Every time you head to the grocery store, you’re confronted with a vibrant display of reddish-purple beets. Not exactly the most glamorous veggies out there, you’ve always hemmed and hawed about making space for them in your grocery cart beside the kale, baby spinach, and broccolini.
So, are beets good for you? What are beets good for, exactly?
Turns out there’s a whole slew of scientifically proven reasons that beets are indeed good for you. Read on to find out why this root veggie needs to take up real estate in your shopping cart and become a staple in your diet.
Understanding the Nutritional Profile of Beets
The nutritional profile of beets acts as a blueprint for their various health benefits. In fact, science touted beets as “one of the 10 plants with the highest antioxidant activity.” After all, this small but mighty root vegetable is a good source of:
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamin A (retinol)
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- B vitamins
- Phenolic compounds, like betalains
Most importantly, beetroots are rich in nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in the human body. Nitric oxide has several spillover benefits for your overall health and wellness, which we will go into detail later.
What Are Beets Good For? Here’s What the Science Has To Say
So, what are beets good for? From better heart functioning to stronger athletic performance, beets bring your health to the next level.
1. Improve Heart Health
Remember when we said beets are rich in nitrates? Turns out nitrates are fundamental for optimal cardiovascular health.
How it works: Nitrates widen your blood vessels so that your heart has an easier time pumping blood throughout your body. Several studies, including this 2015 clinical trial and this 2012 clinical trial, show proof of lower blood pressure readings after beetroot consumption.
Beetroots also decrease your risk of heart diseases via a better cholesterol profile. Scientific evidence indicates the vegetable reduces bad cholesterol levels and increases good cholesterol levels, thanks to the flavonoids present in it. This may potentially tone down your risk of hypertension.
On top of that, a recent study highlights that beetroots also alleviate arterial stiffness. Given that this health issue is a risk factor in chronic illnesses like kidney disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, lowering the odds of arterial stiffness may benefit your overall well-being.
2. Lower Body Inflammation
Acute inflammation is the body’s immune response against foreign pathogens and infections. But when inflammation runs on for too long, it becomes a chronic issue that triggers other health problems. A Harvard article likens chronic inflammation to “a silent killer that contributes to cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other conditions.”
Unfortunately, many of us fall prey to chronic inflammation, no thanks to modern stressors such as air pollution, processed foods, and hectic schedules, to name a few. Before you throw in the towel and resign yourself to a life of chronic inflammation, we want to point out that beets can help you avoid that undesirable scenario.
Several groundbreaking case studies shine a light on beets’ anti-inflammatory properties, courtesy of their powerful bioactives called betalains. Just the mere act of eating raw beets helped relieve inflammatory issues like gingivitis, tension headaches, and Bell’s palsy. As such, beets may be the natural alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs, which often come with side effects.
3. Reduce High Blood Sugar Levels
Beets are perhaps one of the most popular — and effective — foods for controlling diabetes.
According to a 2020 medical review in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, seven human and animal studies confirmed that beets significantly reduced blood sugar levels to improve glycemic and insulin response. This is mainly due to the nitrite-nitrate pathway and bioactives that work together to boost insulin secretion and sensitivity while dampening the post-meal surge in glucose levels.
The review even highlighted that overweight individuals vulnerable to insulin resistance may benefit from nitrate-rich foods like beets. Over time, consistent beet consumption may help maintain the favorable improvements in blood glucose and insulin response, making the vegetable a sustainable solution in the fight against diabetes.
4. Enhance Cognitive Abilities
You’ll be interested to know that better brain functioning is another major benefit of beets.
If you recall, the nitrates in beetroots help dilate the blood vessels, including the ones leading to your brain. More efficient blood flow equates to more oxygen-rich blood (and other vital nutrients) transported to the brain cells. And it’s not just theoretically plausible; a 2011 study suggested that beets may boost cognitive functions such as your brain’s capacity to retain information and the ability to switch between different tasks.
5. Boost Digestive Health
When asked, “What are beets good for?”, optimal digestive health comes to mind.
As mentioned earlier, beets are high in dietary fiber. This is the key substance that helps move digested food along your intestinal tract, so you’re less likely to be constipated. Besides keeping your poop schedule regular, increased fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer (what’s commonly known as colon cancer).
On top of that, beets can help restructure your gut microbiome for the better. A 2009 study in the Journal of European Food Research and Technology found that regularly drinking fermented beetroot juice improved intestinal microflora by increasing the count of beneficial gut bacteria and decreasing the population of harmful bacterial strains. Fermented beet juice also dampened the enzymatic activities of β-glucosidase and β-glucuronidase that turn normal cells into cancerous cells in a process known as carcinogenesis.
Given that an out-of-whack gastrointestinal environment is a trigger for health issues like cancer and autoimmune diseases, optimizing your gut health with fermented beets may be the defense your body needs against such illnesses.
Pro Tip: Ever wondered if your bowel movements are considered healthy or not? Turns out there’s such a thing as the beet test to track the amount of time it takes for food to move through your digestive system. Because beets are of vibrant reddish-purple hue, the same colored pigments will show up in your poop later. So long as you see red-colored stools in the toilet between 12-24 hours of eating beets, you have a healthy “transit time.”
6. Level Up Athletic Performance
Many people look toward beets to level up their game on the field and in the gym. You may think this is an old wives’ tale, but research says otherwise.
It all ties back to how beetroots increase your body’s nitric oxide content. According to a 2017 review, this sparks off a series of physiological reactions such as:
- Increased blood flow, which means vital nutrients (like glucose) are supplied to the muscle cells more rapidly
- More efficient gas exchange to provide the muscle cells with oxygen and whisk away carbon dioxide
- Stronger muscle contractions to boost muscle power output while toning down fatigue
All of these mechanisms translate to better cardiorespiratory endurance so that it’s easier for you to reach your PR.
The benefits of beets as a natural ergogenic aid to boost your physical performance also extend outside of your training. One study in the Journal of Nutrients discovered that eating beets helped shorten the post-workout recovery duration. Also, participants reported lower pain perceptions.
On a related note, you may have heard that caffeine is another ergogenic aid. It increases aerobic endurance with subtle improvements in other exercise parameters, like muscular endurance and strength. However, caffeine consumption isn’t without its side effects — think insomnia and anxiety. As such, it’s better to go with beets than with caffeine for peak performance, as the former doesn’t incite said adverse reactions. Also, the earlier 2017 review cautioned against the simultaneous use of caffeine and beets for a fitness boost. It specifically noted that “the effects of supplementation with beetroot juice can be undermined by interaction with other supplements such as caffeine.”
Beets Are Good for (Almost) Everything
The next time you wander through your local supermarket, don’t hesitate and pick up the bag of beets. Now that you’ve learned what beets are good for, there's no reason not to add these root veggies to your meals.
But if you’re short on time and crave convenience, there’s a simpler alternative to peeling, slicing, and cooking store-bought beets. One way to enjoy their goodness sans the prep work is to use 100% pure beetroot powder made from whole beets.
That’s why we created Zen Principle’s Organic Beetroot Powder. USDA-certified organic, our beetroot powder retains the key nutrients present in whole beets without the added sugar, fillers, and additives. It’s quality you can trust, sourced straight from Nature.