Beetroot: Health Benefits

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Beetroot, also known as a beet, has been gaining in popularity as a new superfood due to recent studies claiming that beets and beetroot juice can improve athletic performance, lower blood pressure, and increase blood flow.

Beetroot is a powerhouse of nutrients and has many important benefits.

New products incorporating this highly nutritious food are appearing everywhere, and they include juices and drinks.

Beetroot or table beets are from the same family as sugar beets, but they are genetically and nutritionally different. Sugar beets are white in color and commonly used for extracting sugar and sweetening manufactured foods. Sugar cannot be obtained from beets, which are mostly red or gold in color.

Benefits

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

Many studies indicate that eating more plant foods, like beetroot, decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Heart health and blood pressure: A 2008 study published in Hypertension examined the effects of ingesting 500 milliliters of beetroot juice in healthy volunteers and found that blood pressure was significantly lowered after ingestion.

Researchers hypothesized this was likely due to the high nitrate levels contained in beet juice and that the high nitrate vegetables could prove to be a low-cost and effective way to treat cardiovascular conditions and blood pressure.

Another study conducted in 2010 found similar results, concluding that drinking beetroot juice lowered blood pressure considerably on a dose-dependent basis.

Dementia: Researchers at Wake Forest University have found that drinking juice from beetroot can improve oxygenation to the brain, slowing the progression of dementia in older adults.

According to Daniel Kim-Shapiro, director of Wake Forest’s Translational Science Center, blood flow to certain areas of the brain decrease with age and leads to a decline in cognition and possible dementia. Consuming beetroot juice as part of a high nitrate diet can improve the blood flow and oxygenation to these areas that are lacking.

Diabetes: Beets contain an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid, which may help lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.

Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown a decrease in symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy in people with diabetes.

However, a meta-analysis suggests that the benefits of alpha-lipoic acid for symptomatic peripheral neuropathy may be restricted to intravenous administration of the acid. The authors conclude: “It is unclear if the significant improvements seen after 3 to 5 weeks of oral administration at a dosage of more than 600 milligrams a day are clinically relevant.”

Digestion and regularity: Because of its high fiber content, beetroot helps to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.

Inflammation: Choline is a very important and versatile nutrient in beetroot that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.

Exercise and athletic performance: Beetroot juice supplementation has been shown to improve muscle oxygenation during exercise, suggesting that increased dietary nitrate intake has the potential to enhance exercise tolerance during long-term endurance exercise. Quality of life for those with cardiovascular, respiratory, or metabolic diseases, who find the activities of daily living physically difficult because of lack of oxygenation, could be improved.

Provides vitamin C

Beetroot juice is a good source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps boost your immune system and protect cells from damaging free radicals. It also supports collagen production, wound healing, and iron absorption.

Supports your liver

If your liver becomes overloaded due to the following, it may lead to a condition known as a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease:

a poor diet

excessive alcohol consumption

exposure to toxic substances sedentary lifestyle

Beetroot contains betaine, a substance that helps prevent or reduce fatty deposits in the liver. Betaine may also help protect your liver from toxins.

Good source of folate

Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects such as spinal bifida and anencephaly. It may also decrease your risk of having a premature baby. Beetroot juice is a good source of folate. If you’re of childbearing age, adding folate to your diet can help you get the 600 mcg recommended amount.

May reduce cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, consider adding beetroot juice to your diet. A 2011 study on rats found that beetroot extract lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides and increased HDL (good) cholesterol. It also reduced oxidative stress on the liver. Researchers believe beetroot’s cholesterol-lowering potential is likely due to its phytonutrients like flavonoids.

Tips for Using Beetroot

Beetroot is best eaten fresh and raw, but cooked beetroot still contains many beneficial substances and is an effective health-preserver.

Beetroot can be juiced, used in salads or made into a soup.

A mixture of beetroot, carrot, apple and celery juice makes a delicious, detoxifying and energy-providing drink.

Don’t forget the leaves, which are equally as valuable – they contain beta-carotene, lots of folate, potassium, iron and Vitamin C. They can be cooked like spinach.

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