The Amazing Health Benefits of Beetroot: A Comprehensive Guide

Fact Checked By Dr Mark Watson M.D.

Beets, also known as beetroots, are a versatile and nutritious vegetable that has gained popularity in recent years. These vibrant root vegetables are not only visually appealing but also offer a wide range of health benefits. Beets are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that contribute to their numerous health-promoting properties.

Nutritional Profile of Beets

Beets are low in calories but high in nutrients, making them an excellent addition to a balanced diet. 

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of boiled beetroot contains a variety of essential nutrients, including folate, manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. These nutrients play vital roles in growth, development, heart health, bone formation, nutrient metabolism, brain function, and more. [1] 

Beetroot Health Benefits

Beetroots of the studies around beetroot health benefits beyond it's nutrients come from interest in it's high nitrate (No3) content. [2] The next most interesting ingredient are betalains [3]. There have been some studies into the polyphenols, pigments and organic acids contained within beetroot, but they're generally of less interest due to the lower content or potential applications.

Beets and Cardiovascular Health

One of the standout benefits of beets is their positive impact on cardiovascular health. [4] This is by far the most studied application for beets as a complimentary medicine and for good reason. 

The unique combination of compounds found in beets enhances blood flow, [5] improves the health of arteries, [6] supports lower homocysteine levels, [7] and reduces LDL cholesterol. [8] The high nitrate content in beets converts to nitric oxide, which promotes improved circulation and helps lower blood pressure. The interesting thing that makes beets particularly interesting over other high nitrate foods is also it's belatain content, as this too has potential heart health benefits and also has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve vasodilation or the widening of blood vessels.  [9]

Added to which there's been a solid amount of studies showing that consuming beets normally, in the form of beetroot juice or from a beetroot powder have shown results in lowering blood pressure. [10] All in all it's pretty fair to say that incorporating beets into your diet can be a natural way to support heart health. 

Beets and Athletic Performance

The nitrate content in beets has been shown to increase the efficiency of muscle contractions [11] and improve energy production in the mitochondria. [12] This happens by increasing the rate at which cells product ATP, which is produced whenever a cell needs energy. And of course as we've already mentioned in the heart health section improve blood flow. [5]

As a result of these things, beets can arguably improve athletic performance. Several studies have been done, most of them showing a mild, but noticable benefit, culminating in about a 5% lower oxygen demand whilst excersising.  [13]  Which in some cases may not mean all too much, but it is quite a significant difference if we're talking about endurance sports where a 5% lower oxygen demand on the body can make a huge difference. 

Beets as an Anti-inflammatory Agent

Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to various diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. Beets possess anti-inflammatory properties due to their betalains, [14] a type of natural plant pigment with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of beets may help reduce inflammation and prevent or manage chronic diseases associated with inflammation.

Beets and Digestive Health

Beets are a great source of dietary fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber aids in proper digestion, prevents constipation, and supports a healthy gut microbiome. Additionally, beets contain natural compounds that stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, promoting efficient nutrient absorption and overall digestive health.

Beets and Brain Health

The unique combination of nutrients and antioxidants found in beets makes them beneficial for brain health. The nitrates in beets improve blood flow to the brain [16], enhancing cognitive function and potentially reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Beets also contain antioxidants that protect brain cells from oxidative damage, thereby supporting overall brain health and reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. [17]

Although these benefits are much less pronounced and substantially less well researched than it's effects on the cardiovascular system and may well be largely a knock on effect.

Beets and Cancer Prevention

Beets are rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. The betalains found in beets have been studied for their potential anti-cancer properties. [18] These compounds may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer.  Of course, these benefits, are mild and research is still in it's infancy. 

Beets and Energy Balance

Beets provide a natural source of energy due to their high carbohydrate content. The carbohydrates in beets are digested and converted into glucose, which fuels the body's energy production. 

There is also some evidence to suggest that the high nitrate content in beets could help the body convert brown adipose tissue helping the body break down fat stores for energy, but this is relatively minimal.

Additionally, the nitrates in beets improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles as we mentioned earlier [5], enhancing exercise performance and aiding in post-workout recovery. Athletes and active individuals can benefit from incorporating beets into their pre-workout or post-workout routine.

How Much Beetrooot Do I Need? 

It is worth noting that the typical dose of nitrates used in studies to achieve these benefits is approximately 400 milligrams. [19] While beet powder offers a convenient way to incorporate nitrates into one's diet, it is important to recognize that the nitrate content of beets can vary significantly. Some beet powders test their beet powder for nitrate content and provides an approximate value of nitrates per gram serving, making it a lot easier to understand. 

Geerally speaking though beets themselves contain 1-3 percent of nitrate per gram of dry beetroot, but it's very difficult to get an exact reading from eating beetroot's themselves. Although at the low end beets can contain as low as 400mg per kg of fresh beet with 3 grams being the high end. [20] The average was something around 1g, this does mean that to get the benefits from beets you'd need to be consuming an awful lot this way as most people wont want to eat 1lb of beets every single day.

Beetroot juice on the other hand tends to be about 10-12g per litre, [21] meaning a tall glass of beetroot juice would be adequate in most cases. 

Side Effects Of Beetroot Powder

Whilst beets are obviously considered safe for human consumption, beet powder can lead to a couple of unpleasant side effects if you take too much. Generally the biggest risks are : 

1. Hypotensive Effects (Lowers Blood Pressure)

2. Beeturia - Pink-Colored Waste

3. Mild Allergic Reactions

4. Lowered Calcium Absorption

5. Upset Stomach 

6. Possible Kidney Stones

Although you would have to consume a lot for most of these issues. 

Different Ways to Incorporate Beets into Your Diet

There are numerous delicious and creative ways to incorporate beets into your diet. Here are some ideas:

  • Roasted Beet Salad: Roast beets in the oven and toss them with mixed greens, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette for a refreshing salad.
  • Beet Smoothie: Blend beets with your favorite fruits, yogurt, and a liquid of your choice for a nutrient-packed smoothie.
  • Beet Chips: Slice beets thinly, toss them with olive oil and your choice of seasonings, and bake them until crispy for a healthy snack.
  • Beet Juice: Extract the juice from beets and enjoy it on its own or combine it with other fruits and vegetables for a refreshing and nutritious beverage.
  • Pickled Beets: Preserve beets in a tangy brine for a flavorful addition to sandwiches, salads, or charcuterie boards.
  • Beet Supplements: You can also get a wide variety of beetroot powders and beet supplements. There's also a variety of reds powders that mix beets with other red superfoods. The best well known is superbeets although there are better alternatives.

Frequently Asked Questions About Beets

Q: Are there any side effects of consuming beets?

A: While beets are generally safe for consumption, they can cause beeturia, a condition where urine or stools may turn pink or red. This is harmless and usually resolves on its own. However, individuals with kidney problems or a history of kidney stones should consume beets in moderation due to their oxalate content.

Q: Can beets help with weight loss? 

A: Beets are low in calories and high in fiber, which can promote feelings of fullness and aid in weight management. However, it's important to maintain a balanced diet and incorporate regular exercise for sustainable weight loss.

Q: How should beets be stored?

A: Beets should be stored in a cool, dark place such as the refrigerator to prolong their shelf life. Remove the greens if attached, as they can leach moisture from the root.

The Health Benefits of Beetroot Conclusion

In conclusion, beets are a versatile and nutrient-rich vegetable with a wide range of health benefits. From cardiovascular health to anti-inflammatory properties, beets offer numerous advantages for overall well-being. 

Unfortunately, if you're looking to get the best of the potential beetroot health benefits, you're probably going to have to consume them in a juice or powdered form as the nitrate content is a little bit too low in the raw vegetable. Unless you want to be eating them with every meal. 

About Fact Checker Dr Mark Watson

Dr Mark Watson is the founder of Center TRT, having graduated from stamford more than 20 years ago, he is an expert in the field of supplemental health, focusing on long term benefits of complimenary treatment. View Profile


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