Start eating Red Beet Root to reap its amazing health benefits
There's a lot to be said for the humble beet, an easy-to-grow garden vegetable. Whether juiced raw, cooked, pickled or fermented, beets have a wide range of health benefits. The nutrients they contain fight inflammation, lower blood pressure and help you detoxify. Beets have also been shown to lower your risk for heart failure and stroke, and may even help combat cancer.
Recent research also shows beets have powerful benefits for your brain, especially when combined with exercise, courtesy of their high nitrate content. Your body transforms nitrates into nitric oxide, which enhances oxygenation and has a beneficial impact on your circulatory and immune systems.
I include about 1 to 2 ounces of raw beets in my smoothie each day, in addition to taking a fermented beet root powder supplement. However, if you have diabetes or are insulin resistant, carefully monitor how raw beet juice affects your overall health, as 36 percent of each beet is simple sugars.
This high sugar content can also make raw beets and beet juice counterproductive during the initial transitioning phase of a ketogenic diet as you're trying to get your body to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel. I detail this process in my new book, "Fat for Fuel." In these instances, fermented beet juice, also known as beet kvass, may be a far preferable option, as virtually all of the sugar is eliminated during the fermentation process.
Beets Give Your Brain a Powerful Boost
In the featured study,1 26 middle-aged men and women diagnosed with high blood pressure were given either beet juice or a placebo to drink three times a week, an hour before exercise, for six weeks.2,3,4 Exercise consisted of a 50-minute walk on a treadmill.
As demonstrated in other studies, the beet juice increased tissue oxygenation and blood flow in the treatment group. It also improved brain neuroplasticity by improving oxygenation of the somatomotor cortex, a brain area that is often affected in the early stages of dementia. As noted by study co-author W. Jack Rejeski, a health and exercise science professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina:5,6
"Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule. It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic, or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body … [W]hat we showed in this brief training study of hypertensive older adults was that, as compared to exercise alone, adding a beet root juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults."
As I've stated on countless occasions, the researchers note that your diet may indeed be crucial to the maintenance of a healthy brain and functional independence as you get older.
Raw Beets Boost Heart and Cardiovascular Health Too
Raw beets have been shown to have a very potent impact on your cardiovascular health, lowering blood pressure by an average of four to five points in just a few hours.7
Some studies have shown a glass of beet juice can lower systolic blood pressure by more than eight points,8 which is far more than some blood pressure medications! This effect is due to the naturally-occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body.9
Nitric oxide is a soluble gas that's continually produced from the amino acid L-arginine, inside your cells. This gas plays an important role in supporting normal endothelial function and protecting your cells' powerhouses, the mitochondria. It is also a potent vasodilator.
By relaxing and dilating your blood vessels, nitric oxide improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure. In conventional medicine, nitrates are used to treat angina and congestive heart failure, and research shows a glass of beetroot juice has the same effect as prescription nitrates.10
Competitive athletes also use beet juice for its nitric oxide-boosting benefits. Research shows raw beets may boost stamina during exercise by as much as 16 percent,11 an effect again attributed to increased nitric oxide.
In another study,12 nine patients diagnosed with heart failure who experienced loss of muscle strength and reduced ability to exercise were found to benefit from beet juice. The patients were given 140 milliliters (mL) — about two-thirds of a cup — of concentrated beet juice, followed by testing, which found an almost instantaneous increase in their muscle capacity by an average of 13 percent.
There's one important caveat though: Avoid using mouthwashes or chewing gum, as this actually prevents the nitric oxide conversion from occurring.13 The reason for this is because the nitrate is converted into nitrite in your saliva by friendly bacteria. That nitrite is then converted into nitric oxide in other places in your body.
Other Health Promoting Properties of Beets
The phytonutrients that give beets their deep crimson color also have powerful anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water. Beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast and prostate cancers.17
Raw beets also help boost immune function thanks to high vitamin C, fiber, potassium and manganese, while the betalin pigments and sulfur-containing amino acids in beets support your body's Phase 2 detoxification process. Traditionally, beets have been valued for their ability to purify your blood and liver.
High in the B vitamin folate, beets may also lower your stroke risk and are an excellent food for pregnant women. Folate is essential for many bodily processes, and lack of folate during pregnancy raises the risk of birth defects. The blood-cleansing properties of beet kvass may also help alleviate morning sickness.
How often do you include beetroot in your diet? Well, if you don’t remember when you ate this purplish-red root the last time, you need to start consuming it due to its multiple health benefits. From keeping your blood sugar levels in control to improving your sexual stamina, this vegetable is a well know antidote for anaemia in many Indian households. In addition to acting as a natural food color, it can be consumed in the form of salad, juice or halwa. And above all, there are 11 reasons why you should include beetroot into your diet.
#1 Lowers your blood pressure levels
Beetroot is a great source of nitrates, which when consumed, is converted to nitrites and a gas called nitric oxides. Both these components help to widen the arteries and lower blood pressure. Researchers also found that having just about 500 grams of beetroot every day reduces a person’s blood pressure in about six hours.(1) Read simple tips to include beetroot in your diet.
#2 Reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and prevent plaque formation
Beetroot is known to contain large amounts of soluble fibres, flavonoids and betacyanin. Betacyanin is the compound that gives beetroot its purplish-red color and is also a powerful antioxidant. (1) It helps reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and does not allow it to deposit on the walls of the artery. This protects the heart from potential heart attacks and stroke reducing the need for medication.
#3 Good for pregnant women and unborn child
Another amazing quality of the root is that it has an abundant supply of folic acid. Folic acid is important for pregnant mums and unborn babies because it is an essential component for the proper formation of the unborn child’s spinal cord, and can protect the child from conditions such as spina bifida (is a congenital disorder where the child’s spinal cord does not form completely and in most cases looks like it has been divided into two at the base). Beetroot also gives mums-to-be that extra energy boost required during pregnancy. Read more about why women need folic acid during pregnancy.
#4 Beats osteoporosis
Beetroot is packed with mineral silica, an important component for the body to use calcium efficiently. Since calcium makes up our bones and teeth, having a glass of beetroot juice a day could help keep conditions such as osteoporosis and brittle bone disease at bay. Here’s how you can prevent osteoporosis.
#5 Keeps diabetes under check
People suffering from diabetes can fulfill their sweet craving by adding a little beetroot in their diet. Being a medium glycemic index vegetable (means it releases sugars very slowly into the blood), it aids in maintaining your blood sugar levels low while satiating your sugar craving. (2) Also, this vegetable is low in calories and fat-free making it a perfect vegetable for diabetics.
#6 Treats anaemia
It is a common myth that because beetroot is reddish in color, it replaces lost blood and is therefore good to treat anaemia. While this may sound a bit outrageous to many, there is a partial truth hidden in the myth. Beetroot contains a lot of iron. Iron helps in the formation of haemaglutinin, which is a part of the blood that helps transport oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body. It is the iron content and not the color that helps treat anaemia. Read about 5 foods you should avoid if you have anemia.
#7 Helps relieve fatigue
A study presented at the American Diabetics association’s conference stated that beetroot helps boost a person’s energy. They said that due to its nitrate content it helped dilate the arteries thereby helping in the proper transportation of oxygen to various parts of the body, increasing a person’s energy. Another theory was that because the root is a rich source of iron, it helps in improving a person’s stamina. (3)Whatever the source, a pick-me-up at the end of a tiring day can be just what one needs.
#8 Improves sexual health and stamina
Also known as ‘natural Viagra’, beetroot has been commonly used in a number of ancient customs to boost one’s sexual health. Since the vegetable is a rich source of nitrates it helps release nitric oxide into the body, widening the blood vessels, and increasing blood flow to the genitals – a mechanism that medicines like Viagra seek to replicate. Another factor is that beetroot contains a lot of boron, a chemical compound that is important for the production of the human sex hormone. So the next time, ditch the blue pill and have some beetroot juice instead. Here are 8 sexual stamina boosting tips you shouldn’t miss!
#9 Protects you from cancer
The betacyanin content in beetroot has another very important function. In a study done at the Howard University, Washington DC, it was found that betacyanin helped slow the growth of tumors by 12.5 percent in patients with breast and prostate cancer. (4) This effect not only helps in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers but it also helps cancer survivors remain cancer-free longer.
#10 Beats constipation
Because of its high soluble fibre content, beetroot acts as a great laxative. It helps in regularizing your bowel movement by softening stools. It also cleanses the colon and flushes out the harmful toxins from the stomach. Here are a few home remedies to relieve constipation.
#11 Boosts brain power.
A study done at the University of Exeter, UK, showed that drinking beetroot juice could increase a person’s stamina by 16 percent, because of its nitrate content. Known to increase the oxygen uptake by the body, the study also found that because of this one factor, it could also help in the proper functioning of the brain and beat the onset of dementia. (5) It has also been seen that nitrate when converted to nitrite helps in the better transmission of neural impulses, making the brain work better.