Kim is an RN and author of the book "360 Health: Your Guide to Cancer Prevention, Healing Foods, & Total Body Wellness."
How Can Eating Beets Improve Your Health?
Beets are root vegetables typically known for their dark red color. They get their magnificent reddish hue from betacyanin, a plant pigment that is also a potent antioxidant. Other varieties of beets also exist such as white, yellow, and golden. Flavor and nutrients vary depending on the color of the beet.
The leaves of beets (or beet greens) can also be eaten either raw or cooked. When raw, they can be used like any green to make salads. They can also be used in smoothies or as garnish. Cooked beet greens make for nice additions to stir-fries or soups. You can also buy powdered beets that you could add to shakes and smoothies for a potent antioxidant punch.
Key Nutrients Found in Beets
- Vitamin C
They also contain some protein and a good amount of fiber. Given their rich nutrient composition, beets have some fantastic health benefits that will make you want to include them as a regular staple in your diet.
10 Health Benefits Associated With Beets
- Anti-cancer properties
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved brain function
- Improved eye health
- Digestive regularity
- Improved skin
- Greater physical endurance
- Increased libido
10 Ways Beets Improve Health
- Anti-cancer Properties: Beets contain powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. The phytonutrients in beets called betalains have been shown to help protect the body from developing cancers such as lung, stomach, colon, and breast. As we shall see, beets also help with detoxification which helps to rid the body of potential toxins that could lead to cancer. Cancer prevention studies have also demonstrated that the extract of red beetroot can be effective in suppressing the development of multi-organ tumors in experimental animals. One study compared red beetroot extract with the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin (adriamycin) on prostate cancer cells and in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells. It found that beets had similar effects to chemotherapy in decreasing tumor growth.
- Anti-inflammatory Properties: Beets contain betaine compounds which work to fight off inflammation. Inflammation is at the heart of most chronic health conditions. Inflammation is implicated in diseases like cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions. It also causes pain and irritation within the body especially with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
- Detoxification: Beets contain glutathione, which is essential for detoxification within the liver and other digestive organs. Glutathione is also referred to as the "master antioxidant." It neutralizes toxins and makes them water-soluble, allowing them to be exerted through urine and flushed out of the body. The betaine in beets also can help prevent and reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver. The liver is our body's main organ of detoxification.
- Cardiovascular Health: The high folate content in beets helps to break up homocysteine, a blood protein linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that beets lowered LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and helped to raise HDL ("good") cholesterol. Beets have been shown to lower blood pressure as well because they contain natural nitrates which encourage good circulation and relaxed vessels.
- Improved Brain Function: The nitrates in beets are thought to encourage blood flow to the brain as well. One study showed that blood flow increased to the frontal lobe, a region known to be involved with executive functioning skills like focus, organization, and attention to detail. The folate in beets may help delay dementia. Beet greens also contain a substantial amount of vitamin K which may protect against Alzheimer's.
- Eye Health: The carotenoids in beets make them a superfood for ocular health. Carotenoids include lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. Beets have been shown to help prevent both macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein is the yellow pigment that protects against certain eye diseases. Lutein (and vitamins A and C) can help prevent glaucoma by keeping eye pressure low. Zeaxanthin helps macular degeneration. Beta-carotene has been shown to protect corneal health and to promote good eyesight in general.
- Regularity: Beets are high in fiber. A cup of beets contains at least 4 grams of fiber. This amount of fiber is helpful in reducing constipation. It helps to sweep the digestive tract of waste and toxins while restoring healthy and regular bowel movements. Beets' insoluble fiber helps reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis, too. The betaine found in beets has also been shown to improve digestion in general.
- Improved Skin: Beets are rich in folate and antioxidants. In studies, these were shown to decrease the depth and severity of skin wrinkles by 60%. Beets stimulate the production and repair of cells, which helps protect against premature aging. Applied topically, beet juice can be beneficial. Beets can be pureed or blended and strained to get the juice. Topical treatments can also help reduce fine lines, limit blemishes, even out skin tone, and moisturize. Just dab some juice onto your face with a cotton ball. Leave it on for 10 minutes, then wash it off with a mild face wash.
- Physical Endurance: The natural nitrates in beets are known to boost energy and athletic performance and endurance. (These are not the "harmful" nitrates often associated with deli meat or cured meat products.) One study found that beets helped improve running stamina. Another study found that cyclists improved their times when they supplemented with beetroot juice. So it appears that eating beets may help with energy levels because their natural nitrates convert to nitric oxide, which can increase oxygen delivery to the body.
- Libido: Beets have been considered an aphrodisiac in some cultures for many years. In much the same way that beets help with athletic endurance, they can also improve sex drive and performance in the bedroom. This is due to increased blood flow to the reproductive organs. Beets also contain high amounts of boron, a trace mineral that increases the level of sex hormones in the human body.
Beet Salad With Goat Chees Recipe
This salad is truly delicious. I'd eaten a similar one at a local restaurant and just loved it, so I looked for a recipe to replicate the same flavors. This one comes very close. Even if you don't like beets, I think you'll find the combination of flavors one that is not only highly palatable but actually crave-able.
- 3-4 beets, medium-sized
- 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 (10 oz.) package baby salad greens, (or arugula)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, (optional)
- 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Clean beets thoroughly. Slice in half with a sharp knife, then place in a small baking dish lined with parchment. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the beets. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork.
- While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then removed from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Remove beets from oven; allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar (and orange juice if desired). Remove the skin of the beets and discard. Dice beets into bite-sized pieces.
- Place a large helping of baby greens onto each of four salad plates. Divide candied walnuts and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing.
Mercola, Joseph. "Six Amazing Health Benefits of Eating Beets," 25 January 2014, https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx.
Jung, Alyssa. "Health Benefits of Beets (and Risks) You Never Knew About," Reader's Digest, https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/beets-health-benefits/.
Yeager, Selene. "7 Things that Happen to Your Body When You Eat Beets," 17 March 2016, http://www.health.com/nutrition/beets-health-benefits.
"Prevent Wrinkles and Repair Your Skin With Beet Juice," 2016, https://www.2knowandvote.com/prevent-wrinkles-and-repair-your-skin-with-beet-juice/.
Rosenberg, Mark. "Beets: The Vegetable with Anti-Aging Properties," http://www.foodtrients.com/news-page/anti-aging/beets-the-common-vegetable-with-uncommon-anti-aging-properties/.
"The Function of Beets in Cancer Treatment," 15 July 2015, https://dailyhealthpost.com/beets-help-against-cancer/.
"Beet Benefits, Interesting Facts, & Recipes," Dr. Axe, https://dailyhealthpost.com/beets-help-against-cancer/.
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.