Beets are nutritious and flavorful, versatile enough to be eaten on their own or as a tasty addition to salads, juices, or dips. If you don’t care for the flavor – beets do have a distinct earthy quality – there are also ways to disguise the taste yet still enjoy the benefits. And as we’ll explain, there are many reasons to make beets a daily habit.
First of all, beetroot (the red bulb underneath the green shoot and leaves) has a ton of vitamins and minerals yet few calories. It is particularly high in folate and manganese, but also contains a good amount of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and iron. There is about 1.7 grams of protein in each 3.5 ounce serving, as well as 2 grams of fiber, all for just 44 calories.
But the nutrition is just the beginning. We’ve examined what can happen to your body if you make the choice to eat some beets every day, and it’s really exciting. From disease prevention to weight loss, there is no shortage of compelling reasons to try.
We think you’ll find #2 especially interesting.
1. Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
High blood pressure is a leading indicator for potentially fatal events like heart attack or stroke. And the even scarier news is that high blood pressure tends to be asymptomatic until something bad happens. That’s why foods that can lower your blood pressure are important to eat every day. Beets have been shown to lower blood pressure by 4-10 mmHg over a few hours after consumption.
The effect has been attributed to the high levels of dietary nitrate in beetroot. During digestion, the dietary nitrate is converted to nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow. The effect is only temporary, lasting for about six hours after consumption, providing another strong rationale for eating beets every day.
2. Better Athletic Performance
Athletes have long known about the energy-boosting effects of beets, and often eat them before a big event. Many studies indicate that the nitrates in beets improve the efficiency of mitochondria, the energy-producing center of your cells. Beets are also thought to improve the way the body uses oxygen by up to 20%.
Athletes who participated in studies on the effects of beet juice were able to significantly improve their performance and extend their time to exhaustion. Blood nitrate levels peak about 2-3 hours after eating beets, so that’s your best window for eating them if you hope to improve your athletic performance.
3. Reduced Inflammation
General inflammation is a factor in just about every disease known to man, but chronic inflammation is especially associated with diseases including arthritis, cancer, obesity, heart disease, and liver disease. Beets help reduce inflammation via red pigments called betalains. Both whole beets and beetroot juice has been shown to reduce kidney inflammation in rats.
For humans with osteoarthritis, study participants given betalain capsules made from beets reported reduced pain from the condition. Additional studies with humans are necessary to learn more, but early results convincingly link the betalain in beets with a reduction in chronic inflammation.
4. Better Digestive Health
Dietary fiber is an interesting component of a healthy diet, because our bodies critically need it but don’t actually digest it. Instead, fiber either adds bulk to your stool that helps your body move it out, or feeds the good bacteria that live in your gut and digest the rest of your food.
Getting enough fiber in your diet can ward off discomforts like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and diverticulitis; it is also thought to lower your lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and colon cancer. Beets are an excellent source of fiber with 3.4 grams per serving.
5. Greater Mental Acuity
Everyone knows that cognitive function naturally declines as we age. But the extent to which this occurs is largely within our control. Of course, you can’t fight genetics, but proper diet can help to keep your mind sharper. The nitrates in beets are thought to improve cognitive ability by dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
Studies show that the effect is particularly observed in the frontal lobe, responsible for decision making and working memory. Regular consumption of beets might also improve your reaction time, according to at least one study. It remains to be seen if beets can reduce the risk of dementia in older people, but for day-to-day mental clarity, it is well worth downing some.
6. Weight Loss
Losing weight is a tricky thing. In the end, no fad diet is going to let you shed pounds and keep them off. Only a change in your overall diet that is sustainable for the rest of your life can do that. And until you reach your goal weight, you will need to take in fewer calories than you burn.
That’s where beets can be helpful, because they contain a lot of water and few calories yet give you a lot of crucial nutrition. The fiber in beets may be particularly beneficial because it promotes feelings of satiety (fullness and satisfaction) after meals.
If you’re looking to add more vegetables to your diet but wondering which ones will give you the most bang for your dietary buck, add beets to the list! When you consume at least one serving of beetroot every day, you’ll think more clearly, perform better in physical tasks, and slim your waistline to boot. Eating beets has also been linked to a reduced risk of scary conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Beets are good raw or cooked, whole or juiced. If you don’t care for the flavor of beets, cooking them can minimize that distinct aftertaste. However, if you do cook them, avoid boiling as the healthy nitrates are water soluble and may end up mostly in your cooking water. Beet flavor is also largely disguised when the juice is added to pancake or crepe batter, even cookie dough.
With all the sneaky ways to consume more beets, and all the health benefits associated with doing so, what are you waiting for? Get your beet on today!