Looking to boost your healthy lifestyle with natural, whole foods? In the words of Michael Jackson, “Just ‘beet’ it!” Naturally packed with essential vitamins, nutrients, and anti-oxidants, beets might surprise you with all the health benefits they have to offer.
Lower Blood Pressure
Beetroot juice is a popular choice of drinks that lower blood pressure. In addition to folate, potassium, fiber and Vitamin C, beets are rich in nitrates – a crucial component to heart health. The nitrates from beets get converted into nitric oxide in the body which serves to widen blood vessels, thin the blood, and stiffen arteries. This boosts blood circulation and has been proven, like in this 2015 study, to significantly lower systolic blood pressure (even in hypertensive patients), and help fight heart disease.
Amp up your workout with a natural energy boost from beets! A 2009 study revealed that the dietary nitrates in beets that help with hypertension also enhance a human’s tolerance to high-intensity exercise by reducing the amount of oxygen needed to exercise. Cyclists have been shown to be able to ride 16% longer and with more intensity when they drank beetroot juice, and walkers and runners testify to an increased time-to-exhaustion when incorporating beetroot juice into their training diet.
Aid in Detoxification
Betalains are a phytonutrient uniquely found in beets which give them their red and yellow colors. The compounds which comprise betalains, including betanins and vulgaxanthin, help your body detox. When the human body ingests food, it goes through detoxification phases to make sure that toxins are eliminated and don’t make you sick. The betalain in beets has been proven to increase Phase II enzymes which attach toxins to small nutrient groups, neutralizes them, and makes them soluble for elimination.
The presence of betaine, a choline-derived nutrient which helps protect cells, enzymes and proteins from environmental stressors, gives beets the power to fight inflammation. A decreased concentration of the amino acid, homocysteine, that comes from dietary betaine intake has been associated with lowered markers for systemic inflammation, as seen in this 2008 study. As well, because the beet is so effective on the cellular level, its anti-oxidants and iron concentration help fight free radicals and tumor growth associated with cancer.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Great in savory or sweet dishes, beets are a fiber rich addition to a healthy diet and only contain 60 calories per cooked cup. While beets are considered “simple carbs” and contain sugar, they are nutrient-dense and add fiber to your diet making them far healthier than white bread and cookies, for example. Add them to salads, dips or smoothies for that delicious dose of healthy calories that help you feel full without overeating.
Promote Eye Health
Beet greens, or the stalks of the beet plant, can be cooked just like other dark leafy greens and are chock-full of the anti-oxidant, lutein. Lutein helps prevent against age-related eye issues like cataracts and macular degeneration. The nitrate to nitric oxide conversion in beets that boosts blood circulation can also help stabilize eye pressure and and improve ocular function.
Don’t forget, like most health foods, cooking and consumption are key. When cooked too long, (steamed over 15 minutes or roasted over an hour), the health-benefitting properties of beets are diminished.
As well, over-consumption of beets can have negative side effects including increased risk for kidney stones, gallstones, and gout. If your urine or stool contains a crimson color after eating beets, however, don’t be alarmed – this is totally natural for good percentage of the population, and goes away within a few days. Talk to your doctor about enhancing your diet with the sweet, vibrant beet today!