What is it in those red bulbs of goodness that stain your teeth and fingers but your mom insisted were “good for you”? I’ve had my toddler spit out beets saying they “taste like dirt,” but I keep trying to slip them into her smoothies whenever possible. Beets beat blood pressure, you say? Beets are one of nature’s superfoods. Packed with goodness that is difficult to find anywhere else. However if your doctor only knew just how good these were for you, he or she might be writing you a script for bottles of fresh beet juice rather than hypertension medications.
That’s right, beats are a great way to reduce your blood pressure. Beets have a ton of great nutrients, but particularly the nitrates in beets are what have been shown to make all the difference on your arteries. Nitrates when consumed turn into nitric oxide. This is the chemical that naturally relaxes your blood vessels. There are a ton of benefits to this effect, one of the most prominent being the effect on blood pressure. The nitric oxide effects of beets have been shown to lower blood pressure significantly. These effects became evident within 4 to 6 days of supplementing with beetroot juice; however, ongoing intake is needed to maintain the effects.
The effects are substantial for both the hearts ejection fraction as well as the systolic blood pressure. These are essentially the effects of the contractile force of the heart. The relaxation effect eases the hearts work and makes the oxygen delivery of the blood less strenuous. These effects on the heart and vessels have been validated in multiple research studies, including large meta-analyses making beets a critical component of the naturopathic doctor’s toolkit.
For those just looking to improve their sports and exercise efficacy, endurance athletes have been using beetroot as a way to improve their exercise performance due to the benefits of better oxygen delivery. Exercise studies have shown that their performance improves even during the exercise itself, especially for high-intensity exercises.
There are benefits to having the whole beet rather than just the juice itself as the nitrates. Keep in mind beets are also packed with wonderful antioxidants and potassium as well as being rich in fiber. They are, however, a relatively sugary vegetable so if you are on a low-carbohydrate diet you may not want to have too many, as they could slow down your weight loss. However, from a superfood perspective these red bulbs rank up there amongst kale and acai as going above and beyond to make your body perform better and improve your health. And if you suffer from a family history of high blood pressure, the studies are proving these can really help reduce the added strain on your heart.