You often hear that beets are some of the healthiest food we can eat. They enhance overall health and are a popular sports supplement to maximize athletic performance. But are there any beet poisoning symptoms you need to look out for?
We’ll explore two possible beet poisoning symptoms you need to know about. We’ll also cover common side effects that may come with eating this root veggie. When you’re fully aware of the so-called “downsides” of beet intake, you’ll realize that they normally occur with inappropriate consumption, something that can be easily avoided.
1. Food Poisoning
Crunching on raw, julienned beets may sound like a vegan’s favorite snack. But before you add raw beets to your dish, you may want to read about its risk of food poisoning first.
In 2010, 16% of foodborne outbreaks in Finland were traced back to raw beet consumption in institutional canteens. A total of 124 cases reported sudden-onset gastrointestinal illness (aka food poisoning) within 24 hours of consuming the root veggie at these places.
Close analysis revealed that several of the beets served at these places contained Pseudomonas fluorescens, a type of spoilage bacteria. While the researchers suspect it’s the culprit behind the food poisoning attacks, “its toxin-producing capability and adverse effect on human health has not been reported.”
Still, when the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira advised against putting raw beet on the canteen’s menu, the phenomenon of food poisoning stopped. Sounds like sound advice for you too, right?
2. Nitrate Poisoning
Fitness enthusiasts applaud the mighty beet’s high nitrate content for boosting their performance in the gym and on the field. When nitrate is converted to nitric oxide in your body, the latter acts as a vasodilator to expand your blood vessels. This, in turn, enhances oxygen and nutrient delivery to your muscle cells.
But did you know that too much nitrate consumption may not be all that good for you?
Depending on where the beets are grown, some varieties may contain higher levels of nitrate than others. For instance, nitrogen-based fertilizers and urine-infused soil cause plants to absorb more nitrate than normal. Drought, chilly weather conditions, and herbicides also promote nitrate deposits within the plant’s tissues. When you consume these affected plants, your body takes in more nitrate than is good for you.
In fact, the scientific literature warns that “Nitrate intake contributes to the endogenous formation of N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), a class of chemical carcinogens.” What’s more, drinking beetroot juice “may easily increase nitrate intake above the acceptable daily intake (ADI).”
Even though more research is needed, a small-scale study emphasizes the link between beetroot juice consumption and NOC formation within the human body. 29 healthy participants drank beetroot juice that contained 400 milligrams of nitrate per bottle every day for a week. To clarify, this is more than the recommended daily intake for the average person.
The study’s results showed that just one dose (i.e., drinking the specific amount of juice for one day) significantly increased the amount of NOC in the test subjects’ urine. After a week of this supplementation, a further increase in the potentially cancer-causing substance was recorded.
On top of that, data-driven studies also highlighted a worrying association between nitrate consumption and a heightened risk of specific cancer types and health issues, such as:
- Stomach cancer
- Esophagus cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Thyroid disease
- Neural tube defects
So, does that mean you should totally avoid beetroot as a dietary food or supplemental aid? Not really. As we’ve mentioned, beetroots come with myriad health benefits.
To capitalize on said benefits without too-high nitrate intake, the key is to analyze the beet’s origins. Is the plant grown in areas that predispose it to higher nitrate absorption than the average plant? Also, make sure to stay within the recommended dosage to avoid going over the daily dietary limit for it.
Potential Side Effects, AKA “Beet Poisoning Symptoms”
A quick Google search of “beet poisoning symptoms” may show you results like beeturia, digestive upset, and kidney stones. However, these are actually common side effects of beetroot consumption, but they’re not symptoms of actual poisoning.
Ever made yourself a beetroot drink only to find your pee had turned pink later? If that’s the case, you’re probably experiencing beeturia.
Before you panic and think that the change in your urine’s color is due to blood, fret not. Beeturia is a pretty common phenomenon — statistics show it happens to 10% to 14% of the general population. If you have low iron levels or suffer from malabsorption, you’re more likely to experience beeturia.
But is it a cause for medical concern? Not exactly. The reason for the alarming hue of your urine is merely due to the pigments present in beetroot. These pigments are known as betacyanins and give beetroots their natural reddish-pink color. If you’re still worried, you can request your doctor to do a blood test and rule out any serious medical condition.
If you wish to change your pee color back to normal, all you have to do is stop consuming beetroot and other foods and drinks that contain it. Also, try drinking more water to help flush out the pigments from your system more quickly.
So, you’ve added beetroot to your daily menu because you’ve heard it’s a sublime health food. Yet, after a few days (or after just a single meal), you noticed uncomfortable symptoms, like bloating, gas, cramping, and even diarrhea. What’s up with that?
The most likely reason for your upset stomach is that your digestive system is ultra-sensitive to the FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols) naturally present in beetroots. This is especially so if you have a gastrointestinal condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
While it’s true that a low-FODMAP diet may benefit individuals diagnosed with IBS, that’s not to say the average healthy person should avoid FODMAP-rich foods like beetroot. FODMAPs are actually beneficial to the human body. Most of them are prebiotics that act as food sources for the good bacteria living in your gut.
For this reason, a low-FODMAP diet should only be used in the short term per your doctor’s guidelines. After the restriction phase, you can slowly reintroduce small amounts of high-FODMAP foods, like beets, into your diet and see how your body reacts to it. Also, if you aren’t diagnosed with IBS, a low-FODMAP diet may not be all that beneficial for you.
Increased Risk of Kidney Stones
Eating too many beets may do more harm than good. Due to the high oxalate content in beetroots, overconsumption may heighten the risk of kidney stones forming in your body.
How it works: Oxalates are antinutrients that bind to calcium. This prevents your body from taking in this essential mineral needed for optimal bone health. Instead, the unabsorbed calcium is used to form calcium oxalate stones, which are a common type of kidney stone.
But the jury is still out on the actual possibility of this side effect of beet consumption. Per a recent review in the Journal of Nutrients, oxalates may not be a serious risk factor for kidney stones. What’s more, two health studies highlighted that oxalate consumed through your diet has little impact on kidney stone formation. Also, the more calcium you eat, the lower the odds of kidney stones forming in your body.
What the data suggests is that if you regularly experience kidney stones, then beet consumption may be a contributing factor you need to keep a close eye on. But if you’re a healthy individual with no history of kidney-related issues (or other health ailments), beetroots may not necessarily intensify your risk of kidney stones.
As always, speak with your doctor first if you have any concerns about adding beets to your diet, whether in the form of whole foods or dietary supplements.
Beets Do More Good Than Harm
Instead of scaring yourself silly with potential beet poisoning symptoms, bear in mind that beets do more good than harm. In most cases, beet poisoning symptoms and other side effects only occur if you consume the root vegetable inappropriately. As a recap, you should:
- Avoid eating raw beets as it may trigger food poisoning
- Check the origins and growing conditions of the beets you purchase
- Always consume beets within the recommended dietary guidelines
If you have any existing health issues, such as anemia (low iron levels), IBS, or a history of kidney stones, it’s best to consult a licensed healthcare provider. This way, you’ll know whether beets are indeed suitable for you so you can consume them with peace of mind while avoiding the unwanted side effects.
So, are you ready to eat beets the right way? If you’re nodding your head, consider Zen Principle’s Organic Beetroot Powder. We meticulously source high-quality beets from small organic farms, as evident from its vibrant red-magenta color and sweet-tart taste. Try it for yourself today!