Benefits of Beets #1 — They Are Good for Your Heart
Did you hear about the guy who stopped eating his veggies? His heart missed a beet. (OK, there’s that pun I promised. Now I can relax and get back to work.)
Beets, along with spinach, carrots, and cabbage, are a great source of nitrates.
Nitrates are compounds that convert to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels, which helps lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Think nitrates aren’t good for you? Don’t confuse the nitrates in beets with the nitrates and nitrites added to processed foods, like deli meat, which can form cancer-causing nitrosamines. Plants that naturally contain nitrates, like beets, also contain vitamin C and other compounds that prevent them from becoming nitrosamines.
In a 2014 study published in Hypertension, researchers found that drinking one cup of beetroot juice daily for four weeks was able to reduce blood pressure.
Some participants were even able to reduce some types of blood pressure medication as a result. The overall function of blood vessels was also improved.
Benefits of Beets #2 — They Can Make You a Better Athlete
The nitrates in beets improve blood flow, which helps move oxygen throughout your body.
Endurance athletes often drink beetroot juice to improve performance, which has got to be one of the healthiest and most delicious forms of doping ever invented. Better oxygen flow means that the athlete’s heart and lungs don’t have to work so hard during exercise, allowing them to perform vigorous activity for longer.
Beets can also increase time-to-exhaustion in athletes. In other words, drinking beet juice before exercise seems to prevent fatigue. Beet juice also prevents muscles from exhausting. It’s not clear whether this is because muscle damage lessens or because repair is enhanced, but either way, the results are positive.
Studies suggest that beetroot juice should be consumed within 90 minutes of starting athletics for the best outcomes.
Benefits of Beets #3 — They Can Reduce Inflammation in Your Body
The betalain in beets can reduce inflammation, which researchers theorize is partially due to its ability to interfere with the inflammatory signaling process.
The anti-inflammatory effects are so promising that some researchers believe beetroot extract supplements could rival the benefits of certain synthetic drugs.
Inflammation is a factor in many health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and obesity.
One study of individuals with knee pain found that a twice-daily dose of concentrated betalain reduced pain and improved joint function in people suffering from osteoarthritis in their knee joints.
Is it possible the improvement was just a case of the placebo effect? Not likely, because another randomized group was given oat bran powder as a placebo, and the group who ate the oat bran powder saw much less improvement.
Benefits of Beets #4 — They Can Improve Your Digestive Health
Beets are high in fiber, which is good for your gut.
The fiber in beets resists digestion in the stomach and small intestine and travels more or less intact into the colon, where your health-promoting gut bacteria ferment it and use it for food.
The fiber also provides roughage that moves food through your intestines. Eating enough fiber protectsagainst constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, acid reflux, ulcers, diverticulitis, and obesity.
Benefits of Beets #5 — They Are Good for Your Brain
Many cognitive diseases appear to be triggered by an interruption in nitric oxide pathways. It makes sense then that nitrates in beets can help improve brain function by increasing oxygen flow.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Gerontology demonstrated the ability of beet juice to improve blood flow to the brain during exercise. None of the participants regularly exercised, and all were on blood pressure medication.
They were asked to exercise for 50 minutes, three times per week for six weeks, on a treadmill. Half drank high-nitrate beet juice concentrate before exercise, and half drank an identically flavored and colored placebo drink with almost zero nitrates. Those who consumed the beet juice drink showed improved function in the areas of the brain related to motor control, emotion, and cognition, compared to those in the placebo group.
Benefits of Beets #6 — They Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
Beets are known to have antioxidant properties, which protect cells from free radicals.
Most specifically, the betanin in beets has been studied for its ability to protect against cancer. Some researchers even see the potential for beet extracts for use in chemotherapy.
Of course, we don’t have to wait until cancer strikes to start taking advantage of the cancer-fighting properties of beets. And we don’t need a prescription from an oncologist either!
Benefits of Beets #7 — They Boost Your Immunity
Beets are high in zinc, copper, and vitamins A and C — all nutrients known to boost immunity.
Vitamin A increases antibody production and stimulates your white blood cells, which help ward off infections.
Beets also contain iron, which is needed to carry oxygen throughout your body, keep your cells strong, and enhance immune defense.
Benefits of Beets #8 — They Can Boost Your Libido
The use of beets as an aphrodisiac dates back to the time of the Romans, who attributed the beauty and allure of Aphrodite (goddess of love) to her insatiable appetite for beets.
A European folk belief holds that if a man and woman eat of the same beetroot, they are destined to fall in love. (Kind of an ancient version of sipping a root beer float through two straws. In fact, some old recipes for making authentic root beer include beets among the roots used.)
Beets are rich in the mineral boron, which plays a role in sex hormone production.
The effectiveness of dietary nitrates in beets to enhance blood flow can benefit sexual health as well. And some studies suggest beet juice can be effective in treating erectile dysfunction.
Benefits of Beets #9 — They Are Good for Your Eyes
It’s no surprise that eating fruits and vegetables is good for your eyes — especially those with richpigments.
Beets containlutein and zeaxanthin, which are well-studied for their positive impact on vision. Consuming these carotenoids can prevent and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of adult vision loss in America.
Benefits of Beets #10 — They Are Good for Your Liver
Beets have an abundance of nutrients that keep your liver healthy — such as iron, antioxidants, betaine, and vitamin B.
Beetroot helps protect the liver from oxidative damage and inflammation. The betaines in beets helpthe liver eliminate toxins. And betalains encourage the detoxification process. Also, pectin, a water-soluble fiber in these root vegetables, helps flush out toxins from the liver.
Potential Downsides of Beets
Beets have many benefits. But they may have a few negatives to consider:
They’re very high in oxalates. Foods high in oxalates can reduce the absorption of some nutrients, such as calcium. Iron is often thought to be influenced by oxalates, but not all studies support this. This doesn’t mean you should avoid beets — it just means you should be sure to get calcium and iron from other sources. Too many oxalates can also increase the risk of kidney stones, especially in people with a predisposition.
They’re relatively high in natural sugar. Beets have a moderately high glycemic load. But a single serving of 1/2 cup of beets has a negligible effect on blood sugar.
They can surprise you the next day. Don’t panic, but I feel it necessary to tell you to remember when you eat beets. Beets don’t just stain countertops and clothing; they also pass through your digestive tract over the next day or two. This is such a common occurrence that is actually has a name: beeturia.
How red your stool or urine will become depends on a few factors. For instance, how long beets are in your system, how many and what kind you ate, your stomach acidity at the time, and the presence of oxalic acid in your body from other foods.
But if things look red the next day, don’t worry: You’re probably not bleeding to death. You may simply have eaten beets with dinner.