7 Potential Health Benefits of Beets

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Toss beets into salads, drink them in your green juice, or turn them into hummus. You can do more than just roast these root vegetables, and you’ll want to get creative with them when you discover their many health-promoting properties.

“From helping to lower blood pressure and increasing oxygen to providing a generous dose of antioxidants, there are plenty of reasons to include beets in your diet,” says Jenna Volpe, RDNwhich is based in Austin, Texas.

According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), raw beets pack a nutritional punch. They are a rich source of fiber, manganese, copper and folate. Beets even offer a surprising amount of protein while being naturally low in fat and cholesterol-free.

Beets are available year-round, but are best when in season in the summer, fall and winter in the United States, according to the USDA. You can keep them on hand at all times by buying frozen or canned beets – just watch out for added sugar and salt. Between the varieties of beets, the ways to buy and store them, and the countless methods of preparation, you will never be short of ideas. And that’s a good thing considering the following seven health benefits that will have you racing to the grocery store or farmer’s market.

1. Beet Juice Lowers Blood Pressure

“Beets have the impressive ability to widen blood vessels and improve blood flow, which helps lower blood pressure,” says Samantha Cassetty, Dt.P., who is in private practice in New York. She notes that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for two of the leading causes of death: heart attacks and strokes.

The substance responsible for the hypotensive effect of beets is nitrate, which could reduce blood pressure and significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, according to a reviewed in December 2018 Biomolecules. Nitrates occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including beets, but they are also sometimes used as food additives in meats and cheeses. While nitrates in plant-based foods are considered harmless and are the main source of nitrates in the typical diet, those in food additives may be associated with certain types of cancer, according to research published in March 2020 in Antioxidants.

2. Beets are a good source of gut-friendly fiber

Dietary fiber is an important but often overlooked marker of gut and overall health. On average, Americans consume 10 to 15 grams (g) of fiber per day, a fraction of the recommended amount of 21 to 38 per day, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

“Beets support a healthy gut microbiome — the collection of bacteria in your gut that helps regulate inflammation, immune function, mood, cholesterol, and blood sugar,” Cassetty explains. The human gastrointestinal tract is one of the most complex ecosystems, and dietary fiber can have a major impact on the diversity and richness of the gut microbiome. Increasing your fiber intake allows gut bacteria to expand their populations in the gut, for review published in May 2021 in Nutrients.

The USDA measures about 3.8g of fiber per cup of beets. Try fermented beets for extra probiotics and beneficial gut bacteria. Fermented foods, like pickled beets, contribute to the diversity of your gut bacteria, supporting gut health and digestion, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

3. Beets May Boost Endurance and Athletic Performance

You might want to swap your sports drink for beet juice before your next workout. Nitrate supplementation via beet juice may boost resistance training performance and increase training intensity, according to a review published in May 2021 in Nutrition Frontiers.

“The nitrates in beet juice increase blood flow and allow more oxygen to reach your muscles, which can increase endurance and allow you to train longer,” says Cassetty. “Beetroot juice may lead to athletic performance benefits, such as reaching distance faster and recovering in less time.”

4. Also thanks to nitrates, beets can improve cognition

A diet high in nitrates may offer some protection against neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia. In a small trial, published in Nutrients in July 2019Consumption of nitrate-rich beetroot juice was linked to improved cognition in both younger and older adults, although more rigorous studies are needed.

“Beets improve cognition by increasing levels of nitric oxide (the bioactive form of nitrate) in the blood,” Volpe says, noting that it improves oxygen flow to the brain. As you get older, a sharp brain becomes even more important.

5. The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Beets Can Improve Joint Health

Betalains are the pigments that give beets their bright red color. According to Cleveland Clinic, the high concentration of betalains in beets has anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce inflammation throughout your body and soothe joint pain. Chronic inflammation is considered a silent killer, linked to diseases like heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes, for Harvard Health Publishing.

A exam in Human nutrition and metabolism in September 2021 noted that beetroot is the main source of betalains, which are involved in the body’s inflammatory process pathways. Researchers have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity of betalains in people with osteoarthritis.

6. Beets May Improve Liver Disease Outcomes

Your liver is one of your most important organs, but rates of liver disease are on the rise. The Estimates from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) that 24% of American adults suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a disease caused by excess fat in the liver. Although people with NAFLD can lead normal lives, it can increase the risk of liver cancer and liver failure. A healthy lifestyle, including eating beets, can help.

Beets contain the active compound betaine, which may be responsible for the vegetable’s antioxidant properties and positive effects on liver markers in people with NAFLD, according to a researcher. article published in November 2019 in Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science.

7. Antioxidants in Beets Have Anticancer Properties

“The antioxidants in beets help prevent the development and growth of cancer at the cellular level,” says Volpe. “They are one of the only plant sources of antioxidant-rich betalains and anthocyanins, which protect cells from oxidative damage.” Oxidative damage is caused by an imbalance of oxidants and antioxidants, according to a review published in December 2018 in Frontiers in Physiology. The resulting oxidative stress may be an underlying factor contributing to the disease.

Beetroot is a rich source of polyphenols, flavonoids, and the aforementioned dietary nitrates, all of which support its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer abilities, according to a researcher. reviewed in a 2021 issue of Journal of Cancer Prevention. A diet rich in antioxidants, such as one made with beets, may protect cells from oxidative stress, which may help prevent cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

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Richard V. Johnson