6 Impressive Health Benefits of Beets

Learn the key beet nutrition facts and all the cancer-fighting, brain-boosting, and heart-healthy properties the ruby red root veggie has to offer.

Benefits of Beets

Known for their bright pink color and earthy sweet taste, beets may be some of the most fun veggies you can add to your plate. Not only can they turn any dish into an Instagram-worthy meal, but they're also packed with vitamins and minerals, plus antioxidant compounds rarely found in other plants.

Read on to learn about the awesome health benefits of beets, including the key beet nutrition facts, along with delicious ways to eat beets.

What Are Beets?

A beetroot (simply known as a "beet") is a cool-season vegetable with a round, edible root. The most common species is Beta vulgaris (B. vulgaris), which is probably what comes to mind when you think of the veggies. With its red-pink hue and showy green leaves, B. vulgaris is the type that's typically found in grocery stores and home gardens. It's also related to spinach, Swiss chard, and quinoa, according to the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California Santa Cruz.

In addition to this deeply-colored cultivar, there are several different varieties of beets, ranging in color and characteristics. For example, there are golden beets with buttery-yellow interiors and a sweet taste, and chioggia varieties with striped interiors (reminiscent of candy canes) and a milder, less earthy flavor, according to the University of Illinois. The common beet has its roots in the Middle East, but these days, it grows all over the world — including Europe, Asia, and the Americas, according to the journal Nutrition & Metabolism.

Beet Nutrition Facts

Just like the veggie's gorgeous color, the beet nutrition facts do not disappoint. "Beets are high in fiber and folate," says Megan Byrd, R.D., registered dietitian and founder of The Oregon Dietitian. They're also teeming with potassium, "an electrolyte your body needs to regulate blood pressure and nerve signals," she adds. Moreover, the root veggie is rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, and copper, according to an article published in Nutrition & Journalism.

In the antioxidant department, beets are nutrient superstars. They're loaded with disease-busting antioxidants such as epicatechin, flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C, according to a 2015 review. Beets also contain antioxidant compounds called betalains, aka plant pigments that are responsible for the veggie's vivid red-purple-pink color. And get this: Betalains aren't widely found in plants, according to research published in Molecules, meaning beets earn major cool points for being one of the few sources.

Here are the nutrition facts of two boiled beets (~100 grams), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • 44 calories
  • 2 grams protein
  • <1 gram fat
  • 10 grams carbohydrate
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 8 grams sugar

Health Benefits of Beets

As a nutrient-dense food, beets certainly have a place in a balanced diet. But in case you're not convinced, let's dive into the health benefits of beets, according to dietitians and research.

Manage Blood Pressure

Aside from those beet nutrition facts, it's important to know that the veggie is rich in inorganic nitrate (NO3), a compound made of nitrogen and oxygen that bacteria in your mouth and stomach turn into a molecule known as nitric oxide, according to a review published in Aging and Disease. "Nitric oxide is essential for cardiovascular health, especially for blood pressure control," explains Bansari Acharya, R.D.N, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Food Love. "High blood pressure can increase the tension in your arteries," says Acharya, which increases your risk of conditions such as heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. But nitric oxide can help with that, as it dilates your blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and improving overall circulation.

In a 2019 study, beet juice improved blood pressure in both younger (11- to 30-year-old) and older (50- to 70-year-old) adults; the researchers linked these effects to the nitrates in beets. What's more, a two-week study of 24 people with high blood pressure found that consuming both beet juice and cooked beets significantly reduced blood pressure. As for how long these effects last? Some research suggests that beets' impacts are short-lived and may not even make that much of a difference on long-term blood pressure control. That being said, the root veggie also boasts plenty of potassium — 305 mg in two boiled beets (~100 grams), to be exact — which helps your body get rid of excess sodium, a mineral that increases the volume of blood in your vessels (and, therefore, blood pressure), according to the American Heart Association. It also relaxes the blood vessel walls, which helps lower blood pressure as well.

Support Cognitive Function

The BP-lowering effects of beets can also benefit your noggin. High blood pressure can thicken and harden the arteries in your brain, negatively impacting blood flow to your brain, and, in turn, raising your risk of cognitive decline as you age, according to the Mayo Clinic. But eating foods such as beets (and living a generally healthy lifestyle) can help keep your blood pressure in check and brain healthy.

Need not forget about all of the nitrates in beets, which, when turned into nitric oxide in the body, can dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to the brain, according to research published in Nutrients. And this boosted blood flow can potentially improve cognitive function and neurotransmission (communication between nerve cells), as shown in a 2019 study as well.

Improve Athletic Performance

If you're looking to elevate your fitness game, the nitrate content of beets may help. This is likely due to its ability to promote blood flow and to reduce the amount of oxygen your muscles need — and, in turn, allow you to work out more efficiently and with more power, says Acharya. In fact, beetroot juice is often used as an athletic supplement. But is sipping on the red bev really the best way to rev up your exercise engines? Well, it's definitely not the worst, especially since the drink has been found to extend "time to exhaustion" (aka how long it takes for you to feel tired), according to a 2017 review. And in a 2014 study, beetroot juice was found to improve the performance of cyclists who drank 70 mL of the nitrate-rich drink before pedaling.

It's worth noting that there's conflicting evidence on this health benefit of beets, though. For example, in a 2015 study, beetroot juice failed to enhance cycling performance and, in a 2014 study, it didn't seem to improve experienced distance runners' performance. Translation: More research is necessary, and any helpful effects may depend on factors such as the type of exercise, intensity, and your fitness level.

Reduce Risk of Cancer

Surprise: The nutrition of beets can help prevent serious health conditions. ICYMI earlier, beets are bursting with betalains, which are both pigments *and* antioxidants. The most abundant betalains in beets? Betanin, which scavenges for free radicals, helping to stop oxidative stress from wreaking havoc on healthy cells and tissues, according to Byrd. This is key for reducing the risk for chronic conditions that have been linked to oxidative stress such as cancer and heart disease, says Byrd. (Here are five more ways food can help reduce your cancer risk.)

Encourage Healthy Digestion

Boasting 2 grams of fiber per 2 boiled beets (~100 grams), this root veggie has plenty of fiber to help regulate your digestive system. Fiber adds bulk to your stool, making "it easier for things to pass through your GI tract," helping reduce abdominal bloating and constipation, she says. Can't seem to meet your daily recommended intake of fiber (about 28 grams on a 2,000-calorie daily diet, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)?

Go ahead and chow down on some beet greens as well. Yes, you read that right: the leafy parts of this root veggie are totally edible and nutritious. With 1.4 grams of fiber in every cup, beet greens can further ensure your system runs smoothly.

Help Produce Cells and Genetic Material

If you're trying to conceive or are already pregnant, you might want to buy some beets. Why? Because this root veggie is rich in folate (aka vitamin B9), which is one of the most important prenatal vitamins. It's essential for cell formation during pregnancy and proper neurodevelopment of the baby, says Byrd.

But even if you're not expecting, it's still smart to fuel up on folate. "Our bodies make new cells — every single moment of every single day — and they need folate to do this," explains Byrd. Good news: With around 80 mcg of folate per serving, beets are sure to help. (As can kiwis, which are also full of folate and bursting with health benefits.)

How to Prep and Eat Beets

Looking to score those benefits of beets, you're in luck: There are plenty of ways to get your fill of the veggie. In the supermarket, you can find beets raw, canned, pickled, pureed, dried, and frozen. They're also available as juice or powder, which is great for making smoothies, says Byrd. Some stores even sell beet noodles — aka beets that have been "spiralized" into spaghetti-like strands and cooked. Packaged snacks made with beets are also becoming increasingly popular. Besides, who can say no to bright pink finger food?

But before you start stocking up on beet noodles, powders, and packaged products to nab the nutrition of beets, make sure the label lists only one ingredient: beetroot. If it has added preservatives, sugar, and/or food coloring, best to skip. After all, "the healthiest way to consume beets is in their whole, natural form," explains Byrd, who adds that beet juices can have a lot of extra sugar and virtually no fiber while canned options can be packed with added salt.

Now, on to preparation. "The best method for cooking fresh beets while preserving their nutritional value is to peel, cut, and roast them," says Byrd. Roasting also enhances the beets' natural sweetness, as it concentrates the veggie's sugars rather than allowing them to leach out into a cooking liquid like it does when boiling or steaming, according to the University of Illinois. Chop off the tops — which can be eaten raw or sautéed with other leafy greens, such as kale — then drizzle the beetroot with olive oil. Pop into the oven and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. The beets are ready once they're easily pierced with a fork.

Beets can also be eaten raw. However, the outer skin is pretty tough, so be sure to remove it using a peeler. From there, you can grate or thinly cut the beet to use as a garnish. You can even make your own beet noodles with a little help from a spiralizer and then cook accordingly.

Ready to enjoy the vegetable at home and start bagging all the health benefits of beets? Here are ideas for delicious beet recipes.

Beet Recipe Ideas

In salads. Brighten up your salads with chunks of cooked beets. They're especially tasty in hearty salads made of whole grains, leafy greens, and other root vegetables like carrots.

As a soup. "Beet soup is an easy and healthy way to obtain the benefits of beets, especially during the cold season," says Acharya. Simply blend cooked beets with water or broth, along with salt, pepper, and seasonings of your choice. Pour the soup into a large pot, add cooked vegetables or beet greens, and heat until warm.

In hummus. Switch up your snack game with a roasted beet hummus. Garnish with sesame seeds, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with whole-grain crackers or celery sticks. Alternatively, beet hummus makes for a mouthwatering sandwich spread.

In lattes. If you're looking to pump the brakes on your caffeine intake, try a hot beet latte made with fresh beets or beet juice. The finished drink will be so pretty, you'll have a hard time not taking a picture.

In smoothies. Sip on a beet smoothie made with fresh beets (or beet powder), berries, and non-dairy milk. If smoothie bowls are more your jam, use slightly less milk to thicken the consistency. Pour the smoothie into a bowl and garnish with fresh fruit and granola.

As chips. The next time you're craving a crispy snack, reach for homemade beet chips instead of traditional potato chips. Keep them healthy by going easy on the salt and using dried herbs for flavor.

In pesto. Why does basil get to have all the fun? Make a beautifully pink beet pesto with olive oil, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Enjoy it just like any other pesto: with pasta, on toast, or in sandwiches.

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