Beetroot – the red part of the beet plant – has been eaten since the times of ancient Rome - and with good reason.
The prehistoric root vegetable originates from the coastlines of North Africa, Europe, and Asia. But the food has become popular worldwide, thanks to its sweet flavour and powerful health benefits.
I’ve explored the evidence behind some of the health benefits of beetroot, determining whether or not it is worth including it in your diet. Read on to find out how beetroot can positively affect:
Beetroot can reduce high blood pressure
Beetroot contains nitrates, meaning they boost our body’s levels of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide - a gas already naturally occurring in the body - tells our blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
A study showed that drinking just one glass of beet juice (or eating the equivalent amount) could reduced systolic blood pressure by a significant 4-5 mmHg. This makes beetroot an effective supplement for preventing and treating some cardiovascular conditions.
Beetroot can help people with heart failure and heart disease
Another health benefit of beetroot is its nitrate levels, which have been linked to increased power in our muscles - including our heart. A study reported in Circulation: Heart Failure reported that drinking a glass of beetroot juice improved muscle power in patient with heart failure.
Beetroot can help you exercise for longer
We have these nitrates to thank again when it comes to improved exercise performance. This means that thanks to the increased oxygen circulating to our muscles, we’re able to perform at a certain level for longer.
One study found that the stamina-boosting properties of drinking beetroot juice could actually help you exercise for up to 16% longer.
Beetroot can help fight against cancer cells
Whilst there’s limited evidence to support this fully, initial studies have suggested that one of beetroot's health benefits could be an effect on cancerous cells.
Not many studies have been carried out around this benefit yet, but a few have been promising. Some animal studies showed tumour cells reducing thanks to beetroot’s betalain pigments - and another human cell study found the same effect when used against breast and prostate cancer cells.
When it comes to ‘superfoods’ like beetroot, you may also hear the words ‘free radicals’ thrown around. These are naturally occurring in the body, and pose a threat to our healthy cells. There’s speculation as to whether the antioxidants in certain superfoods can defend us from these free radicals, but studies so far don’t support this idea.
Beetroot can help symptoms of long-term conditions
With beetroot being rich in nitrates, its health benefits extend to some chronic diseases:
The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid has been found to have links to reduced glucose levels, as well as increased insulin sensitivity in diabetics. It has also been found to reduce the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).
The improved oxygen flow caused by beetroot’s high nitrate levels enhance oxygenation to the brain. One study found that a high nitrate diet could improve the flow of oxygen to regions of older adults’ brains - a problem found in adults with dementia.
Beetroot helps you keep your weight in-check
The nutritional content of beets is what makes them so good for people looking to lose weight:
- Calories in beetroot: 44 kcals per 100 grams of cooked beets (like those pre-prepared in supermarkets)
- 2 grams of fiber (8% of our RDA)
- 1.7 grams of protein (3% of our RDA)
- Virtually no fat
Because of their high levels of fibre, eating beets can leave you feeling fuller from eating less than other foods. And, due to the low calorie content, this makes the food a healthy and effective addition to a weight-loss diet.
Eating beetroot maintains healthy potassium levels
Potassium deficiency - when we’re not consuming enough - can cause fatigue, digestive issues and weakness.
100 grams of beetroot contains 9% of our RDA of potassium though, so by added it to your diet you could start to see improvements in all of these areas.
Fight inflammation throughout the body
Beetroot contain important pigments called betalains. Betalains have been found to have various anti-inflammatory properties, although no human studies have been conducted.
Beetroot strengthens your bones
A cup of cooked beetroots, or equivalent amount in another form, also has a small amount of our daily calcium, and up to 6% of our daily magnesium. Along with copper and folate - also found in beetroot - these minerals help our bones grow stronger.
Beetroot maintains a healthy liver
Regularly drinking beet juice, or adding them to your diet, has been found to increase the amount of certain detoxifying liver enzymes. These help to protect the organ, and allow it to work more efficiently.
Beetroot can promote a healthy pregnancy
Cooked beetroots provide us with 20% of our RDA of folate (the naturally occurring version of folic acid) per 100 grams.
Studies have shown that maintaining a healthy level of folate intake during pregnancy can reduce the risk of birth defects in the baby.
Beet greens and beet roots are a great source of fiber
If you're looking for a way to improve your gut health, look no further.
The high fibre content of beetroots aids digestion by proving our gut with good bacteria. This increase in dietary fibre can help with conditions linked to your digestive system too, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and preventing constipation.