Beets are one of the most vibrant and versatile low-fat vegetables you’ll come across.
Not only does their pinky color bring some much-needed spark to your plate, but beets are also highly nutritious and perfect for a well-balanced diet.
Raw beets are known for their earthy aroma and flavor, and can easily be added to a wide range of dishes, including salads, fries, vegan hummus, and much more.
In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at eight of the best health benefits of eating beets raw. We’ll also look to answer a couple of the frequently asked questions related to the popular vegetable.0
1) May Lower Blood Pressure Levels
A number of studies have found that beets are effective when it comes to lowering high blood pressure levels – a major risk factor for heart disease.
Beets are naturally rich in compounds called nitrates that help to increase blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels and promoting dilation. This, in turn, has the potential to lower blood pressure.
Furthermore, beets are an excellent source of folate. This is beneficial because several studies have shown that an increased intake of folate can significantly reduce blood pressure levels.
The juice of beets can also lower systolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart contracts), with some studies finding that raw beets have a stronger effect than cooked ones.
It’s worth keeping in mind that beets’ effect on blood pressure is only temporary. Therefore, if you want to experience heart-health benefits over a prolonged period of time, you’ll need to consume beets on a regular basis.
2) Packed Full Of Important Nutrients
Beets have an impressive nutritional profile with a wide range of valuable vitamins and minerals. Not only do they contain pretty much all the vitamins and minerals that the body needs to survive, they’re also extremely low in calories.
Listed below is an overview of the nutrients found in a typical 100g serving of raw beets:
- 36 calories
- 1g fat
- 7g protein
- 6g carbohydrates
- 5g fiber
- 150mcg folate
- 380mg potassium
Raw beets are particularly rich in folate, which is an essential nutrient when it comes to growth, development, and heart health.
They also contain a good amount of manganese and copper – vitamins that play a key role in bone formation, nutrient metabolism, and energy production.
3) Can Boost Athletic Performance
The next health benefit we’ll take a closer look at is the effect raw beets can have on athletic performance. Eating beets can support exercise endurance and improved performance, as well as aiding the recovery process.
This is because when muscles are in a resting state, the nitrates in beets help to transfer a greater amount of oxygen to the muscle cells, which in turn, helps the muscles recover more efficiently.
It’s worth noting that blood nitrate levels tend to peak within two to three hours of consuming beets.
Therefore, if you want to maximize their potential benefits, it’s a good idea to consume them either a couple of hours before training, or while you’re competing.
4) May Possess Some Anti-Cancer Properties
The rich, purple-crimson color of beets comes from the plant pigment, betacyanin. This is a powerful agent that’s widely believed to suppress the development of different types of cancer such as bladder cancer.
Beets also contain several other compounds that are thought to contain cancer-fighting properties, including rutin, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, and kaempferol.
Despite the wide range of studies that have been carried out on this topic, it’s important to keep in mind that they’ve mainly used isolated compounds rather than beets.
Therefore, to really understand the link between beets consumption and cancer risk, further research is needed.
5) May Help To Fight Inflammation
The betalains present in beets contain an impressive number of anti-inflammatory properties.
This is helpful for several different aspects of health, considering that chronic inflammation is related to conditions like heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and obesity.
The juice and extract of beets have also been shown to reduce kidney inflammation for rats who’ve been injected with toxic chemicals.
While further research is definitely required to determine whether beets can provide the same anti-inflammatory benefits for humans, these findings are certainly promising.
6) May Improve Digestive Health
Beets are an excellent source of fiber.
This not only supports effective bowel function but also improves the environment of the gut and the “good” bacteria that reside there, reducing the risk of digestive conditions like constipation and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).
Furthermore, a good intake of fiber has also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
7) Easy To Add To Diet
Beets are a delicious and versatile vegetable that can easily be incorporated into a diet. You can enjoy them raw, but they’re just as flavorful and nutritious when roasted, steamed, pickled, or juiced.
The best type of beet is usually on the heavy side. What’s more, try to choose beets that still have their green leafy tops attached.
Just keep in mind that because nitrates are water-soluble, it’s best to avoid boiling beets if you want to maximize their nitrate content.
8) May Help Brain Health
The final health benefit on our list, and by certainly no means the least, is the effect that beets can have on brain health.
The nitrates present in beets have the potential to improve brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain.
This can help to offset some of the mental and cognitive functions that naturally decline with age, which sometimes lead to neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia.
In particular, beets have been shown to boost blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain which is the region of the brain that’s associated with working memory and decision making.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Beets Better Raw Or Cooked?
Raw beets contain significantly more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than beets that are cooked.
This is because, like most vegetables, the longer you cook beets, the more phytonutrients are released from the food into the water.
If you want to cook beets and still retain some of the beneficial nutrients, it’s probably best to either roast or saute them.
Are Beets Safe For Everyone?
While beets are extremely healthy and packed full of important vitamins and minerals, there are a couple of health considerations to keep in mind.
For some people, eating beets can cause beeturia – a pink or red color in the stool or urine. While this is completely harmless, it’s not the most appealing side effect.
Something else to keep in mind is the fact that the greens and roots of beets contain a considerable amount of oxalate. So, for individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones, it’s a good idea to avoid indulging in foods that are high in oxalate such as beets.