By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Once known only as limp discs of dark burgundy in a can, beets have come a long way in recent years. They're now eaten fresh regularly, where they lend sweetness, brilliant magenta coloring and a hardy texture to dishes from salads to stews. Beyond their myriad culinary uses, beets offers a wide array of well-proven health benefits. Whether you're an athlete, looking to lower your blood pressure or wanting to boost your smarts, beets have value to offer. Once you've read what this beautiful root vegetable can do for you, we bet you'll be marching to their beat!
Blood Pressure Reduction
It's no coincidence that beets are the color of blood—or if it is coincidence, it's a lucky one. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition that affects about one in three American adults. Beets are high in naturally occurring nitrates, which have a positive impact on high blood pressure. After eating beets, your blood pressure will be lowered within several hours. Though this is a temporary effect, long term ingestion of beets leads to long term gains; studies have shown that the blood pressure reducing effects of beets last for two weeks after four weeks of consistent consumption.
Improved Exercise Performance
Interested in making your body a more efficient machine? The energy in your cells is produced by mitochondria, and the nitrates found in beets help that mitochondria to function more effectively. We aren't talking just a little improvement, either: drinking 16 ounces of beet juice before activity will improve your body's usage of oxygen by about twenty percent.
Beets get their vibrant color from pigments called betalains, which have an array of health benefits, including fighting inflammation. Whether from arthritis or sports injuries, joint pain is generally related to inflammation, and beets are proven to effectively combat inflammation-related pain. Decreasing the inflammation in joints not only reduces the pain in those areas but results in increased mobility.
Eating beets won't make you a genius, but it can help prevent cognitive decline and improve your executive functioning. Executive functions are the mental skills that help you accomplish tasks, and they're controlled by the front lobe of your brain. Beets increase blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive reaction time by about four percent. Can beets also decrease your risk of age-associated dementia? Stay tuned: based on current research, it's definitely possible.
Beets double down on detoxifying your liver by doing it in two different ways. First, they contain an amino acid called betaine; betaine reduces fat in the liver, as well as helps prevent toxins from accumulating in it. Additionally, beets have pectin, which enables your body to keep fat in your liver under control even when eating a high-fat diet. While other foods, such as citrus and apples, also contain pectin, beets are an extra-easy source of it: in citrus, the pectin is in the peel, which is normally not eaten, and in apples, pectin is most abundant before they've ripened fully.
As a nutritionist, beets are high on my list of whole foods everyone should be enjoying more of...and as a chef, I'm grateful that they can be eaten in so many different ways. If you're looking to add more beets to your diet, try them grated raw for a crunchy addition to a salad, or cubed and roasted as a side dish in lieu of potatoes.
Ariane Resnick is a special diet chef, certified nutritionist, and bestselling author. She has been featured in media such as Forbes, CBS’ “The Doctors,” and Huffington Post, and her private clientele includes celebrities such as P!nk. Ariane has written four books, the first of which, The Bone Broth Miracle, reached the ranking of #1 cookbook on Amazon on multiple occasions.