5 Surprising Health Benefits of Beetroots.
Remember the lonely, uneaten bowl of beets at your childhood Thanksgivings? The sweet, earthy root vegetables sure have come a long way. These days, beets are the star ingredient in salads, juices, soups, and more. And this food trend is one even nutritionists get behind. “They’re definitely a performance food—they’re good for your heart, your mind, and your muscles,” says Dawn Jackson-Blatner, RDN, a Chicago-based dietitian and the author of The Superfood Swap.
Plus, when they aren’t packaged in a can, beets can be delicious—and you don’t have to take it from us: “They aren’t bitter, so they’re good for people who don’t like veggies,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, a dietitian and owner of Active Eating Advice in Pittsburgh. “I’m a big fan of beets.”
Available in all seasons, beets can be found in the produce section of your local grocery store—and, better yet, they often come pre-steamed.
Here are five reasons why beets deserve a place in your diet.
1. Beets can lower your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a leading cause of death, globally. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that hypertension accounts for nearly 13 percent of all global deaths.
“Beets are rich in healthy nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide inside the body,” says Jackson-Blatner. Nitric oxide, she explains, can help dilate blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. A 2016 study in the Journal of Human Hypertension found that when people with hypertension ate either 9 ounces of cooked beets or about 1 cup of raw beet juice, they saw improvements in their blood pressure and inflammation levels after just two weeks.
2. Beets can boost your energy.
Because nitric oxide can dilate your blood vessels, it can also help bring more oxygen to your muscles, says Jackson-Blatner. The upshot: “Beets might allow people to exercise longer,” she says. That was also the conclusion of a 2017 review by researchers from Spain, who found that drinking beetroot juice could boost endurance levels in athletes. The study authors suggest taking the stuff within 90 minutes of your exercise session.
3. Beets may help boost your brainpower.
Along with shuttling more oxygen to your muscles, beets may also usher extra oxygen to your brain, says Jackson-Blatner. A Want to give beetroot juice a try? Try buying it in concentrated form and adding it into a smoothie.
4. Beets can keep you regular.
One cup of beets contains about 3.5 grams of fiber—and much of that is made up of the insoluble kind, which can help prevent constipation. “Insoluble fiber keeps food moving through the digestive tract and increases stool bulk, which helps with elimination,” says Bonci.
Plus, insoluble fiber could also prevent hemorrhoids, which are more common in people who have chronic constipation or eat a low-fiber diet, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. A 2014 review by researchers from the University of Oklahoma shows hemorrhoids occur in an estimated 50% of people over the age of 50.
5. Beets are loaded with antioxidants.
Beets get their gorgeous, red-violet color from their high levels of antioxidants, or molecules that help prevent certain diseases by fighting off the damage inflicted by free radicals, says Bonci. One particularly potent antioxidant, however, is betalain. According to a 2015 review published in LWT – Food Science and Technology, betalain scored higher marks in fighting off free radicals than vitamin C and certain anthocyanins.
How to add beets to your diet
Bonus: Beets are surprisingly easy to add to your diet, says Bonci. “You can purchase shredded beets or beet noodles [at the store],” she says, “and use them in a salad with arugula, grapefruit sections, olive oil, and a little salt or pepper. Or you could snack on dehydrated beet chips, which are delicious.”
One note of caution…
“There’s such a thing as ‘beeturia,’” says Jackson Blatner. “If you start upping your beet intake a lot, your pee could turn pink.” But don’t freak: “It’s not blood in your urine—it’s actually just beets.” Same goes for your number-twos: if you notice red in the toilet bowl, you’re not bleeding; it’s just the beets making their way through your digestive tract. Scary right? But hey, nothing to be worried about!