Beetroot is a sweet, juicy vegetable which can provide lots of health benefits. Whilst beetroot leaves are rather bitter, the actual body of the beetroot is rich in natural sugars so that beetroot has the highest sugar content of any vegetable. As well as this, beetroot, other vegetables are rich in nutrients making them an excellent food to consume.
As a rather sweet vegetable, beetroot is quite palatable and easy to consume if cooked correctly and you avoid the leaves, although these are also full of nutrients. Beetroot contains fibre, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B folate, nitrates, ascorbic acid, carotenes and more, all of which will help to improve your health.
5 Health Benefits Of Beetroot
#1 – Beetroot Contains Powerful Antioxidants
Beetroot contains betalain pigments which are what gives beetroot its dark purple colour. These pigments have been shown to exhibit powerful antioxidant, chemo-preventative and anti-inflammatory activity. Consuming beetroot or beetroot juice may help to protect cellular components within the body from oxidative damage which are caused by free radicals. High levels of oxidative damage have been linked to high levels of inflammation and cancer which is why we should try to consume foods rich in antioxidants.
#2 – Lowers Blood Pressure
Beetroots are rich in a chemical called nitrates. These are converted by the body into nitric oxide which has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, improve vascular compliance and restore endothelial function (all linked to the function of the arteries) within patients with hypertension. This has been shown in a 2012 study within the British Journal of Nutrition which suggested that beetroot juice lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure when compared to a control group drinking water.
#3 – Boosts Cognitive Function
The nitrates in beetroot are converted into nitrites by bacteria within the mouth. These nitrates help open up blood vessels within the body (which is why they are also good for lowering blood pressure) which increases blood flow so more parts of the body can receive oxygen. This can improve the amount of oxygen reaching the brain which will help to boost cognitive function.
One study looked at how dietary nitrates affected 14 individuals aged 70 and older over a 4 day period by administering beetroot juice. Using MRI scans, they found that after eating a high nitrate diet, the older adults had increased blood flow to the white matter of their frontal lobes – the areas of the brain most commonly associated with dementia and other degenerative cognitive conditions.
#4 – Combats Diabetes
Diabetes occurs due to an inability to regulate blood sugar with insulin. Beetroot contains another antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid which one study has shown to lower blood sugar by improving glycemic control, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce oxidative stress in patients with diabetes. The study also found that alpha-lipoic acid terminates free radicals, increases vitamin C levels and prevents toxicities associated with their loss. All of these factors help to reduce the effect of oxidative stress which could potentially destroy healthy cells within the body.
Another way beetroot is good for diabetes or just managing blood sugar, in general, is because of its high fibre content. This keeps food moving throughout your digestive system. Fibre can also help to slow down the rate at which glucose from sugars are absorbed into the body, helping to control and regulate both blood sugar and insulin by controlling spikes in both.
#5 – Rich In Folate
Folate is an important nutrient used to form new cells within the body by synthesising DNA. Folate deficiencies will cause anaemia, weakened immune function and poor digestive health, all of which can compromise your wellbeing.
In addition to beetroot, some other foods rich in folate include legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy greens, citrus fruits, brussel sprouts, broccoli, nuts, seeds and beef liver.
Advantages For Endurance Athletes
Beetroot has picked up a bit of interest within the endurance community. Athletes like David Weir use beetroot in a juiced form in order to capitalise on the effect of the nitrates within beetroot which has been shown to have the potential to improve race performance times within endurance events. The boost in nitrates will likely lead to a 1-2% reduction in race times. This is done since the compounds within beetroot can decrease the “oxygen cost” of exercise or how much oxygen is used during exercise allowing for athletes to become more economical in their performance so they can race to a higher standard.
After ingesting a high dietary source of nitrates from food like beetroot, peak nitrate levels are reached about 2 -3 hours after consumption which is probably important to note if you’re considering using beetroot to try and enhance performance. Juiced beetroot in the form of a drink such as this one from Beet It will also be better and more convenient as the drink will have a higher concentration of nitrates. You can check out more of the Beet It drinks on their website.
However, if you chew gum or use mouthwash regularly, you may not get so much of a benefit from the nitrates since it is the bacteria in the mouth which cause the conversion of nitrates into nitric oxide which is essential for gaining many benefits from beetroot.
Ways To Add Beetroot To Your Diet
- You can buy cooked beetroot in supermarkets. This is by far the easiest way to add beetroot to your diet and I sometimes have a couple after a run at the end of a meal.
- Buy a beetroot drink
- Grate raw beetroot onto a salad
- Slice up cooked beetroot thinly and add to a salad
- Add beetroot to a blender and blend to make a smoothie/drink (with any other fruits or vegetables you want)
Small beetroots tend to be sweeter than larger varieties. Make sure you handle beetroot carefully as although they may look tough, they are easy to bruise.
Potential Side Effects
Beetroot is rich in oxalates which can prevent the absorption of calcium in the body. This could cause calcium to build up in the body and lead to kidney stones. However, this is unlikely unless you are eating lots of oxalate-rich foods daily.
In large amounts, a similar effect with oxalates could occur with absorbing iron which could lead to iron deficiency. This may lead to fatigue. If this is the case you may want to review your consumption of beetroot.
Also, be wary that beetroot can stain horribly, so be careful not to get the betalain pigment from beetroot onto your clothing. Also…
Don’t Be Alarmed
…If your urine turns pink or red shortly after consuming beetroot. This is normal and there is nothing harmful about it. The normal colour will resume shortly (or a while after you stop eating beetroot).
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