Beets, also called beetroot, are a nutritious root vegetable that is versatile and healthy.
They are part of the same Chenopod family as chard, spinach, and quinoa. Beets offer a unique nutritional makeup, and may offer exclusive health benefits that are not available from other foods.
Beets can be consumed in a variety of ways, including pickled beets, roasted beets, and beetroot juice, lending themselves easily to a number of meals and cuisines.
The unique health benefits of beets may be derived from powerful phytonutrients called betalains. These compounds are recognized to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying effects.
Betalains provide beets’ maroon color; however, the compound is not exclusive to these vegetables. Beets do, however, feature an untouchable concentration or these nutrients.
Beetroot Nutrition Facts
The following is the nutritional profile for one cup of cooked, sliced beetroot:
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value|
|Protein||2.8 grams (g)||6%|
|Folate||136 micrograms (mcg)||34%|
|Manganese||0.55 milligrams (mg)||24%|
|Vitamin C||6 mg||8%|
|Vitamin B6||0.11 mg||6%|
Those are just some of the vitamins and minerals you’ll find in beetroot. There are many more, plus valuable phytonutrients.
The Health Benefits of Beets
May Help Regulate Blood Pressure
One of the biggest health benefits of beets might be their impact on blood pressure. There is evidence showing that consuming beets can significantly reduce blood pressure.
This can have a substantial effect on heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure risk.
The high nitrate concentration in beets is what likely produces these effects. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide in the body, causing blood vessels to dilate and relax. This can have a meaningful effect on blood pressure, potentially resulting in reductions of between 4 mmHg and 10 mmHg.
Although consuming beets can lead to lower blood pressure, the effects are likely short-lived. Research suggests the benefit only lasts for about six hours after eating.
This can also increase blood flow to the brain, which may lead to better cognitive function.
Including fiber-rich foods, like beets, into your diet can help contribute to more long-term benefits for blood pressure and heart health.
May Help with Athletic Performance
There are studies showing that consuming beetroot juice before exercise can improve performance. These benefits may have to do with its effect on nitric oxide, and potential ability to increase the efficiency of mitochondria in supplying energy in your cells. When nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood gets to your muscles faster, your body can work more efficiently.
Drinking 500 milliliters (ml) of beetroot juice daily, typically two to three hours before exercise, could offer the best results.
Support Your Body’s Detox Process
Belatain may help cells connect to, and promptly remove, unwanted toxins in the body. Betalains may trigger the cells’ natural ability to remove toxins and make the process more efficient and effective.
Some research on rats showed that betalain reduced kidney inflammation in the animals, helping this vital organ process and remove waste.
May Help Manage Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is linked with a number of long-term illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. Antioxidants in beets may help fight back against systemic inflammation.
There is some evidence to support the theory that beets, specifically, may ease inflammation. One study in humans with osteoarthritis found that beetroot extract reduced pain and discomfort.
Contribute to Healthy Digestion
Because of their high fiber content, beets could contribute to improved digestion. Fiber from beets not only helps stool move through the digestive tract more easily, but it feeds healthy bacteria populations in your gut.
Ultimately, a healthier gut may reduce the risk of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and diverticulitis.
How to Cook Beets
Beets look a lot different in the store than on your plate. They are sold in their skin, which can appear dirty—kind of a grayish brown. When buying, look for small or medium-sized options with firm roots.
Avoid beets with bruises; spots; or soft, wet areas. Shriveled beets are also not good.
Unwashed beets can be stored in air-tight bags in your refrigerator for about three weeks. Do not freeze raw beets.
There are a few ways to prepare beets. Roasting and steaming are two of the most popular methods.
To roast beets, cut off their leaves and give them a good scrub. Loosely wrap each one in aluminum foil independently, and put them in the oven for about an hour, checking them every 20 minutes or so. Once finished and cooled, peel skin.
Place trimmed, washed, and dried beets in a steamer basket above two inches of water. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cover, steaming for 30 to 40 minutes depending on their size.
Other ways to prepare beets include pickling and juicing.
2 Tasty Beetroot Recipes
1. Pickled Beets
(From Sharon Howard on allrecipes!)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
- 1 lb fresh small beets, stems removed
- 3 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 1/4 tsp pickling salt
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1-1/4 tsp whole cloves
- Place beets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to boiling, and cook until tender, or about 15 minutes for smaller beets. (Cut large beets into quarters before boiling.) Drain and save 2 cups of the liquid. Cool and peel.
- Fill pre-sterilized jars with beets and add whole cloves to each jar.
- Add sugar, reserved liquid, vinegar, and pickling salt to a large pot. Bring to a rapid boil. Pour the liquid mixture over the beets in the jars, and seal lids.
- Place a rack in the bottom of a large pot and fill halfway with water. Bring to boiling over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Space jars two inches apart. The water level should be one inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a roaring boil, cover the pot, and leave for 10 minutes.
2. Roasted Beet Salad
(From Natasha’s Kitchen)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
- 2 lbs beets
- 6 cups baby arugula, rinsed and dried
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, diced or crumbled
- 1/2 cup pecans toasted
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
Directions for Salad:
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wrap each beet in foil and place on the baking sheet. Bake in the oven for one hour. Unwrap beets and cool to room temperature before peeling. Slice into wedges.
- Pan-fry 1/2 cup pecans (without oil), tossing frequently until golden. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Place arugula in a large mixing bowl, then add remaining salad ingredients.
Directions for Dressing:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a small glass jar. Shake well to combine. Drizzle over salad to taste.
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Pietrzkowski, Z., et al., “Betalain-rich red beet concentrate improves reduced knee discomfort and joint function: a double blind, placebo-controlled pilot clinical study,” Dovepress, March 10, 2014, DOI: https://www.dovepress.com/betalain-rich-red-beet-concentrate-improves-reduced-knee-discomfort-an-peer-reviewed-article-NDS, last accessed August 27, 2020.
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Kravchuk, N., “Beet Salad with Arugula and Balsamic Vinaigrette,” Natasha’s Kitchen, January 30, 2018; https://natashaskitchen.com/beet-salad-with-arugula-balsamic-vinaigrette/, last accessed August 27, 2020.