Beets occupy a unique space in the average American’s diet. Their deep, rich purple-red color makes them recognizable to all. However, most people seem confused by what to do with them and thus ignore them and their amazing health benefits in favor of more common, less confusing vegetables.
Fear not, fellow Júce-oholics, we have great news. If by the end of this post you can’t wait to tear into some juicy and nutritious beets, we’ll provide you with the best way to get your beet fix … and, of course, those wonderful beet health benefits.
Who’s ready for some knowledge?
The History of Beets
Beets (Beta vulgaris) are a root vegetable native to the Mediterranean region. Their round bulbs are purple or red with edible leaves sprouting from their tops like a punk-rock haircut. Beets were used medicinally by the Greeks, Romans, and Arab cultures and finally made their way to European kitchens in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Beet juice has also been used as red dye since around the 16th century. The Victorians dyed their hair with beet juice in 19th century England.
Back to the present and what we know about beets today …
It’s All About the Nitrates
Nitrates are natural chemicals that are found in our water, air, and soil and thus in some vegetables, like beets. Our bodies take in these nitrates and then change them into nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is important as it improves blood circulation and normalizes blood pressure by relaxing our blood vessels and as a result, also provides a nice stamina boost. And let’s not forget about all of the cardiovascular benefits resulting from better circulation and ideal blood pressure.
In one study, from a few years ago, researchers investigated the effects of beet supplementation on athletic performance. Participants in the beet group of that study experienced:
- Increased time to exhaustion
- Improved athletic efficiency
- Improved cardiovascular performance
Those amazing nitrates found in beets are also responsible for optimizing muscle contractions in the diaphragm, which improves our ability to breathe more deeply and more easily. This is great for health in general, contributes to some of the athletic performance benefits listed above, and increases our ability to fight respiratory illnesses like COVID19.
More recently, the effects of beet nitrates on breathing were studied in mice. The mice were split into two groups. One received regular drinking water, while the other group was given nitrate-infused water. After 14 days, the mice in the nitrate group showed significant increases in the force and power of their diaphragm muscles, resulting in “improved lung function and breathing.”
Fiber + Folate = Better Digestion and Improved Weight Management
We’ll assume you’ve heard that fiber is good for you, as this vital nutrient promotes the growth of good bacteria, which helps to lower inflammation in the colon and the corresponding symptoms of gas, bloating, and irregular bowel movements.
One cup of sliced beets contains a whopping 4 grams of fiber. That same cup also contains 148 mg of folate, which amounts to 37 percent of our daily needs. Folate is equally important to digestive health, as it lowers the risk of colon cancer and boosts new cell growth, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
This combination of tissue repair in the digestive tract and the growth of good bacteria in the gut make beets a powerful ally in the fight against digestive illnesses and ailments. And then there are the weight loss benefits.
We tend to think of weight loss as mostly a battle of will, and this is true to an extent. But what if you could circumvent this somehow?
Beets are high in the two things that help us feel fuller faster: water and fiber. When you consume these two things together, you don’t have to rely on willpower alone. And beets are very low in calories, making them a weight loss superfood.
Folate is also responsible for reducing levels of homocysteine – a dangerous protein that contributes to heart disease.
This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Beets!
According to 2019 statistics, 11 percent of women and 8 percent of men over the age of 70 suffer from dementia. And these numbers are on the rise.
Remember those beet nitrate benefits we discussed earlier that improved blood flow? There is a type of dementia—vascular dementia—that is characterized by damaged brain tissue due to a lack of blood flow.
As already discussed, nitric oxide has powerful effects on the responsiveness of our blood vessels. The improved circulation that results means an increase in oxygen reaching the brain. This vital flow of oxygen is responsible for improving cognitive function, the same way a lack of it contributes to cognitive decline.
However, consuming beets alone is only a half measure. According to a recent study, beetroot juice combined with exercise in older adults resulted in “brain networks that more closely resembled those of younger adults, showing the potential enhanced neuroplasticity conferred by combining exercise and beetroot juice consumption.”
Pro Health Tip
Darker and brighter are better. The colors of your favorite vegetables represent nutrients:
Chlorophyll (green), Carotenoids (yellow, red, orange), Flavonoids (red, blue, purple), and Betalains (red, yellow, purple).
But did you know that the deeper the color, the higher the concentration of healthful nutrients you can expect to receive?
Nothing Beats Beets for Eye Health
Beet greens contain two phytonutrients—lutein and zeaxanthin—that, according to the American Optometric Association, are important for preventing age-related macular degeneration and protecting our eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays.
So, toss those beet greens into a salad instead of the compost bin.
Beets are also a good source of a category of phytonutrients called betalains (specifically betanin and vulgaxanthin) that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support for our eyes.
And if you want to supercharge your eye health benefits, combine your beet consumption with some omega-3 fatty acids, as a recent study in the British medical journal BMC Ophthalmology, indicated that a combination of lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent age-related macular degeneration vision loss.
You’re Only as Healthy as Your Immune System
You probably know that the job of your immune system is to fight off diseases and viruses and other harmful invaders. As you improve your body’s immune response, you improve your natural ability to stay healthy and disease-free.
Beets are a nutritional powerhouse when it comes to your immune system. The combination of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals is just what our aging immune systems need to remain strong.
Take the combination of vitamin C and iron as just one example. You likely know that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and immunity builder. But did you know that it also improves your body’s ability to absorb iron?
Iron, present in hemoglobin, helps transport oxygen to your cells, which in turn keeps your cells healthy and strong. If you’re better able to absorb that iron—thanks to the presence of vitamin C—you’re much more likely to reap the benefits. And beets just happen to contain healthy amounts of both vitamin C and iron.
Here is the entire nutritional profile of beets.
Nutrition Facts—1 Cup Beets
- Calories: 43
- Water: 88%
- Protein: 6 grams
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Sugar: 8 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
Daily Value Requirements of Vitamins & Minerals—1 Cup Beets
- Folate: 34%
- Manganese: 24%
- Copper: 14%
- Fiber 12%
- Potassium 11%
- Phosphorous 9%
- Magnesium 9%
- Vitamin C 8%
- Iron 7%
- Vitamin B6 6%
Get All of These Beet Health Benefits Today!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Mistretta is a freelance copywriter, content marketer, and author of the ebook, 25 Superfoods For Super Health. He helps small businesses turn strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into loyal customers.
A great source of organic plant-based nutrients that support nitric oxide production in the body for:
- Healthier circulation
- Improved heart function
- Increased natural energy and stamina.