Beets and beetroot are an all natural, dark red root vegetable, that can help lower blood pressure, improve endurance and boost brain health. They belong to the Chenopodiaceae family and fall under the Beta vulgaris species.
Interestingly, these vegetables have various benefits, including decreasing blood pressure levels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular incidences, improving physical performance, endurance, and stamina, helping ease digestive issues or complaints, improving brain health and cognitive functioning, and aiding in weight loss due to its nutrition and low calorie content.
It is further easily included in the diet via foods or supplements. Many individuals choose to include it into soups, salads, or as pickled food items. They can also be roasted or steamed.
In addition, their high nitrate content seems to be the source of their many benefits. These benefits and links are associated in more detail in the following sections.
1Beets may aid in lowering blood pressure levels. A 2013 systematic review examined the use of beets in lowering blood pressure. The review explored various studies on beets and their effects. All studies were performed between 2006 and 2012. A total of 254 participants were involved in all the studies reviewed.
The results showed a clear association between beets and reductions in systolic blood pressure. The researchers that reviewed these studies suggested that beets may significantly reduce one’s risk of cardiovascular disease or incidences (1).
A 2012 study also took a look at how beets may help in lowering higher than normal blood pressure levels. Researchers suggested that the high nitrate content in beets may be responsible for these effects (2).
Another 2012 study had similar findings. This particular study included 15 men and 15 women. Participants in one group received 500 g of beetroot and apple juice. In another group, they received a placebo juice that did not contain beetroot. Researchers measured and recorded baseline blood pressure levels for all participants.
They then continued to take these measurements hourly for the 24 hours after participants drank the juice. The results showed a lower systolic blood pressure reading after drinking the beet juice. They concluded that beet juice would significantly lower systolic blood pressure in healthy adults, contributing to a possibly reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases (3).
2Beet juice or beets may increase and improve physical performance, stamina, and endurance. A 2012 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics included 11 participants to examine whether beets improved the performance in a 5-km running treadmill test. Participants were asked to consume baked beetroot. They then did the test 75 minutes after consumption.
The same test was conducted after the consumption of cranberry relish as a placebo. Running velocity was 5% faster during the last 1.8 kilometers of the beetroot trial test. There appeared to also be no adverse effects or changes in heart rate. Thus, researchers concluded that beetroot may significantly improve athletic performance. This was, again, attributed to the high nitrate content (4).
A 2013 study in the Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found similar results in trained cyclists at a moderate altitude. It’s thought that high nitrate combats the negative effects of hypoxia, increasing exercise tolerance. 9 amateur cyclists were included in the study. The single dosage of beets was shown to lower their VO2 max and enhance their performance (5).
A 2016 study also proved these benefits. This study examined the effects of beetroot supplements on sprint running performance, cognitive function, and exercise performance in another test. 36 male athletes participated in this study. Researchers found that it enhanced sprint and high-intensity intermittent running performance. They suggested that beets could potentially improve performance in single-sprint or team sports (6).
3The fiber content in beets may improve digestion and help ease digestive issues, like constipation. 1 cup of beets contains 3.4 grams of fiber. High fiber content food is associated with regular and easy digestion and reducing symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease (7, 8).
4Beets may improve and boost brain health. A 2011 study examined the result of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults. Beets are known for their high nitrate content. Brain perfusion was measured by arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging.
Researchers observed increased regional cerebral perfusion in the white matter in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area of the brain is critical for executive functioning, leaving researchers to believe that eating a diet with a high beet content may improve these functions with age (12).
A 2014 study examined a high nitrate diet and its association with improved reaction times in those with type 2 diabetes. Reaction time was found to be 4% faster in those who drank 250 milliliters of beet juice every day for 2 weeks (13).
Another study also looked at the cognitive and brain effects of beetroot consumption. Participants in this particular study drank the beetroot juice in conjunction with an exercise program. It was found that older adults that exercised and drank beetroot juice had the most significant effects and had brain networks that more closely resembled those of younger adults (14).
5Beets may have anti-cancer effects. An older 1996 study, published in Cancer Letters, studied these effects in a test-tube approach utilizing human cells. Interestingly, the beetroot had inhibitory effects on prostate and breast cancer cells. It led researchers to indicate that further research was needed on these surprising and possibly, life-saving benefits (15).
Another study also posed similar results. It was suggested the beets could be a viable source in preventing lung, skin, and colon cancer. It was thought that this was due to the pigment betacyanins, which appear to halt cancerous growths. Further, they may inhibit and prevent future growth of other cancerous cells, not limited to lung, skin, and colon cancers (16).
6Beets may help promote a healthy weight loss and contribute to a well and balanced diet. The nutritional content of beets is highly regarded by nutritionists and dietitians. They are low in calories, at only 44 calories per 100 grams. Low calorie foods are associated with weight loss (17).
The high fiber and protein content are also thought to contribute to weight loss. Many nutritionists and scientists claim that these nutrients cause a reduced appetite and feelings of satiety.
7Beets have antioxidant effects that may contribute to anti-inflammatory properties and benefits. Beets have betacyanins which are compounds are thought to contribute to reduced inflammation throughout the body (18, 19, 20).
A 2013 study even showed these effects to be plausible. 40 participants with osteoarthritic knee pain were observed in the study. Researchers showed that supplements containing beet concentration improved knee discomfort, increased joint function, and decreased inflammation (21).
Another study also concluded with results showing that beetroot may decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in obese individuals (22).
8Beets encourage liver detoxification (23). A 2013 study explored these effects in more detail. Researchers found that beetroot, containing betanin, has detoxifying and antioxidant effects on human liver cell lines (24).
Another 2013 study also looked into these effects on the liver. It was showed to have positive hepatic effects on rat liver function. However, researchers did indicate that human trials and studies were needed to show more direct results and human application (25).
9Beets have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. They further reduce the risk of a cardiovascular incident, such as a heart attack or stroke.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods showed that beets improved endothelial function in elderly with a cardiovascular risk. These means blood flow and blood vessel functioning was improved. Researchers concluded that a higher nitrate diet may decrease the risk of cardiovascular risk in the elderly (26).
A similar conclusion was drawn by researchers in a 2013 study. The study involved 20 healthy overweight and slightly obese men. Participants were given 140 milliliters of beet juice. Flow-mediated dilation of the brachial artery and blood was sampled and measured. It was found to improve flow-mediated dilation in the brachial artery. As such, researchers indicated it could significantly reduce the chances of a cardiovascular incident (27).
1Some studies suggest that beets have no impact on performance, particularly in elite runners (28).
2It’s cautioned in various literature and texts that beets may not be beneficial to consume in high quantities during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. However, studies have not explored this in-depth, and further research is necessary to back up these claims. During pregnancy, it’s best to follow a diet in all essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. Talk to your doctor to learn more about appropriate food consumption during pregnancy.
3Eating a high quantity of beets may make kidney disease worse. Doctors and experts advise caution and recommend avoiding beets if you have health issues involving your kidneys.
4Eating a lot of beets is associated with kidney stones.
5It may create a pink taint in your urine. This only happens for about 10-14% of the population.
6Beets may cause a darker stool color. In addition to an abnormal pigment in your urine, you may also experience abnormal pigmentations in your stool. If the color is bright red, seek out medical advice. It may be a sign of fissures or hemorrhoids.
7High beet consumption may also lead to gallstones. Usually, your doctor will recommend you avoid foods, like beets, if you have any sort of health predisposition that could cause gallstones to occur from the consumption of high-oxalate foods.
Beetroot tends to be dosed on the nitrate content, with around 0.1-0.2mmol/kg (6.4-12.8mg/kg) being the target for nitrate. This is about 436mg for a 150lb person, which is comparable to half a kilogram (500g) of the beetroots themselves (wet weight).
For athletic performance, beetroot juice 70-140 mL daily has been used, often taken a few hours before exercise. Baked beetroot 200 grams taken 75 minutes before exercise has also been used.
For other benefits, there are not enough scientific studies that have conclusive data as too which amount is correct for the given benefit.
Can you drink beet juice every day? In some studies, drinking about 2 cups of beet juice daily or taking nitrate capsules lowered blood pressure in healthy adults. In one study, people who drank beet juice for 6 days had better stamina during intense exercise.
Can you lose weight by eating beets? Beets help you detox and lose weight because they contain no fat and are a good source of dietary fiber — half soluble and half insoluble. Similarly, beets are rich in magnesium, a mineral that supports optimal nerve and muscle functioning, which could be beneficial for losing weight.
Is red poop bad? If you are a beetroot lover like me, you may have poop red. A visit to the restroom sometime after eating a tasty beet leaves a scarlet trace. The technical term for the presence of the red beetroot pigments in urine or stool is beeturia.
Are beets good for your lungs? Beetroot juice helps the lungs to work more efficiently and studies have found that it can enable healthy adults to exercise for up to 16% longer. Firstly, it widens blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and allowing more blood flow. Secondly, it affects muscle tissue, reducing the amount of oxygen needed by muscles during activity. The combined effects have a significant impact on performing physical tasks, whether it involves low-intensity or high-intensity effort.
How can you tell if beets are bad? If it is soft like a tomato is, then it has probably spoiled. If, on the other hand, it is still firm but has little “give” to it, then it’s probably fine to eat. It is the cooking that softens it up, though it can be eaten raw. I grate some raw beetroot into salads and stuff occasionally, just for fun.
How long does it take to get beets out of your system? Don’t be alarmed if you notice any red pigment in your urine or BM, because that’s what beets do. If you’re not seeing red within 24 hours, then your body is taking too long to move waste through your digestive system.
Are beets good for COPD? Beetroot juice improves the exercise function of COPD patients, study shows. COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, makes it difficult for patients to breathe and worsens over time.
Is beetroot good for your liver? Beetroot juice protects the liver from oxidative damage and inflammation, all while increasing its natural detoxification enzymes.
Are beets good for diabetics? Beets are high in vitamin C and folate. Plus, they’re a great source of the antioxidant lipoic acid. Recent research shows it can be helpful in healing nerve damage in people with diabetes.
Is it ok to drink beet juice every day? Yes, it is ok to drink beetroot juice every day. In some studies, drinking about 2 cups of beet juice daily or taking nitrate capsules lowered blood pressure in healthy adults. Beet juice may also help your stamina when you exercise.
Are raw beets better than cooked? Cooked beets are much higher in dietary fiber compared to beet juice because the juicing process removes over 90 percent of the fiber. However, betalains and some other nutrients are reduced in cooked beets because they are sensitive to heat.
Why does your urine turn dark after eating beets? Because low stomach acid can make it difficult to digest and absorb nutrients, your body may have trouble metabolizing the red pigment in beetroot. So, you may notice red or pink urine after you eat beets or drink beet juice.
Are dehydrated beets good for you? Beets are dense with nutrients, including potassium, betaine, magnesium, folate, and Vitamin C and a good dose of nitrates. Dehydrated beets offer most of those benefits; however, they are often loaded with unhealthy, cheap fats to make them delicious so only enjoy in moderation.
Beets are an excellent food or supplement to include in your diet in moderation. In particular, beetroot juice or soups may prove to have optimal benefits, as these were the forms that had proven results in the above studies mentioned.
Beets may lower systolic blood pressure levels, improving cardiovascular health and decreasing negative cardiovascular incidences. This vegetable has further been suggested to help improve athletic performance, such as endurance and stamina – with one study showing an obvious 5% improvement.
The nutrients, such as fiber and protein, also prove to have various beneficial effects. They may help in weight loss since they provide feelings of fullness and reduce one’s appetite. They may further contribute to overall optimal health.
Beets may also have anti-cancer effects, anti-inflammatory properties, protective liver effects, and antioxidant properties, protecting the body from many chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and many types of cancer. Their antioxidant effects may further extend to improved aging, better cognitive functioning, and more.
There are a few possible serious consequences from consuming beets. However, if you experience any of the above side effects, it may prove best to consult with your family doctor. They know you and your health best and will be able to determine if any of the side effects are something you should be concerned about. In contrast, some individuals may experience no significant benefits or side effects from beets.
Like most vegetables and fruits, beets are best to be consumed in moderation and not in large quantities.
As aforementioned, beets provide ample options for foods and meals, including pickled varieties, soups, salads, and more. Start including more of the nutritious and beneficial food in your diet today.