The health benefits of Beetroot - Can it help Blood pressure & Sports Performance?

Beetroot, also known as Beet, is a sweet vegetable which became popular as early as Roman times for its health benefits.

With a unique taste you will either love or hate, it features a rich nutrient profile containing carbohydrates, protein, as well as soluble fibre, potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, B6 and C, folic acid, and antioxidants.

But what has excited researchers are Beetroot’s naturally occurring nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide as well as Betaine, Betalain and Betalin which are unique to Beetroots.

According to Dr Mercola[1], these unique nutrients may improve your health in the following ways:

1. Lower your blood pressure naturally

Beetroot is one of the richest sources of naturally occurring nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide by your body.

A review of 16 of studies testing the effectiveness of beetroot and inorganic nitrate found consumption associated with a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure[2].

On average the studies showed a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 4.4 mm Hg with a more modest decrease (−1.1 mm Hg) in diastolic blood pressure with daily consumption of 300-500ml of beetroot juice.

The studies were so significant the British Heart Foundation funded its own study[3], performed by Queen Mary University in London with 64 volunteers.

This new study confirmed the previous finding, and found that high blood pressure patients who drank 250ml of beetroot juice a day had normal levels by the end of the study.

According to the British Heart Foundation, “The level of reduction was similar to that from some forms of blood pressure medication. No adverse side effects were observed in people taking the daily dose of nitrates, in the form of beetroot juice.”

2. Boost your physical performance

Beetroot’s high nitrate content, and interaction with nitric oxide in the body has also caught the attention of sports enthusiasts and athletes following studies which found that consumption of beetroot was linked to improved exercise performance.

In a meta analysis of 31 sports related beetroot studies made to date (including over 300 participants), this is what researchers have found:

Improve your time

Consumption of nitrate either as a NO3 supplement or in the form of beetroot juice may reduce pulmonary oxygen uptake correlating to improvements in walking, running, rowing, and cycling at sub maximal levels.

In one study in particular, consuming cooked beetroot before a race gave runners a 41 second advantage over a 5k run[4].

Increase your stamina

Consumption of beetroot also improved tolerance at higher intensity levels in healthy men and women, untrained males, and well trained males and females.

Elite athletes saw smaller improvements, or required higher dosages to see any benefits.

In one study in particular, those who consumed beetroot juice were able to exercise for up to 16% longer[5].

Recover faster, get less pain and more gain after exercise

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology[6] found that consuming beetroot juice for 3 consecutive days after an intensive workout reduced muscle soreness and helped speed up muscle recovery.

In particular, those consuming beetroot had reduced muscle damage, faster recovery of muscle power, and jumped an average of 18% higher two days after the workout compared to the placebo group.

3. Fight Inflammation

Beets also contain unique nutrients called betaine and betalain, which have been found to inhibit the activity of cyclo-oxygenase enzymes, which the body uses to trigger inflammation[7].

Reduced levels of inflammation helps nearly every system within the body fight off diseases, and promote a healthy immune system.

4. Your ally in the fight against cancer

Beetroot is naturally high in antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and trace minerals. But what makes Beetroot unique is its rich source of a disease fighting phytonutrient called betalain which we discovered earlier had anti-inflammatory properties.

Early studies have found that betalain may help protect the body from developing different types of cancers such as lung, pancreatic, stomach, colon, prostate and breast cancers[8].

More research is needed in this area, but consuming beetroot could be a positive preventative step along with following a healthy diet and lifestyle.

5. A nutrient rich food to add to your diet

Beetroot is a nutrient powerhouse featuring fibre, immune boosting Vitamin C and B, as well as essential minerals including potassium and manganese.

Not only that but beetroot are a versatile food that can be eaten raw in salads, cooked, added to smoothies, consumed as a juice or dietary food supplement in powder or capsule format.

As a side note, if you are consuming fresh beetroot, don’t throw away the green leafy tops! These are called beet greens, they actually contain more iron than spinach and are packed with protein, phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium.

6. Support your detox functions

According to Dr Mercola[9] the combination of betalain and fibre in beetroot may also have detoxification benefits, supporting your blood and liver cleansing processes[10].

Whats the best way to consume Beetroot to get optimal results?

Beetroot is super versatile, you can eat Beetroot and the Beet greens raw in salads, smoothies, or juices. Alternatively you can cook fresh or frozen beetroot and serve as a side vegetable, make tasty and filling soups.

For maximum convenience you can also leverage the benefits of beetroot in food supplement capsule format. Check out our Montmorency cherry complex for a powerful tart cherry and Beetroot supplement without the taste or calories.

For overall health benefits you can consume beetroot in any format, but for sports performance and blood pressure benefits we recommend consuming beetroot in juice, powder or beetroot extract capsule supplement format.

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[1] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx

[2] Inorganic Nitrate and Beetroot Juice Supplementation Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/143/6/818.long

[3] Beetroot juice lowers high blood pressure, suggests research

https://www.bhf.org.uk/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2015/january/beetroot-and-blood-pressure#

[4] Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22709704

[5] Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19661447

[6] The effects of beetroot juice supplementation on indices of muscle damage following eccentric exercise

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-015-3290-x

[7] Inactivation of lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase by natural betalains and semi-synthetic analogues
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260008311_Inactivation_of_lipoxygenase_and_cyclooxygenase_by_natural_betalains_and_semi-synthetic_analogues

[8] Synergistic cytotoxicity of red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extract with doxorubicin in human pancreatic, breast and prostate cancer cell lines.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23828331

 

Chemoprevention of lung and skin cancer by Beta vulgaris (beet) root extract

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0304383595040870

 

Cytotoxic Effect of the Red Beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) Extract Compared to Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) in the Human Prostate (PC-3) and Breast (MCF-7) Cancer Cell Lines

 

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/acamc/2011/00000011/00000003/art00007

[9] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx#_edn7

[10] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1541-4337.12185/full

Plant Betalains: Safety, Antioxidant Activity, Clinical Efficacy, and Bioavailability