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Health and Fitness

The Health Benefits of Beets That Will Change Your Life

Emma Goddard
by Emma Goddard Published on March 24, 2015

There's really nothing more delicious than juicy beets on a fresh sandwich or salad. At least that's how I feel about the homemade pickled beets my father has made for my family year after year. I might be a tad biased, but this mouthwatering vegetable should truly be on everyone's grocery list. From the subtle, sweet taste to the amazing health benefits of beets, there's no reason they shouldn't be included in a person's diet.

Though beetroot isn't typically a veggie of choice on many dinner plates, especially for those picky eaters out there, its valuable nutrients, ability to lower blood pressure, and other health benefits might just change your mind. Even if you're not quite fond of this taproot on its own, you can still enjoy beets in a variety of different forms that are not only tasty but healthy as well.

Whether mixed up with some quinoa, molded into a vegan beet burger, or baked as a muffin for an on-the-go breakfast, beets will become your new favorite food if they aren't already.

Beetroot Lowers Your Blood Pressure

Little did you know, bananas and kale aren't the only foods that help lower a person's blood pressure. In fact, beets are also known to assist with this, often recognized as being a blood cleanser, according to Nikki Ostrower, a holisitic nutritionist and owner of NAO Nutrition.

"[Beets] really help cleanse out and build up our blood," Ostrower says. "If you notice, they’re red in color so there’s no coincidence that usually foods that are red in color happen to be great for our blood. And it lowers our blood sugar because there are naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in the body, and that helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, which improves your blood pressure."

Beets Help Root You to the Ground

Cultivated and taken from the ground — hence the word "root" in the name — beets are not only full of different vitamins and minerals, but they also have important grounding properties, according to Ostrower.

"Just like roots are rooted into the ground, [beets] also have that healing impact on our body where if you’re feeling kind of flighty or anxious — if you eat root vegetables, specifically off the beetroot — it’ll help to root you into the ground and give you all those antioxidants, and all those vitamins and nutrients," Ostrower says. "I like to say it’s the universe’s way of providing that nourishment."

It Provides So Many Vitamins, Minerals & Nutrients

Rich in calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C, beetroot has some pretty substantial health benefits. Quite notably, this colorful vegetable is also high in fiber and potassium, which helps with things like blood pressure and heart disease.

"Beets have a unique antioxidant composition that includes betalain, which is not the usual antioxidant found in red/purple fruits and veggies," Amy Shapiro, registered dietitian and founder of Real Nutrition NYC, says. "It also contains manganese and vitamin C. Both powerful antioxidants and the unique phytonutrients in beets provide antioxidant support."

On top of this, the leaves of beetroot are also edible and like any green, make a perfect addition to a diet. Beet greens go well in salads or with a little bit of garlic and oil (again, a Goddard family treat).

Beets Might Be Performance Enhancers

Although it's safe to say that no one food, even one as healthy as beetroot, is a peformance enhancer, a study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health revealed that the vegetable could support the reason behind so many athletes drinking beet juice. During the study mice on diets high in nitrate had fast-twitch muscles over mice without nitrate in their water. The mice with nitrate in their water "resulted in a major increase in contractile force," according to the study.

"Because nitrates turn into nitric oxide, it helps the blood vessels relax and allows for more oxygen to get into the blood, which in turn allows an athlete to go further or longer before tiring out," Shapiro says.

It's a Potential Aphrodisiac

While there's no definitive proof that beetroot is an aphrodisiac, much like there isn't proof that oysters are either, the vegetable does contain qualities associated with substances known for increasing a person's sexual desire.

"Beetroots are a blood builder," Ostrower says. "If it builds blood and increases the flow and enriches it — we need blood flow to those areas that make our heart flutter — it could be considered an aphrodiasic. And they’re sweet — it’s kind of like the chocolate thing — so the sugar could play a part."

Though we can't be too sure about any possible effects beets have on our libido, Ancient Romans have reportedly viewed beetroot as an aphrodisiac, while beets have also appeared throughout Greek mythology. So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? Eating beetroot can't hurt, it can only help.

Juicing Beets v. Eating Them In Their Whole Form

Similar to sugar beets, which is another variety of beta vulgaris (a plant of the Amaranthaceae Family), beetroot has a high sugar content. Because of this, and since juicing beets also extracts the fiber from the vegetable, Ostrower recommends eating them whole rather than juicing.

"When [a beet] gives you the juice it has the ability to absorb into your blood system a lot faster," Ostrower says. "However when you’re eating the whole vegetable you do get the benefits of the fiber, which actually specifically for beets — beets tend to be higher in sugar — with beets you don’t want to just drink beet juice. It's high in sugar; it’s going to raise your blood levels. And when it raises the blood sugar levels the pituitary gland has to release insulin in order to bring the blood sugar down, and insulin is a fat trapper."

Although Ostrower says beets are indeed a healthy vegetable, she recommends eating them in moderation. Additionally, if they are turned into a juice, they shouldn't be the base of the drink.

"You don't want it to be the base of a juice," Ostrower says. "If you’re looking at the ingredients from most to least you want it to be the least amount. I prefer to eat a beet as an actual beetroot instead of a juice because you want that fiber to slow down that sugar."

On the other hand, Shapiro says that there are also some downsides to cooking beets whole as well.

"Beet juice contains more minerals such as potassium and magnesium than cooked beets, as well as more vitamins such as folate and vitamin C," Shapiro says. "The reason for this is twofold. Some nutrients don't last when heated, and per serving beet juice contains more nutrients than the amount of cooked beets a person usually eats in one serving."

They're Good for Your Liver

Although Shapiro notes the positive aspects of consuming beetroot as a juice, she also discusses how eating beets whole can assist with protecting an individual's liver.

"It's a detoxifying agent thanks to betaine, one of the beet's phytonutrients that encourages the liver cells to get rid of toxins," Shapiro says. "Additionally the fiber, pectin, found in beets helps to remove the toxins that get released from the liver, from the body. That's why it is important to eat the beets in whole form so you can benefit from both."

In the end, whether as a juice or cooked whole, it seems like a win-win situation as long as you're mindful about the quantity and sugar intake.

How do you include beetroot in your diet? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!

This article was written by Emma Goddard. Follow her on Twitter @egoddardhokie.

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