Beet greens, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑14||Omar, Danielle. Skinny Juices: 101 Juice Recipes for Detox and Weight Loss. Perseus Books Group, 2014.|
|↑15||Preventing kidney stones. National Health Service.|
|↑16||Khan, Muhammad Ali, Salman Nusrat, Muhammad Imran Khan, Ali Nawras, and Klaus Bielefeldt. “Low-FODMAP diet for irritable bowel syndrome: is it ready for prime time?.” Digestive diseases and sciences 60, no. 5 (2015): 1169-1177.|