Add some color to your salad or sauté up a side of beets for your next meal to reap its bountiful benefits. The sweet root vegetable is packed with B vitamins, iron, fiber, folic acid, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium, providing the body with numerous health-boosting benefits. Beets are most commonly found in a dark red color, however they are also grown in white, yellows, and a light pink version. Because the benefits of beets range from lowering blood pressure to fighting cancer, the National Institutes of Health consider it a disease-preventing functional food.
Beets were originally eaten for their large leaves and stalks, which were cooked up like chard or sautéed like spinach. Once Berlin chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf discovered a way to produce sugar from beets in 1747, it earned its distinction as being the sweetest vegetable in the garden. Today, approximately 20 percent of sugar around the world is produced using beet roots. But don’t let the sweet, red root fool you; it’s one of the healthiest veggies you can eat or drink in juice form.
Here are some reasons to start incorporating beets into your diet today!
Lower Blood Pressure
Beets contain naturally-occurring nitrates. When digested, it converts into nitric acid, which helps to relax and dilate blood vessels. This helps to improve blood flow and ultimately lower blood pressure. One study published in 2012 found within hours of drinking beet juice, participants’ blood pressure dropped by 4 to 5 points. According to the American Heart Association, gradual changes in diet could drastically improve a patient’s heart health in the long- run by shifting their risk from the border of high blood pressure into the normal category.
The beet’s beautiful color comes from the phytonutrient betalains, which have been shown to also exhibit anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification powers. During the 19th century, the saying “red as a beet” made its first appearance when women used the juice of red beets as a cheek and lip stain. A study published in 2013 demonstrated how betalains had a chemopreventive effect in human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.
Betalains are also an effective nutritional tool for the detoxification process in the body. Once the beet’s pigments break down in the body, betalains also destroy toxins and help excrete other waste particles from the body. This in turn helps to purify the blood and liver. The manganese helps boost the immune system and keeps the liver and kidneys functioning smoothly.
Inflammation is a part of the immune system’s response to disease, but when it sets in, it can be the root cause of a lot of other problems throughout the body. Beets fight inflammation, making them a key vegetable to help protect cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. Fiber within beets has also been shown to increase the level of antioxidant enzymes and boost the number of white blood cells, both of which play a role in detecting and eliminating foreign cells or disease.
Athletes may want to take a big bite into a beet next time they plan on exercising. The nitrates beets provide boost endurance, however it takes about three to five average-sized beets to noticeably improve athletic performance. Luckily, beet juice can help deliver a large quantity of beets into one drink. In a study published in 2014, cyclists who drank beet juice pedaled 15 percent longer in one session than those who didn’t. About two cups of beet juice a few hours before exercise should be enough for the average endurance athlete.
Improve Eye Sight
Beet eye disease. The greens of the beet root contain more iron than spinach and also provide high intakes of eye-boosting nutrients like carotenoids, lutein, and beta-carotene. Move aside carrots, because beets pack enough beta-carotene to support macular and retinal health, which boosts vision.