5 surprising health benefits of Beetroot
Beets don’t usually receive the attention they deserve. Though many health experts sing high praises to kale and spinach, rarely do we hear of people swearing by beets. However, this lack of attention should not be so, because beets indeed offer a lot of surprising health benefits that could potentially improve your quality of life.
What are beets, anyway?
Beets, or beetroot, is a type of root crop that has a purplish-reddish hue. They have a crunchy texture even when slightly cooked, and are quite firm to the bite. Beetroots are used by varying cultures as a staple food by baking, boiling, or adding to salads, pickled or raw.
What’s inside a beetroot?
The beetroot is packed with vitamins and minerals which have medicinal qualities. Compared to other root crops, such as potatoes, beets have generally lower calories but are packed with nutrients. Beets have protein, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium for starters.
Health benefits of beets
If you are interested in adding a root crop to your diet without piling on too many carbohydrates, beets may be a good choice for you. Not only do beets add an interesting reddish hue to your plate, they have many health benefits to keep you well in the long term.
Here are some of the benefits of beets:
Beets help normalize blood pressure
Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Heart disease—including heart attacks or heart failure—is one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide. This is why it is important to monitor blood pressure and make the necessary lifestyle changes if one is suffering from hypertension.
A normal blood pressure is indicative of good health and lower risk of heart disease. Several studies show that beets can help lower blood pressure (around 4-10 mmHg) a few hours after consumption. The effect of beet consumption was observed more for the systolic blood pressure, or the pressure noted during a heart contraction. Raw beets have a stronger effect than those which are cooked, according to the study.
Credit for lowering blood pressure goes to beets’ high nitrate content. Nitrates are transformed into nitric oxide, a molecule that helps dilate the blood vessels, encouraging lower blood pressure. A one-time consumption of beets only has a temporary effect on the body. For a long-term benefit, beets must become a regular part of the diet.
Beets improve physical strength and endurance
There are also studies that point to the benefits of dietary nitrates in improving physical strength and endurance, so many athletes have added beets to their diet. In a recent study, dietary nitrates were observed to help in stimulating the cell’s mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.
People who want to have extra energy and improve their physical performance but prefer their nitrates in liquid form can drink beet juice. One study looked at men who took beet juice daily for six days. The results showed that they were able to extend their periods of high-intensity training by 15-25%. Those who do cycling and circuit training can also improve their oxygen intake by 20%.
Beets help relieve inflammation
Many diseases are caused by chronic inflammation. Those whose inflammation problems go undetected may suffer from heart disease, liver problems, and cancer.
Beets also contain a pigment called “betalains”. The betalain is found to potentially have anti-inflammatory properties that penetrate the body’s organs. However, most of these experiments are done with laboratory mice, so human-based evidence may still be needed.
Theoretically speaking, there are significant developments observed in the experiments as the animals have consumed beetroot juice. Many of them have shown reduced kidney inflammation. Another study found that betalain capsules created with extracts from beetroots are reported to reduce chronic pain for patients with osteoarthritis.
Beets aid in digestion
For those who want to add more dietary fiber to their meals, a single one-cup serving of beetroot has 3.8 grams, about as much as apples, bananas, oranges, collard greens, Swiss chard, a half-cup of bran flakes and a cup of oatmeal.
Fiber is not digested in the stomach—so it doesn’t cause weight gain—but moves easily to the colon where it performs a variety of health-related tasks. Dietary fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut and helps form healthier stools for better bowel movements.
Continuously having fiber in your diet can help improve digestive health and prevent problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and even colon cancer. Fiber also may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart problems, stroke, or diabetes.
Beets help improve brain function
As the brain ages, it experiences more wear and tear. Neurons shrivel or die towards late adulthood, making people more prone to conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. One of the main causes of such decreased cognitive function is the lack of blood supply in the brain.
The dietary nitrates in beets that help lower blood pressure can also dilate blood vessels, improving the passage of oxygen-carrying blood in the brain which may help support brain function.
A study tested reaction times for performing cognitive tests on a computer after a period of intense physical exercise. Those who drank beetroot juice first had improved reaction times compared to those who took a placebo drink.
What are some ways to include beetroot in your diet?
If you want the benefits of this reddish root crop, here are some of the ways you can incorporate beets into your diet:
- Salad topping: Boil, peel, and slice beetroots into cubes. Combine with leafy greens, nuts, and dried cranberries for a filling salad.
- Juice: Peel and cut beetroots into large chunks. Place them in a juicer until you’ve made 8-to-12 ounces. Juice some leafy greens also, if desired.
- Side dishes: Slice beets into wedges, roast, and serve with goat cheese.
- Raw: To get the maximum benefits, you can simply peel the beetroot, squeeze some lemon juice on them, then add a pinch of salt and chili flakes.
Author: Charles Watson currently is one of the head content writers for Sunshine Behavioral Health. He can be reached directly on Twitter at @charleswatson00.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in the post belong to the author and Slimnhappy takes no responsibility for the same.