Chinese medicine believes that beets have formidable healing powers. In Roman times, beets were medicine. And now, Western medicine is finally discovering that beets have health benefits not readily available from other foods.
Beets come from the chenopod family, along with chard, spinach and quinoa, providing health benefits that are hard to find in other foods. They are packed full of nutrients and vitamins including potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, fiber, and vitamins A, B and C. Beets are considered one of the top ten most potent antioxidant vegetables, with one of the strongest anti-inflammatory properties and detoxification abilities. Drinking a glass of beet juice each day could protect you against disease, including cancers, obesity and cardiovascular conditions, prevent chronic inflammation, increase brain function, improve your mood and energy levels and even shave time off your next race, while helping your body recover and respond better.
Beets, rich in nitrates, are converted into nitric oxide (NO) which relaxes and dilates blood vessels for better circulation, lowering blood pressure and decreasing risk of heart disease and increasing blood flow to the brain for better brain function. One study showed that people who drank beet juice had a significant drop in blood pressure and less blood clotting only three hours later compared to those who drank water. Another study looked at 14 older men and women who ate a high nitrate diet, including beet juice for two days. MRI scans showed more blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains, a region affecting executive functioning skills like focus, organization and attention to detail.
Betalain, the amino acid found in beets, also helps in detoxification and digestion. It can help prevent and reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver. Research showed people with diabetes that drank beet juice had increased liver functions and decreased cholesterol. Beets also aided in the elimination of toxins. One cup of beets equals four grams of insoluble fiber, reducing the chances of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Beets are one of the richest sources of glutamine - an amino acid that is essential in the health and functioning of the digestive tract.
My client, Abby, calls her daily beet smoothie, her “happy pill.” Abby’s convinced that on the mornings she runs out to work without her “to-go” cup, she can truly feel a difference in her mood. She’s right — and science can prove it. Beets are considered a “good mood food” because they boost dopamine levels, allowing us to feel better, experience more pleasure, feel more love and even get a better night’s sleep.
Nitric oxide does a lot for the body, including increasing blood flow to the muscles, making it easier for the mitochondria to produce energy. Paralympic gold medalist David Weir said that beet juice was his secret to success: “I immediately noticed a significant improvement in my performance.” Research shows that it’s not just his imagination. The nitrates boost endurance and performance. A University of Exeter study saw cyclists elevated their performances two to three hours after drinking beet juice. An NIH study shows that beets helped the body work more effectively and efficiently and “strengthened muscle condition that would benefit athletic performance.” Study subjects who enjoyed two medium size beets before running shaved off an average of 41 seconds in a 5k time trial. That’s the difference between first and fifth place in the Montgomery County Roadrunners Rockville 5k!
Please Note: Beets can have a strong impact on the nervous system. So to all the newbies out there, please begin with one half of a small beet to avoid dizziness and slowly increase amounts. Also, urine and stool will redden in 5-15% of Americans after within 24-72 hours of consuming beets. If this occurs, don’t panic, but it is important to contact your doctor. This could indicate issues with your ability to metabolize iron and your iron levels.
Enjoy your beets daily and feel healthier, stronger, faster and happier!
The Beets Go On
Shop: Choose small to medium sized beets whose roots are firm, skin is smooth and greens are bright.
Store: Wear gloves. (If beet juice stains your skin, use lemon juice to reduce redness.). Cut most of the greens off but leave about 2” on the root. Put the root in one plastic bag and store in the refrigerator up to three weeks. Put the greens in a different plastic bag and store up to four days. But the sooner you eat them, the better the nutrition.
Preparation: Health benefits, like with all vegetables, are diminished by heat. The more you cook a beet, the more vitamins and nutrients you lose, so enjoy them raw - blend or juice them or grate for a salad or to garnish a soup - or roast for less than 30 minutes. Prepare the greens like you would spinach or Swiss chard.
Beet Your Latest Time Juice Recipe
1 beet with greens, cut in 1/2
3 apples, cored
Alternate ingredients while processing through a juicer.
Beet Your Latest Time Smoothie Recipe
1 beet with greens
1 peeled orange
1 cup mixed berries
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/4 cup nut milk (or more based on desired consistency)
3 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients except the ice in a Vitamix and blend until smooth. Add ice and blend again and Enjoy!