The Science Behind the Amazing Health Benefits of Red Beets

Updated on November 29, 2018
Ash Roves profile image

Ash's great-grandfather juiced fresh beets from his garden and lived to be one month shy of 100 years old.

Red beets top the list of superfoods. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and are often available year-round.
Red beets top the list of superfoods. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and are often available year-round. | Source

Are Beets Good for Your Health?

Canned, pickled, or cooked, beetroots or red beets have long been admired for their health benefits. Loaded with antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatory properties, this low-calorie, fat-free superfood has been used for centuries in medicine (as far back as the Middle Ages). It is well-known that disease thrives in acidic environments, and our body's pH can become imbalanced and acidic due to stress, poor diet, and poor lifestyle. Beets actually help to alkalize the body as do many fruits and vegetables. According to the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine:

" . . . studies showed that red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract . . . . reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water."

So, not only are beets anti-cancerous, they enhance cardiac health, improve endurance and athletic performance, and are a natural aphrodisiac! They are also loaded with essential minerals like iron, copper, and magnesium.

Today, beets are primarily used for culinary delights and for their natural pigment. Betanin, the found betacyanin pigment in beets, gives them their vibrant ruby-red color and is used for food, textiles, and natural beauty products.

Juice Beets Without a Juicer

Recipe sourced from the Minimalist Baker.
Recipe sourced from the Minimalist Baker. | Source

The Health Benefits of Beets

  • Increases Stamina, Endurance, and Athletic Performance: Per a published study by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "Consumption of nitrate-rich, whole beetroot improves running performance in healthy adults." The study was performed on 11 athletes, during which they consumed baked beetroot or a placebo. It was found that the individuals who consumed the beetroot supplement outperformed athletes on the 5 km run and were less exerted.
  • Improves Blood Flow: Beets are rich in nitrates, which are converted in the body to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate and enhances oxygen utilization in the body, thus aiding the oxygenation of body tissue.
  • Mental Wellness: Nitrates convert to nitric oxide within the body and increase blood flow to the brain, enhancing mental acuity. According to a report published by the Department of Human and Movement Sciences at Old Dominion University:

"[Researchers measured] cerebral perfusion in older adults and concluded that the results suggest dietary nitrate may be useful in improving regional brain perfusion in critical brain areas known to be involved in executive functioning."

Beets Are a Natural Aphrodisiac

Many cultures have long celebrated beets as a natural aphrodisiac. Nitrates and boron increase circulation within the body thereby confirming this property.

  • Nerve Support: The phytochemicals in beets support nerve tissue health and help combat the onset of neurodegenerative disorders (i.e., schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer's, dementia, seizure disorders, and Parkinsonism). According to a publication by researchers at the Defence Food Research Laboratory in Mysore, India:

"Phytochemicals from medicinal plants play a vital role in maintaining the brain's chemical balance by influencing the function of receptors for the major inhibitory neurotransmitters."

  • Cardiac Health: Folate and betaine help lower levels of homocysteine in the blood, which otherwise contributes to inflammation and heart disease.
  • Lowers Blood Pressure: Hypertension (high blood pressure) is taxing on the organs of the body, especially the heart. A study was conducted on hypertensive patients, during which they received dietary nitrates for 4 weeks. The results of the study revealed that dietary nitrate supplementation once a day lowers blood pressure. This finding suggests that beetroot supplementation is an affordable alternative treatment for hypertensive patients compared to conventional therapies.
  • Prevents Cancer: Beets are known to be high in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties which are known to help prevent certain cancers. Their high fiber content also greatly reduces the risk of colon cancer.

Betacyanins in beets offer the reddish-violet betalain pigments.
Betacyanins in beets offer the reddish-violet betalain pigments. | Source

How to Eat Beets and Beet Greens

Beets germinate within 55-65 days and produce a tap root and tops (otherwise known as beet greens). The mature greens may be steamed or boiled and consumed as a nutrient-rich dish. The tops offer lutein, a common vitamin in plants, which helps to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. The beetroot is typically consumed boiled or roasted, raw, pickled, or dehydrated. Fun recipes to follow!

Raw Beets Nutritional Value 100 grams (3.5 oz)

Nutrient
Amount
Carbohydrates
9.56 g
Sugars
6.76 g
Dietary Fiber
2.8 g
Fat
0.17 g
Protein
1.61 g
Water
87.58 g
Beet greens can be incorporated as a versatile green in many dishes.
Beet greens can be incorporated as a versatile green in many dishes. | Source

The Nutritional Value of Beetroot: Vitamins

Vitamin
Amount
% Daily Value
Thiamine (B1)
0.031 mg
3%
Riboflavin (B2)
0.04 mg
3%
Niacin (B3)
0.334 mg
2%
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.155 mg
3%
Vitamin B6
0.067 mg
5%
Folate (B9)
109 μg
27%
Vitamin C
4.9 mg
6%

The Nutritional Value of Beetroot: Minerals

Minerals
Amount
% Daily Value
Calcium
16 mg
2%
Iron
0.8 mg
6%
Magnesium
23 mg
6%
Manganese
0.329 mg
16%
Phosphorus
40 mg
6%
Potassium
325 mg
7%
Sodium
78 mg
5%
Zinc
0.35 mg
4%

Beetroot Culinary Uses

Traditional summer borscht made of beets.
Traditional summer borscht made of beets. | Source

Summer Borscht Beetroot Recipe With Vegan Variation

  • 3 medium-sized beets, scrubbed, tops and bottoms trimmed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt to taste
  • 4 hardboiled eggs (exclude if vegan)
  • 1/2 cup cucumbers (first slice into medallions, cut in into strip)
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped dill
  • 3 sprigs of green onion, chopped (use entire sprig)
  • 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt (soy sour cream or coconut cream if vegan)

Preparation

  1. Prepare hard-boiled eggs. Cover the tops of the eggs with 1 inch of cold water in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat. Turn off stove and cover to let sit for 15 minutes. Drain the water and rinse with cold water. Place in fridge to cool until needed.
  2. Boil the beets in 3 cups of water or until covered for 30-40 minutes until tender and can be pierced with a fork. Remove beets with a spoon and set aside. Strain the liquid.
  3. Add vinegar, lemon juice, and salt to the cooking liquid; store and cool in fridge.
  4. Grate the beets and let cool in fridge for 1 hour.
  5. Combine chilled onions, cucumber, dill, grated beets, cooled cooking liquid, and sour cream and stir.
  6. Serve with halved hard-boiled eggs.

Recipe source: Lisa Le; recipe has been modified

How to Eat Beet Greens

Beet greens are a trending superfood.
Beet greens are a trending superfood. | Source

Moroccan Beet Greens Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 bunches beet greens (remove red stems)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 piece preserved lemon (substitute with a squeeze of fresh lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon high-quality olive oil
  • 1 pinch hot spice, pepper flakes, or paprika
  • 2 gloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Preparation

Step 1

  1. Wash the beet greens and chill them in cold water.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to saucepan at medium-high heat.
  3. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, do not burn.
  4. Once the garlic is aromatic, remove the beet greens, chop them, and add to pan.
  5. Reduce to medium heat, stir to coat the greens, and cover for 5 minutes. Add a small amount of water as necessary to prevent burning.

Step 2

  1. Cut a preserved lemon into 1/4 inch cubes (do not rinse). Set several aside.
  2. Add lemon cubes, cilantro, and parsley to the pan and stir.
  3. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serving

  • Drizzle roughly 1 tablespoon of high-quality olive oil on top.
  • Garnish with remaining diced lemon, chili flakes, or paprika for less heat.
  • Often eaten with a fried egg or bread.

Recipe source: Silly Apron; recipe has been modified

Are Beets Bad for You?

  • Kidney Stones: The excessive consumption of beets can contribute to kidney stone formation or gout due to their high oxalate content. Individuals with kidney disease should avoid consumption.
  • Beeturia: Beeturia, which is generally harmless, is indicated by red-tinged urine or stool. This condition is sometimes seen in individuals with low iron levels.
  • High on the Glycemic Index: Beets are high on the glycemic index, and those with dietary restrictions should avoid excessive consumption.
  • Gastrointestinal: Common gastrointestinal side effects of beets include increased stool motility, bloating or gas.
  • Low Blood Pressure: The inorganic nitrate content in beets helps to lower blood pressure but should be avoided in individuals with preexisting hypotension.

Beets for Natural Lip & Cheek Stain

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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