7 Best Beets Benefits
We all know that popular song:
Beets, beets, good for your heart…
No, seriously, beets are great for your heart, among so many other benefits!
In fact, they’re so good for you that you can eat the entire plant, leaves and all (although the leaves have a bitter taste so most people stick with the sweeter root end).
The thing with beets is that you can tell where they’ve been. Purple smudges on empty plates tell the tale of the beetroot battles with cutlery, and even after being consumed they sometimes leave their mark in alarming fashion by turning your toilet bowl bright red.
But never fear, this exotic bathroom color scheme is just the signal of betanin, the red pigment in beets, which some people have difficulty breaking down.¹ Passing anything colored red may be frightening the first time you eat beets but it is a harmless condition.
Managing to conquer the mental aftermath of consuming beets opens you up to a whole world of health benefits given by these vegetables. Behold the best beets benefits before your eyes:
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
Among many things, beets are high in nitrates. There have been multiple studies that show dietary nitrates to acutely lower blood pressure, especially when they are sourced from vegetables.²
The nitrates are converted into nitric oxide by your digestive system, which then relaxes and widens your blood vessels — hence a lowering of blood pressure.³
In one study where people were randomly assigned either regular beet juice or nitrate-free beet juice every day for four weeks, it was concluded that:
“Blood pressure readings fell by an average of 7.7/2.4 points in the people who drank regular beet juice, compared with no blood pressure changes in those in the placebo group.”³
Most studies use beet juice or powder simply because it is more concentrated, but eating a beetroot whole has the same benefits.⁴
2. Improves Athletic Performance
Beets have been gaining a lot of attention from athletes and their coaches because of the mounting evidence that they can help to naturally improve athletic performance.
Tests on runners, swimmers, cyclists, and even kayakers have been conducted, which all showed the positive effects of beets. The reasons for this stem from the nitrates previously discussed, but they give rise to a host of benefits:
“Increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction.”⁵
In one 2015 study, 5 professional female kayakers were given beet juice 2 hours before kayaking one-third of a mile. The performance of these kayakers improved by 1.7% when compared to the placebo group who did not drink any beet juice.⁶
One conclusion of this and many other similar beet tests is that the nitrates consumed lowers the oxygen demand of exercise and improves performance, especially in endurance sports.
Our conclusion: eat your beets!
3. Reduces Inflammation
Along with lowering your blood pressure, beets help to fight inflammation⁷. In recent years more studies have been concluding that chronic inflammation is associated with the onset of diseases responsible for over 50% of all deaths.⁸ These include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases.
The phytonutrients found in beets, such as vulgaxanthin, betanin, and isobetanin, help fight chronic inflammation by inhibiting the enzymes that signal for cells to enflame.⁹ In healthy bodies, this inflammation helps to protect and heal, but when inflammation becomes chronic this action does more harm than good and beets help to protect from this.
For example, studies have shown:
“Therapeutic administration of betalain-rich oral capsules made from beetroot extracts alleviated inflammation and pain in osteoarthritic patients.”¹⁰
4. Keeps Your Digestion Healthy
Beets are high in dietary fiber, which helps to keep your digestive system running smoothly. This fiber feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut, which in turn helps prevent the likes of constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and diverticulitis.¹¹
The red pigment present in your stool after eating beets has become part of a popular ‘digestion test’, which measures how healthy the transit time of your food is.
Once you’ve eaten roughly half a red beet, you check your stool to see how long it is before it’s turned red. If this time delay falls within a 12–24 hour window then your digestive system is on the right track. However, if it takes over 24 hours for the color to appear then it could use some work.¹²
This extra time delay means your food is staying in your digestive system for too long and you most likely need a combination of more dietary fiber and more water. Beets can help you with some of this!
5. Better Brain Health
One direct effect of lowing your blood pressure is that more oxygen-rich blood can reach your brain, which gives it a boost in performance.¹³ This can help you focus during an oxygen-depleting sport or give you more mental clarity as you go about your day.
Some studies have shown that, in older people, this improved blood flow to the brain could potentially help fight the onset or progression of dementia.¹⁴
Another study showed that when beet juice was combined with a regular 50-minute exercise on a treadmill 3x a week, that the average number of mobility problems found in the brains of participants was similar to those of a 26-year-old. This is incredible when you consider that the average age of participants was 65!¹³
6. Helps Fight Cancer
Beets contain lots of anti-oxidants and one called betalain is particularly effective at fighting off cancerous cells by starving tumors and preventing cell division.¹⁵
Betalain is also amazing at preventing cancer because it flushes out toxins by neutralizing free-radicals throughout your body that would otherwise cause damage by interacting with other cells.¹⁶
Folate, or vitamin B-9, is another compound found in beets that lowers your risk of colon cancer, especially the risk associated with alcohol consumption.¹⁷
In short, it helps prevent carcinogenesis (the formation of cancer) by acting as a form of chemoprevention, which stops oxidative stress and inflammation from becoming chronic. Beets are a magical preventative measure!
7. Aids Weight Loss
You’ll be glad to hear that with everything that is packed into a beetroot, there is just no room left for any fats! They are packed with nutrients and a high amount of water but a low amount of calories.¹⁸ Additionally, many of these nutrients can help aid weight loss.
A study conducted in 2011 found that the magnesium levels in beets helped to boost testosterone, a hormone that helps burn fat.¹⁹
The high amounts of dietary fiber also help keep you fuller for longer, and leucine, an amino acid in beets, increases the availability of lean muscle mass, which in turn reduces body fat.²⁰
Beets' popularity is on the rise but for many, there are reasons it does not have a regular place in their diet. But whether it is the taste, the texture, or the red coloring that beetroot splashes everywhere, these ‘negatives’ are disproportionally outweighed by the amazing health benefits they provide.
If you have to mix beets into a salad, blend some beet powder in a recipe, or hold your nose while you drink down some beet juice, this is the one vegetable that you should seriously find a way to incorporate into your diet.