According to overwhelming scientific studies, concentrated forms of beetroot offer many positive effects on blood pressure, endothelial function, heart health, improved blood flow to the brain, and even endurance performance.
Beets are one of the highest sources of dietary nitrate which is converted to nitrite and then nitric oxide when consumed. Basically, nitric oxide expands the blood vessels, increasing blood flow and decreasing plaque growth and blood clotting. Since nitric oxide allows oxygen to be delivered to your muscles more quickly, it can significantly improve exercise performance.
Notable studies include:
Beet juice consumption de-stiffens blood vessels & lowers workload on the heart due to high nitric oxide production (see study).
Another exciting study tested the combined effects of exercise and beetroot juice on functional brain networks. They showed that drinking beetroot juice prior to exercise makes brains of older adults perform more efficiently and similar to a younger brain. The study included people over the age of 55 with high blood pressure that consumed a beetroot juice containing 560 mg of nitrate or placebo three times a week for six weeks.
“drinking beetroot juice prior to exercise makes brains of older adults perform more efficiently and similar to a younger brain”
Drinking just 500ml of beetroot juice a day was shown to significantly reduce blood pressure (see study).
A daily does of beetroot juice significantly improved exercise endurance and blood pressure in elderly patients. Aerobic endurance improved by 24% after drinking beetroot juice daily after one week. Consumption of the juice also significantly reduced resting systolic blood pressure (see study).
Whole beetroot consumption was show to improve running performance in healthy adults (see study).
Beetroot is also high in vitamin C, which prevents the conversion of nitrates into nitrosamines which are known to be carcinogenic. Although, nitrates that are used as preservatives (e.g. sodium nitrate) in food such as cured meats lead to the formation of harmful volatile nitrosamines (see study) so it’s best to avoid them.
My favourite beetroot recipes
If you don't feel like beetroot juice just add it to your smoothie or give these recipes a try.
Fresh beetroot salad
1 large or 2 small beetroots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green apple, roughly chopped
1/4 red onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
A handful of fresh herbs (parsley, basil and coriander work well)
handful of almonds, optional
juice of half a lemon
2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
pumpkin seeds and goats cheese
Simply add everything to a mixer until finally chopped.
Slow roasted beetroot chips
2 large beetroots, peeled
Avocado oil or cooking oil of choice
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 120oC and line two large flat baking sheets with baking parchment.. Use a mandolin to thinly slice the beetroot. Lightly coat the slices in oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the slices over the two baking sheets in an even layer with no overlaps. Place in the oven for 45 minutes-1 hour and then turn off the oven and leave the slices inside to crisp up for a further 30-45minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely
Beetroot and goat's cheese terrine
Beetroot Red Velvet Cheesecake